Top 7 writing tips for organizers

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Whether you’re creating emails, blog posts, social media posts, website content, or something else, writing is a big part of your job. To be an effective writer, you need more than just grammar and spelling skills – you need to be able to communicate your message clearly. 

I’m pleased to welcome former journalist, Dan Kaufman, with some great writing tips to help you get the most out of your efforts.

Janet

We all know first impressions count – and these days those impressions are likely to come from your website, social media platforms or email. That’s why the way you write is crucial, regardless of how good you are at organizing.

The good news is that anyone can become a good writer. Here are seven key tips to help you:

1) Make your sentences short and snappy

If you only learn one writing tip, it should be this: write short sentences.

It’s just the way the mind works: when we see a long sentence, we get bogged down. Short sentences, however, make your writing flow.

Organizers pride themselves on their ability to sort and purge: and that’s what you need to do with your writing. If a word or sentence doesn’t add meaning, get rid of it. Don’t write “really black” when “black” means the same thing.

Make sure you’re only saying one key point per sentence. An easy way to achieve this is to look out for commas. People often use a comma to introduce a second point when they should instead turn that comma into a full stop and start a new sentence.

You can also try counting words. If a sentence has more than 27 words it’s probably too long. You should also vary the length of your sentences so that your writing has a nice rhythm and doesn’t feel jarring. For example, a good writer might have a 20-word sentence, then a five-word one, then a 14-word sentence – but never a 60-word sentence.

2) Be conversational

We all want to come across as professional when we write – but what usually happens is we end up using jargon and long-winded words and phrases that we would never say out loud (because if we did, we would sound ridiculous). Well, here’s a tip for you: it’s just as ridiculous in writing.

Writing needs to reflect speech. Every time you write something, read it out loud (or sound it out in your head). If it doesn’t sound natural, it’s bad writing.

It’s also useful to visualize the reader before you even start writing. Imagine they’re standing in front of you and think: what would you say to them face to face? Doing this can clarify what you need to say in addition to ensuring your language sounds natural.

3) Write in the active voice

A sentence only needs a subject, a verb and to complete a thought – preferably in that order. Active voice is all about making sure the subject is driving the verb rather than being acted on by it.

For example, rather than writing:

The home staging service was launched by us in December.

write:

We launched our home staging service in December.

Look out for the words was and by, which often indicate passive voice.

4) Make your writing positive

Negative words such as no and not often indicate you’re not being as direct as you should be, which makes your sentences less snappy.

Instead of writing:

If you do not have the time to declutter …

just write

If you are too busy to declutter …

There are times when you do want to emphasize the negative – such as when you want to say a tradesperson did not fix the problem despite being paid – but remember that negative words often sap sentences of energy.

Another tip is that people like being told what they can do – not what they can’t. That’s why instead of writing:

 We will not get back to you until after you fill out the form.

you should write:

We will get back to you as soon as you fill out the form.

5) Write with the reader in mind

No one likes people who only talk about themselves – and yet that’s what so often happens when we promote ourselves.

When going over your writing, look out for the words we, I and our. If you see them too many times, it means you’re writing about yourself and not the reader.

 For example, instead of writing:

 We work to transform your office into an efficient and functional space.

 write

 Transform your office into an efficient and functional space with our services.

 By using you and your instead of I, we and our, it forces you to reframe the message from the reader’s point of view.

6) Start with a verb

If you want the reader to do something, start your headline or sentence with a verb.

The verb is the strongest part of a sentence: the stronger your verb, the stronger your writing will be.

Visualize what the reader needs or wants to do – and then pinpoint the verb behind that action.

Rather than writing:

You can make your office space more effective with these five tips:

write

Make your office space more effective with these five tips:

Writing second and third drafts is crucial to good writing – and in every draft you should think about what the main verb is, and then lead with that.

7) Proofread, proofread, proofread!

Don’t just write something and publish it – instead, you need to read it first. And then read it again. And again.

Most people don’t do this, which is why websites are littered with typos. The more you read your own copy, the more mistakes you will find. And as I mentioned earlier in this article, trying reading it out loud.

You should always use spellcheck but don’t rely on it completely. For example, Microsoft Word won’t have a problem with the word grate if you mean to write great.

Lastly, when we read our own writing we often subconsciously skip over any mistakes we’ve made because our minds know what we intended to say. To get around this, focus on every word while reading (such as by printing it out and running your finger over the page). This will force you to notice what you are actually saying – rather than what you were trying to.

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Dan Kaufman is a former Sydney Morning Herald editor and journalist with over 25 years of experience in writing and editing.

He has been teaching for over a decade, both at university and through his own business, and has helped a wide range of organizations improve their online marketing – including small business owners.

These days he runs Writing Elementals, which offers online writing courses.

Gravatar mystery man

Dan Kaufman is a former Sydney Morning Herald editor and journalist with over 25 years of experience in writing and editing.

He has been teaching for over a decade, both at university and through his own business, and has helped a wide range of organizations improve their online marketing – including small business owners.

These days he runs Writing Elementals, which offers online writing courses.

10 Comments

  1. Avatar Seana Turner on January 12, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    This is excellent advice. I can work on shorter sentences and active voice for sure!

    On the issue of “you” vs. “we,” the time I tend to go to the plural “we” is when I’m discussing some negative tendencies we have. For example, “We often struggle to put things away,” vs. “You may struggle to put things away.” I wonder what the thoughts are in this situation?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Dan Kaufman Dan Kaufman on January 12, 2022 at 6:23 pm

      Hi Seana,

      Glad you liked the article.

      Using “we” in that situation is best – so keep doing what you’re doing!

  2. Avatar Linda Samuels on January 12, 2022 at 12:29 pm

    What fantastic writing advice! I have work to do. 🙂 I’m a big comma user. Perhaps it’s the organizer in me. Commas let me list options.

    • Dan Kaufman Dan Kaufman on January 12, 2022 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks for your kind feedback!

      I suggest using bullet points for listing options (especially if you’re listing three or more). They might feel or look odd to you at first if you’re not used to using them, but your readers will love them as they make writing easier to scan. You can see an example of how I use bullet points on my business writing course page.

      I hope this helps.

  3. Avatar Jane Veldhoven on January 12, 2022 at 3:43 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips Janet. I am in the process of finally writing a book so these tips are very timely.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 13, 2022 at 1:24 pm

      That’s so exciting, Jane! Please keep me posted.

  4. Avatar Julie Bestry on January 12, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    Definitely an important take for all writers. As a professional writer as well as a professional organizer, I tend to be dubious about hard-and-fast rules regarding style (as opposed to syntax and grammar). Hemingway wrote short, spare sentences, and I find his writing angry and depressing, while Faulkner and Fitzgerald wrote long, discursive sentences. Of course, they were all novelists, men, and drunkards, and (hopefully) we are none of those, at least when writing about organizing. That said, “short and snappy” as a rule makes me cringe, but variety from sentence to sentence, as advised, is wise. (A 60-word sentence? Well, that’s just failure to know how to punctuate!)

    I definitely agree about most of this advice. Writing with the audience in mind is traditional marketing/advertising advice; people care more about themselves than anyone in the abstract. Positivity is better for encouraging action (though, most people are more inclined to avoid the carrot than run for the stick). Verbs engender activity, and that’s the goal of writing about organizing. And of course, proofreading is essential.

    • Dan Kaufman Dan Kaufman on January 12, 2022 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks for your considered feedback, Julie – much appreciated.

  5. Avatar Lisa S. Griffith on January 14, 2022 at 5:09 pm

    Excellent advice. There are a few things I hadn’t realized I habitually do until you explained them! Thanks for sharing.

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