How to Get Your Writer to Write Like You Talk

talkingheads“This sounds nothing like me,” a client recently confided about his content from another writer. “It’s not what I wanted.”

His disappointment was evident–and not uncommon.

What do you do when you read your first draft of content from your writer in high hopes . . . and feel disappointment instead?

Some people give up on their writer and return to cobbling together their own words. Some seek another writer, hoping to find The One that will magically breathe life into their content.

To be sure, not all writers are equal. Some are better than others at certain forms of writing, such as blogging, business, or advertising. And some are simply just better writers.

But before you ditch your writer, consider this: Have you provided her with enough guidance? Have you taken the time to tell her about you and what you want? Writers are a bit like hairstylists: Provide little instruction, and you’re likely to get a mohawk instead of that simple trim you wanted.

My clients are usually sure about one thing: They want a writer who can write like they talk. And a good writer changes her tone to accommodate each client as easily as she changes her wardrobe.

But what clients aren’t always certain of is how to communicate what they want to their writers.

To get your writer on board with your expectations, consider these four simple ideas:

  1. Compile a style guide, which is simply a list of what you want in your written communication. The most well-developed guide I’ve seen so far is that of Explore God, a nonprofit organization that invests deeply in its team of writers. In addition to six instructions dedicated to tone alone, the organization provides 15 more parameters as guidance—down to the ideal number of words to include in a sentence.
  2. Provide your writer with any existing corporate materials that help her get a feel for the way you’ve been presenting your company, including your online materials such as your website and social media forums as well as print materials such as article, brochures, and flyers.
  3. Provide direct, specific feedback. You’d be surprised how many people hesitate to tell their writer they’re unhappy with their content in an effort to avoid an awkward conversation. Experienced writers, however, already know that their writing will not satisfy every client, particularly a first draft. They appreciate clients who are honest and specific about what they want to change.
  4. Perhaps the most critical—and most overlooked—piece of information is the published version of your content. Don’t let your busyness or fear of an awkward conversation get in the way of this step. In addition to providing specific guidance to your writer, she can begin compiling a study guide based on the final product. That way, you both win.

With a little effort and communication, you can align your writer with your expectations – and you might get a better haircut to boot. What other strategies have you used to communicate with your writer?

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for companies, publishers, and organizations. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her website to continue the conversation.

The Most Successful Failure in the World: Review

Published February 2015, Chart House Press.
Published February 2015, Chart House Press.

“To every lost entrepreneur and dreamer who is looking for a better way.”

This dedication says it all in Jeff Hastings’ new book, The Most Successful Failure in the World.

As a fellow entrepreneur and business owner with her own share of work-life struggles, it was a privilege to edit Jeff’s compelling tale of the rise, fall, and redemption of billionaire CEO Alex Moss. His character learns through tragedy to create a life and business of meaning, and anyone who has wrestled with the sacrifices of having a business and having a family knows that his struggles are relevant and his consequences are real.

Jeff is artful in his ability to step back and forth between the worlds of fiction and nonfiction: Each fast-faced chapter ends with a few pages of business learning and notes. One moment his writing teeters in drama; a moment later, it is planted solidly in a business conversation. But that is the unique perspective of his character, Alex Moss: He speaks from a dual perspective of failure — with its missed opportunities and relentless aftertaste — and success — both his rise and redemption.

But what really sets this book apart is the poignancy of it and its author. Jeff is an entrepreneur and business coach who bustles with frenetic energy and new ideas but who also, in quieter moments, reveals a thoughtful sadness. Sitting across from him at lunch last week, intensely punctuating my opinion about a plot twist with chopsticks, I was suddenly struck by realization that this story is more personal than I know. This man has experienced highs and lows like Alex Moss, and readers will wonder how much of Jeff’s own life parallels the life of his character.

The Most Successful Failure in the World is for everyone. Whether you or someone you know is starting a new venture or reevaluating life, riding the waves of success or standing in rubble, wanting to talk business or simply wanting to enjoy a good story — this book offers something for all of us.

To purchase an e-book for only $10 or to find information on signing and radio events, go to The Most Successful Failure in the World.

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for business leaders, organizations, and publishers. To learn more, connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her website.