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Archive for the ‘Writing Tips’ Category

Storytelling Tip: Write. Rewrite. Edit. Rinse and Repeat.

 

Storytelling Tip: Write. Rewrite. Edit. Rinse and Repeat.

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Write. Rewrite. Edit. Rinse and Repeat.Do you rewrite what you’ve written? And then edit it? And then do some more editing. If not, you’re probably not telling your story as well as you could.

Here’s how Tom Coyne, who teaches creative writing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, put it in an article sent to me by a friend:

“Revision is what separates the pros from the part-timers. Non-writers have some imagination of a writer who sits at a typewriter, crossing out or adding a word every few pages, and finally writing The End and firing up a cigar. That’s a fiction no one will buy. Writers slog through draft after draft after draft after draft . . . being a real writer is more about being a real re-rewriter than anything else.”

Is writing hard? Here’s what Coyne says about that: “Of course it’s hard. It’s pounding your head on a granite countertop hard. It’s a soul-crushing, salvation-stealing, staring-into-the-abyss endeavor rife with rejection, self-loathing and unshakable self-doubt.”

Or, as the late journalist and screenwriter Gene Fowler once put it: “Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until beads of blood form on your forehead.”

Whether you’re writing your story yourself or have hired someone like me to write it for you, expect to go through some editing. Editing is a key part of writing.

And don’t be afraid to ask a professional writer you’ve hired to make changes. Sometimes people are reluctant to do that because they think they’ll hurt my feelings — or the feelings of whoever they’ve hired.

You’re not going to hurt my feelings. The goal is to get to the best version of your story. Editing and rewriting are part of that process. A good writer wants your feedback. If you’ve hired us, our job is to help you tell your story in a way that you’re happy with.

So, whether you do it yourself or hire someone else to write it for you, editing and rewriting are essential to getting to the best version of your story.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Use Short sentences

Storytelling Tip: Use Short sentences

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Use Short sentencesI love short sentences. You should, too. Why? Because they make your story easier to understand. And easier to remember.

According to the American Press Institute, reader comprehension is 100 percent if your sentences average eight words or fewer.

Double that to 20 words per sentence and comprehension drops to 80 percent.

By the time you get to 30 words a sentence, your audience will miss half of what you say.

So, keep your sentences short. Use short, simple words for the same reason.

And breaking long paragraphs into short ones adds more white space. That, too, makes what you write more readable.

One way to make your sentences shorter: Look for ways to turn commas into periods.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Don’t assume your audience knows what you’re talking about

 

Storytelling Tip: Don’t assume your audience knows what you’re talking about
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Don't assume your audience knows what you're talking aboutHave you ever had this experience: You’re on Facebook and one of your friends has posted something like “That was a great experience,” a half dozen people have liked the post and a couple people have added congratulatory comments?

Did you feel like you came in at the middle of the story because you have no idea what your friend’s talking about — or whether all those likes and comments are just polite support or mean everyone but you knows what’s happening?

Or have you experienced this? You go to the local newspaper’s website to find out the score of yesterday’s game only to find a series of stories about the big plays or a controversial call but no score in sight. They assume you already know that.

People often assume everyone else knows something just because they know it.

Don’t leave your audience guessing when telling your story. Don’t assume they know something just because you do.

Jargon’s a common example. Terms widely used and understood within your company or industry may not mean anything to the rest of us. So, explain what you’re saying in terms the rest of us will understand.

Back in my days as a reporter, we always had to include at least a sentence or two designed to bring readers who missed yesterday’s paper up to speed when writing a second-day story. No matter how prominent the story, we were told to assume some readers wouldn’t know what had happened. So, each day’s update of a multi-day story had to be self-contained and explain anything a first-time reader would need to know to understand the story.

You don’t have to drown your audience in endless detail. But tell them what they need to know to understand what you’re saying — and why you’re saying it.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Skip the grocery list

 

Storytelling Tip: Skip the grocery list
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Skip the grocery listWe’ve all experienced a version of this scenario: Your spouse or roommate asks you to pick up a couple things at the grocery store.

Then a couple more things get added. And another. And pretty soon you need to write them down to remember what you’re supposed to buy.

There’s a temptation to do the same thing when telling your story: One point becomes two or three. And then a few more get added on. Pretty soon, you’ve pushed so much information at your audience that there’s no way they can remember it all.

You’ve given your audience a grocery list. And they won’t remember it.

In his book Selling the Invisible, marketing expert Harry Beckwith offers this advice:

  • “Saying many things usually communicates nothing.”
  • “If you deliver two messages, most people will process just one of them — if that. Say one thing.”
  • “After you say one thing, repeat it again and again.”

That’s good advice. All I would add is this: Be able to say that one thing in 10 to 15 seconds. If it takes you longer than that, we won’t remember it.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Turn your blank screen into something interesting

 

Storytelling Tip: Turn your blank screen into something interesting
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Turn your blank screen into something interestingWhen you start writing, you inevitably find yourself looking at a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen. The trick to good writing is to turn that blank space into something interesting.

I’ve been writing for a living for 50 years. I tell people writing is easy. And numerous writers back me up on that.

For example, the late journalist and screenwriter Gene Fowler said: “Writing is easy. You just sit staring at a blank piece of paper until beads of blood form on your forehead.”

Ernest Hemingway felt much the same way: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

After all these years, I find that facing a blank screen can still be intimidating. I’m not alone in feeling that way. So, how do you turn that blank space into something interesting without losing too much of that stuff Fowler and Hemingway mentioned?

Here are some things I do fill in that blank space:

  • Know what you want to say. If you find yourself stuck in front of a blank screen, ask yourself this simple question: What do I want to say? If you can, have a conversation with yourself or a friend out loud. What do you want to say? Just say it even if it sounds silly, trite or a bit crude. Then focus on putting what you want to say on your blank paper or screen. You can go back and tidy it up later. That part’s called editing.
  • Talk on paper. You know how to tell your stories. You do it every day in conversations with friends, family and even with strangers. Writing is just another way of telling your story. Write it the way you would say it if you were talking to your friends. Or, as novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard put it: “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”
  • Say what you mean. We live in a world where we’re expected to be politically correct. One downside is that we sometimes avoid saying what we mean because we’re busy trying to avoid saying anything that might be controversial. Tact is a good thing. Be tactful. But say what you mean. It’ll be more interesting than the bland platitudes you’re tempted to use instead.
  • Leave out the boring stuff. Elmore Leonard said his secret to good writing was to “leave out the parts that people skip.” How do you do that? If it’s not essential to your story and if it doesn’t tell the rest of us something we’ll want to know, you probably can leave it out. That’s what your delete key is for: Getting rid of the boring stuff.

It’s like I said at the beginning: Writing is easy. I’ve been known to lie sometimes. But that shouldn’t stop you from telling your story by just saying what you want to say.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Edit until you’re done. Then quit

 

Storytelling Tip: Edit until you’re done. Then quit
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Edit until you’re done, then quitAs a foodie, I also like to cook. And my best creations in the kitchen inevitably are the ones where the recipe is: Add things until it tastes right. Then quit.

That’s how I approach editing: Edit until you’re done. Then quit.

How do you know when you’re done? Here are the tests I use to determine when I’m done:

  • Are there words, phrases or even paragraphs I can take out without interfering with what I’m trying to say? If the answer is yes, I’m not done editing. Edit until no matter how hard you try, anything you take out means not telling the story you want to tell.
  • Have you filled in all the holes? Will your readers have questions you haven’t answered? If there are, fill in those holes.
  • Have I told the story I want to tell? Or did I get sidetracked as I was writing and go done a different path? Do I need to go back and fix that? Or was the new path the right one?
  • Does it sound right? If it doesn’t sound quite right, there’s a change in there waiting to be made. It may take a little while to find it, but it’s there. And making what you’ve written sound right is important. Good writing has a natural rhythm.
  • Have you found all the typos? Are you sure? How hard have you looked? Typos have a knack for going unseen until after you’ve hit the print button. So, proof what you’ve read until you’re confident you’ve found all the typos. Then consider proofing it one more time.

Once you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten rid of all the extra words, made it sound right and fixed all the typos, you’re done. Almost. If you have the luxury of doing so, put what you’ve written aside for a while. Go for a walk. Sleep on it. Do something else, whatever that is. Then come back to what you’ve written and read it over one more time.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Be a better editor to be a better writer

 

Storytelling Tip: Be a better editor to be a better writer
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Be a better editor to be a better writerWant to be a better writer? Become a better editor.

Editing is an afterthought for many writers. But it’s an essential element of good writing.

Good editing can salvage bad writing. And it can make good writing really sparkle.

So, what does good editing look like? What are you trying to accomplish? Here are some things to look for when editing:

  • Trim the fat. Most of us use more words than we need when writing. Eliminating excess words, sentences or paragraphs is the single most effective way to improve your writing. Edit, edit, edit. Then edit some more. Be ruthless as you ferret out unneeded words and phrases.
  • Fill in the blanks. Editors are notorious for taking things out. It’s part of their job. But a good editor also looks for things that need to be added. Where are holes in the story? What questions will the reader have that aren’t answered? Fill in those blanks.
  • Put things in order. Does the story you’re editing flow in a logical sequence? If not, put things in order.
  • Tune it up. Good writing, like good music, has a rhythm to it. Listen to your writing as you’re editing it. If it doesn’t sound right, there’s an edit in there somewhere waiting to be made.
  • Correct the typos. Typos are the bane of every writer I know. A misspelled word, a missing word or a misused word will be distracting to your readers. And too many of these mistakes will destroy your credibility. An occasional typo is inevitable. But there’s no excuse for having a lot of them. One of my rules for myself: If I find a typo when proofing a document, I read the entire document again because I know there are still mistakes lurking within it.

To reiterate: Be a better editor to be a better writer. If you treat editing as nothing more than an afterthought, you’re not telling the best version of your story.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Be quotable to be remembered

 

Storytelling Tip: Be quotable to be remembered
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s Storytelling Tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show
Listen to the Radio Version

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Be quotable to be rememberedBe quotable to be remembered.

We’re drawn to good quotes because they represent a clever, memorable way of saying something. Memorable is the key word here. Good quotes are easy to remember. And they have impact because they express a truth easily recognized and accepted.

Mark Twain and Will Rogers became famous by delivering one-liners about the human condition and the politics of their day. And many of their comments, including topical political comments you might expect to become dated, are just as true today as they were when they were alive.

We’ve all heard Mark Twain’s famous line that “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Some other great quotes, some you’ll recognize and some you won’t:

  • “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” — Mark Twain
  • “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” — Mark Twain
  • “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” — Will Rogers
  • “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” — Winston Churchill
  • “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” — Admiral David Farragut

Every one of those quotes have two things in common. They’re short, one or two sentences. And they express a truth that’s easy to understand and accept.

Company taglines are another example of quotable quotes. For example:

  • The pause that refreshes. — Coca Cola
  • Don’t leave home without it. — American Express
  • Just do it. — Nike

We’re bombarded with information every day. We make sense of that by ignoring the stuff we aren’t interested in and simplifying the stuff we are interested in so we can remember it. Being quotable helps grab our attention and makes it easier for us to remember what you said.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Be a Problem Solver

 

Storytelling Tips: Be a problem solver
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s Storytelling Tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show
Listen to the Radio Version

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Be a Problem SolverOne good way to get attention for your story: Solve a problem or create an opportunity for the rest of us.

Solving a problem or creating an opportunity are flip sides of the same thing. And doing one or the other — or both — for enough people to make a living is what keeps most of us in business.

So, help the rest of us clearly understand the problem you solve or the opportunity you create.

If it’s a problem I’m interested in solving or an opportunity I’m interested in taking advantage of, I’ll be interested in what you say.

If it’s a problem a lot of people are interested in solving or an opportunity a lot of people are interested in taking advantage of, a lot of people will be interested in what you say.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tips: You’re not done writing until you’re done editing

 

Storytelling Tips: You’re not done writing until you’re done editing
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s Storytelling Tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show
Listen to the Radio Version

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tips: You're not done writing until you're done editingEditing is part of writing. That means you’re not done writing until you’re done editing. And you’re not done editing until you’ve proofread what you wrote at least a couple times.

I love technology. Word processing, email, smart phones and all those other gadgets I work and play with through the day have transformed the way I do what I do. I don’t miss my old manual typewriter — or even my IBM Selectric, which I finally said goodbye to a few years ago.

But email and smart phones have turned many people into sloppy writers. And some of what I see on Facebook, Twitter and in my inbox makes me cringe. You know how you sometimes get an “are you sure?” message when you hit the delete button? Sometimes, it would be good if we got a message like that when we hit the send button. One last chance to check for errors.

Three of my pet peeves: “loose” for “lose,” “or” when the writer means “are” and “then” when the writer means “than.” You probably have your “favorites,” too.

Careless spelling and grammatical errors are the writing equivalent of showing up at the office with mismatched shoes or flashing a big smile with food stuck between your teeth. They leave a bad impression.

So, edit what you write. And editing includes proofreading.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

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