C'mon, everyone can string together a few coherent sentences, right? We've all been writing since kindergarten; by now it should come as easy and natural as, say, sitting on the 'throne.' So, how come it's not?
The Write Stuff
Asked if good writing skills can be taught, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Stanford University creative writing professor, Wallace Stegner replied, "Yes, but not to everyone."
Some folks can write stuff people want to read, and some can't.
Sometimes your business needs a professional writer, other times it doesn't. How do you know which is which? Equally important, how do you know a good writer from a bad one?
Consider hiring a writer if:
You just don't like to write.
Some people shun exercise, some the dentist, others writing. For them, it's tedious, troublesome.
Time is money.
Yes, you have the skills and knowledge to pull together a blog post, but it may take you hours to do it and you're already pressed for time. What's your time worth?
It's all Greek to you.
People who are multilingual rock. But even the most fluent speakers of foreign tongues often have difficulty writing in them well enough to be clearly understood.
Your writing skills are so-so.
You could do a serviceable job, but business circumstances dictate that "so-so" doesn't cut it. You're not just competing for readers' time and attention against your competitors, but against thousands of other media trying to do the same thing with the same people. Your stuff better be good enough to grab their attention, hold it, and get them to act on what they've read.
Consider writing it yourself if:
You know the topic inside and out.
You'll have no trouble coming up with blog article ideas on a regular basis -- weekly, biweekly -- for as long as you intend to maintain the blog.
Spelling counts. Grammar too.
Your knowledge of spelling, punctuation and grammar are good enough that you won't embarrass yourself or tarnish your organization's reputation by appearing amateurish due to misspelled words or grammatical errors.
You can step away from the story.
You can distance yourself from your writing to critique and edit it objectively or you have a friend or colleague who can.
People comment favorably on your writing or you have been published (and not just on your own website).
How to recognize good writing and good writers:
Beyond looking at a writer's technical skills -- spelling, punctuation, grammar -- also look at whether their thoughts follow a logical progression in telling the story. Look at the softer, yet in every sense more important, skills a writer demonstrates.
Does the writer's writing engage you?
Good writers know they have but a few, scant seconds to grab your attention. If you're hooked from the first sentence and you're not tempted by distractions along the way, the writer is doing their job. If the writing bores you, it will bore your audience, and they will click to another site in a nanosecond.
Does the writer have experience in the subject matter and type of writing you need? Writing effective marketing collateral is not the same thing as writing a press release; writing advertising copy is not the same as writing a white paper or a product page. Good writers, like good singers or dancers, are versatile in numerous topics, formats and genres, and are not just one-trick ponies.
Less is more.
Good writing isn't written, it's rewritten. More specifically, it's edited. Good writers prune their prose to be sure there are no extra words or phrases; that two words aren't used when one will do; that redundancy, other than, say, product names or search keywords, doesn't exist in the document.
Success breeds success.
One way to gauge a writer's success is
the number of clients they work with
. See how many companies are using any writer you consider. There's a reason some writers have many clients: They consistently do a better job.
Good writers are invited back.
One of the best measures of successful writers is whether or not they are hired back. If you see someone whose work consists of one or two assignments at dozens of clients, walk away. If a firm likes a writer's work and working with that writer, they'll invite them back time and again.
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