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From the CEO's Desk: 4 Writing Hacks That Make a Difference

Teaching the next generation of journalists at the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism has been my privilege and pleasure for more than a decade. A notable thing that hundreds of hours of podium/whiteboard/red pen time taught me is that finding your voice as a writer can be daunting – whether you're slinging ink as a copywriter or reporting a beat for a news outlet.

These four copywriting hacks are tips you can try right now in your everyday comms - emails, reports, letters, memos, etc. Practice them regularly and you'll push your writing to become more clear, concise and cogent. Let me know how you do!

1 - Write like you talk just means taking a more conversational tone. So many professionals default to robotic when writing in the workplace. You're a human, so I give you permission to sound like one!

2 - Harness your inner Scorsese before you pick up a pen or start tapping on the keyboard. Behind almost every headline, every move in business, there's a human doing something. What are they doing and how can you set the scene by describing the action? Answer those questions then craft sentences where the subject performs an action. EX: "A girl heard the puppies' cries and pulled them from a trash can" is more compelling than "The puppies were located on the street."

3 - After you've tackled the second hack, take a closer look and mine for details. Are there specifics that can add color to the story? EX: "During a snowstorm in Cleveland, Ohio last month, a 14-year-old on her way to school heard the puppies' cries coming from inside a trash can. She looked into the bin, found six newborns huddled together and rescued them from certain death" is MUCH more compelling than "The puppies were located on the street."

4 - So, if you've worked on the first three hacks, you're already improving your copy a whole lot by writing with an active voice, mining for details and setting scenes for your reader. Don't ruin the good work by filling your prose with cliches or puns. Just don't do it. In the words of writing coach Chip Scanlan, "avoid cliches like the plague." 😄


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