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Here Is Why “How to Write” Is Much More Important than “What to Write”

Here Is Why “How to Write” Is Much More Important than “What to Write”

It’s hard enough to find the motivation to work. When you have to worry about concentration and creativity on top of that, things can get pretty awkward. Nowadays, with tons of information available at the touch of a button, creating the right kind of content can make all the difference for someone trying to gain more customers or readers. A lot of writers and bloggers are fully aware of this, but have a problem finding something worth writing about.

What if I told you that it is more about how to write for people, than it is about the actual content? People will rarely sift through blocks upon blocks of monotonous text, even if it holds all the answers that they need. You need to engage them. Sell your story.

Why is writing style so important? And how do you develop a great style that people will eat up?

The internet is all about sharing great content, and the competition is tough

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As people a bit more qualified than me have already pointed out, content that is relatively good and original has become the norm – it’s no longer the ultimate goal to strive for. The competition is just too tough, and people always have a few other browser tabs to go to if your writing can’t draw them in within the first ten or so seconds. However, when even the broadest topics have been covered ad nauseam, you can’t really hope to create something totally unique. I know – I’ve been there myself many times.

There is, however, some hope. Desperate writers have been using the old “everything worth writing about has already been written” line since Ancient Egyptian times. And yet good literature is still alive and kicking thousands of years later. This is because it’s more about the common themes and emotions, told with different words and through a prism of a unique worldview. People will be drawn to the same life drama as they always were – hope, dignity, overcoming adversity, just reward and poetic justice are the kind of things that rile up a crowd – but it’s up to you to find a good way to talk about them.

You have to pull the readers in right from the start

You can say what you want about Hollywood’s tendency to hire hack writers, cannibalize original stories and rush their scripts, but some of them really know how to hook their viewers. Choosing the right niche and topic is still important, as you want to write what you know. But you mustn’t get bogged down in the details. The first paragraph has to give the reader a taste of what is to come, and really sell your content.

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Good bloggers often let people know who they are and what they are about within the first few sentences. Something like: “Look, I’ve been a Batman fan ever since I saw him make a sly comment about Vicky Vale’s weight nearly twenty years ago. But I draw the line at Bat-skates and Bat-nipples”, is far more engaging than: “The 97’ Batman and Robin left this reviewer shocked and appalled”. The introduction is there to give the viewers some information about who the writer is and the kind of style he uses – they want someone who thinks like they do, but has the language skills to bring these thoughts to life in a fun way.

Tell a story

Even journalists, who try to stay objective in their writing and pursue truth through stone cold facts, are careful to create a storyline and take their readers on a journey. In the example form the previous paragraph, the first reviewer introduces himself as a lifelong Batman fan. He infers that he is prepared to go to great lengths, to suspend his disbelief, in order to see his favorite character in action. But that even such a devoted fan was disappointed with Joel Schumacher’s train wreck of a film.

When you dig deeper, you see that this is a story of a young boy learning about what it meant to be a man of principle through a fictional character that became his role model, only to have all his hopes and expectations broken by an industry who no longer understands their own creation, and is merely interested in monetizing a brand. There are multiple layers to the story, and they are all being hinted at within the opening paragraph.

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The whole piece might take you on a journey that explores social corruption and human greed, drawing parallels between Gotham’s crime elite and Hollywood producers, which ultimately cause a hero’s name to be tarnished. It’s no longer a quick recap of the film with a star rating attached to it – the article is now a story of its own, which the readers will find incredibly interesting, despite hating the very movie that inspired it.

Old themes are worth revisiting and putting a spin on

There is a common tendency for people who become skilled or incredibly knowledgeable about a topic to gloss over basics when they explain things to people. It’s fairly natural for someone who has mastered these essential premises to think of them as common knowledge, and try to build more complex ideas on them. However, when you are dealing with a growing online audience, chances are that you will come across lots and lots of beginners who still have trouble understanding the simple stuff. It’s always good to revisit the basics, and expand on them, making sure to give things your own unique flavor.

For example, loads of articles have been written on self-improvement and a number of related topics. You’ll see points like: “Go to bed early”, “Start walking an hour every day”, “Face your fears” or “Get out of your comfort zone”, repeated time after time. It’s usually a short paragraph with vague concepts and a couple of quick tips. However, books upon books have been written on learning to cope with fear in one form or another, and people can talk for hours about the different tactics, implications and potential pros and cons of going to bed early.

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A short paragraph just isn’t going to cut it. A better strategy is to tackle the whole health and self-improvement topic from a more personal angle, and tell people what they can see, hear and learn during those hour long walks. If you cover your own personal experience and accounts of other people, it’s much easier for the readers to relate. Don’t paint things black and white or paint an idealistic picture – get down and dirty, and write about what it is like to be human. You can apply this to anything – food bloggers can explain how they got their kids to try out new foods, tech writers can write a piece about living technology free for a week, and so on. Take something people want to read about, and make it your own.

People want to hear a story told by someone whose writing they find fun and engaging, because we all ultimately love a good story-teller. Here’s a good modern example from the world of vlogging. Many gaming YouTube channels, like PewdiePie, have gained immense popularity with gameplay footage, while other similar channels struggle to gain 1000 subscribers – the only difference here being the presentation style and personality of the different YouTubers.

So, remember: Focus on developing a creative style based on your worldview. There’s only one you. Tell us your story and be passionate about what you write.

More by this author

Vladimir Zivanovic

CMO at MyCity-Web

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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