The Importance of Good Writing

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For those of us involved in working on web stuff for our churches, I think we often times forget about the importance of good writing.  It’s understandable.  We get caught up in the technical and artsy side of trying to make our websites better.  Yet without solid writing, lots of the other work you do becomes less effective.

The words you use and the style in which you write all contribute to the story you’re telling. Writing intentionally brings the design of your website to life.  Generic or thoughtless writing is a distraction. It’s a lost opportunity for someone to engage with your church.

Steve Fogg recently wrote a blog post for Church Marketing Sucks with some basic tips for improving your writing.  These are some great bullet points and I’ve added a few of my thoughts to them as well.

  • Write like you talk to your friends. In other words, write conversationally.  Too often we get caught up writing complex sentences.  Or we get stuck using a lot of Christianese language.  Once you write something, read it out loud.  Not only does that help when proofreading something, it also helps you realize if it’s conversational or not.
  • Be concise and clear.  Write short, simple sentences.  Avoid getting too wordy.  Stick to one point without wandering.
  • Cultivate the right tone.  Understand the context in which you’re writing.  Should it be funny, serious, casual, formal, sensitive, etc.?  
  • Don’t over-promise.  As churches, we often promise things like instant life transformation just by attending a single service.  Is that something we can really guarantee?  Or we pump up an event to be something it really could never be.  Stay realistic.  Give a true presentation of who you are.  It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than to over-promise and disappoint.
  • Choose an angle.  How are you going to approach what you’re writing?  Is there something unique or interesting that you can use to draw people in?  Is there a way you can help people better engage with the story you’re telling?  You’re competing with a lot of other messages and if yours is unique there’s a better chance people will pay attention to it.

What tips do you have for being a better writer? 

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Thanks for this post Jerod - an important topic when it comes to websites that the people take seriously.

I coordinate blogs for a few different companies and guest blog for others.  Generally writing for the web is different that writing for print.  When people read on websites they are looking for content that is easy to digest that they can get through quickly.  I'm not suggesting you write fluff that doesn't change people's lives.  I am suggesting that you make it easy for people to read and understand your writing, especially for complex topics. 

This is done by following some of the suggestions above such as, using plain English instead of abstract Christian language that the average person wouldn't understand without it being explained to them.  Other ways to make your reading easy to understand is by:

- using short paragraphs of 4 -5 sentences maximum, sticking to one point per paragraph

- using clear subheadings throughout so readers can quickly find the part of the post that they are looking for

- using lists to make points easier to follow (for example, this was a paragraph before I hit the publish button, then after reading it I realized a list would be easier for readers to understand) 

- use a compelling title that actually says what your post is about - not something abstract

- enslist the help of an editor, someone who can give you feedback and ask you questions about parts that aren't clear

Remember you are writing for your readers.  The harder your audience has to work to understand the point of your message, the more likely they not finish reading your post, an will click to another post that is easier for them to find the information they are after.