A savvy business friend who interviews job candidates once told me he looks for three things in future employees: accuracy, timeliness, and added value. Like the legs of a three-legged stool, each of these “Big 3” qualities bears equal weight in excellent writing.
Why “The Big 3” Matter in a Writer’s World
Accuracy: For a writer, finding a typo published is like discovering your zipper is down. Avoid embarrassing yourself by carefully checking your writing before publishing. This includes paying attention to small punctuation errors, which can not only throw off a reader but can actually change the meaning of the text. Neglecting to use even a simple comma can spell disaster (e.g., “Let’s eat, Mom.” vs. “Let’s eat Mom.”). Perhaps even more essential is verifying content. Misrepresenting information or skewing data can be a turnoff to readers and can make it difficult for you to build credibility and trust.
Just 3 Ideas: Edit and re-edit your work. Ask a skilled and trusted colleague to review your work. Fact-check scrupulously.
Timeliness: Half of falling in love is finding the right person; the other half is finding that special someone at the right time. By the same token, who wants to read a fascinating movie review about last year’s blockbuster? And what good is a captivating company blog if it promotes a hot product released several months ago? When we read something is often as important as what we read.
Just 3 Ideas: Sync your writing calendar with important events, product releases, and upcoming services. Submit work slightly ahead of schedule. Use a friend, incentive, or device to help hold you accountable for meeting deadlines.
Added Value: When I was hunting online for a tried-and-true chili recipe, the photos and reviews all ended up looking and sounding very much the same. However, one recipe used cocoa as a secret ingredient. This tip had me hooked. Trust your own writing expertise to add a little “Wow!” whenever possible. Give readers inside information or ideas to save them time or money, and don’t be afraid to use visual or structural pizzazz to keep them engaged. Employers want to be heard, and they hired you to get their message out.
Just 3 Ideas: Make plain sense of confusing or boring material. Make material reader-friendly by changing the format or sentence structure. Delight your readers with unexpected humor, helpful tips, or interesting tidbits of information.
Putting “The Big 3” into Practice
I get a monthly email reminder about my book group, but instead of dishing up the same old who-what-where-when-why information, our group leader keeps us on our toes. Sometimes she draws us in with a creative subject line; other times she includes a question, riddle, or acrostic poem. Occasionally, she shares a little-known fact to pique our interest in the book (Added Value). We calendar a year in advance so we all know who is reviewing what book and where the meeting will be held (Accuracy), but charming missives like hers would be rendered useless if they arrived after the group had already met (Timeliness)— which they don’t.
No one is ever anxious to read a standard email, a predictable five-paragraph essay, or boring business report. Instead, excellent writers delight readers by giving them what they need when they need it, and they keep them reading by sharing a little extra.
—Janet T. Perry
©2017 Janet T. Perry. All rights reserved.