Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Words, Words, Words

The ‘net is all about communications.

That’s it.

Here we’ve got this really cool toy that allows us to move information around the world as good as instantly. We move pictures, sounds, numbers, and even money, it’s true, but most of what we move is words.

That’s right, as much as we talk about the web as a source of media in all its various forms, the vast, vast majority of all communications over the net is text. And that means that to effectively do business on the ‘net, you have to become comfortable with using words. You have to use words to convert website visitors into buyers. You have to use the right words so that people find you using search engines. You have to use words well when you’re responding to a customer’s email. Ads have to be written, agreements read and signed. It’s all in the words.

Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t feel confident in their word skills. I can understand that. It’s a confidence thing. But nonetheless, there are some things that, done continuously, can make you a better writer. And it’s not like all the drudgery that you dealt with in school, either.

First of all, in order to write well, it helps to read, and read lots. The more you read, the more your mind becomes saturated with language, and the more good writing you absorb. It becomes easier to write because what you write will “sound better” in your mind’s ear. It’s good to know rules of grammar, but what will work best is training your mind to listen for the way sentences should be put together.

Start off by reading things you like. Pick some fun novels. Read magazines about your interests, your hobbies, your business. Then read to get informed. Get on the net and find content-rich sites. Read your competition’s websites. Read the newspaper. Not only are you filling your mind with the sound of good language, but you’ll be learning the things you’re reading about. You’ll stay informed.

While reading will help you write better, there’s nothing that will improve you like practice. You’ll need to write. And just like you had to read a lot, you’ll want to write a lot.

Start off writing for fun. Write emails to family and friends. Keep a journal. These are useful because they’re low pressure. You can’t make mistakes because there’s basically nothing at stake. You’re not turning them in for a grade, you’re not trying to close a sale, you’re just writing about your day. With no pressure, you can just let it all go and have fun with it. Do it EVERY DAY.

Starting a personal blog is a great idea, too, but it’s a bit more public. Still, since it’s personal, there’s no rules about what you’re writing about or what you’re saying. So, it’s still pretty much just for fun. Still, it can also help build an audience and point traffic at your website, so it still has some direct business value as well.

In doing business on the web, you’ll need to learn to write to sell. This is really the same as what English professors might call “Writing to Convince”. The business world calls it “Ad Copy”. Whatever you call it, it involves putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and writing something that, from their perspective, solves their problems. There are a lot of ways to learn how to do this, all the way from taking classes, to simply reading lots of ads.

I do have to add one thing that’s also critical to successful internet writing. As long as the computer is an obstacle between your mind and the written word, it will be difficult. That means that you need to be familiar with both the workings of word processing, and fluent with the keyboard. And, while taking classes is a good way to learn, nothing beats practice!

This will show my age, but when I was in high school, our typing classes were mostly filled with girls, preparing to be secretaries. Even though it was a man teaching the class, there were only 4 boys among the students. I didn’t even do that well. When I got out, I think I was at about 30 wpm, tops.

These days, they often start kids in what are now called “keyboarding” class in elementary school, and everyone is involved.

When I was a kid, it was possible for someone to be very successful in business and life without ever knowing how to type. Not anymore. Heck, there are kids who can text message with their thumb on a cell phone faster than I could type when I was their age!

With practice and patience, any of these obstacles can be overcome. Fill your mind’s ear with good words. Write every day. Learn your tools. It will pay off big in the long run.

1 comment:

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