Reinventing Your Writing Style: 3 Online Tools to Get You Started (Guest post)Posted by Jessica Oman
You have a start-up. You need good copy for your proposals and online presence, but your budget is tight. Proposals are sales documents that might justify hiring a copywriter, but what about sales copy for your online presence? You were good at writing in university. Can you make it work online?
Substance and style
Nobody knows what you do better than you, so substance is no problem. Let’s assume you have the right readers and you already know how to write to persuade and to motivate. Unless you’re a writer yourself, you probably have an academic writing style, which doesn’t work online. You need a different style for new media. How do you reinvent your style to one that’s more conversational, less formal, and more effective online?
1. Get your readability statistics into the zone
For business writing, you don’t always need a unique style. You just need a style that your audience can easily read. Three common readability algorithms are Flesch Reading Ease, Fog Scale Level, and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. Microsoft Word can calculate two of them, but Sarah K. Tyler’s Writing Sample Analyzer tool calculates all three, plus the number of sentences in your copy, words per sentence, and characters per word.
For Flesch Reading Ease, aim to score between 60 and 70 (higher is better), corresponding to an 8th or 9th grade reading level. For Fog Scale Level, aim for around 10 (lower is better). For Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, you want an 8th or 9th grade reading level (lower is better). Shorter sentences and words with only one or two syllables improve these scores.
2. Refine your copy
Reading aloud is a proven technique. The online editing tool for bloggers, EditMinion, can also suggest replacements and flag things like clichés, weak words, and constructs ending with a preposition. The tool is in beta and might have some quirks and errors.
3. Vet your copy
Vetting your copy in a safe environment is another well-known practice. You’ll discover which of your friends are good editors. Your friends, though, might not be as well-read as the online writing analysis tool, I Write Like (IWL). IWL takes a writing sample and returns the name of an author with similar word choice and style. Definitely fun, but it only provides output (unless you read source code). IWL was reviewed in more detail by a blogger in 2010.
You can change your writing style to one effective for online sales copy. As you write, focus on word choice and sentence length. Let the stats from your writing guide you. Use the free online tools mentioned above to get your readability scores, make your copy flow naturally, and compare your style to established authors. Get your stats into the desired ranges, and your style will magically transform to a style that works online.
Written by Robin Matsumoto
Robin Matsumoto is a Toronto writer interested in business processes and do-it-yourself approaches.
Photo by ellenm1 via Flickr