10 Secrets to More Magnetic Copy
Whether it’s a cover letter for your resume, a sales pitch to a client, a blog post, a Twitter tweet, or an internal business proposal, all of us need to write in a way that draws the reader closer to us. We need writing that’s compelling, interesting, and unique. We need writing that’s magnetic. Some think that magnetic writing is all about talent. But a few simple techniques can make any piece of writing more compelling.
[Cohen suggests ten ways to help you write copy that draws the reader closer. Here is the first. You can read the complete blog by visiting http://blog.asmartbear.com/.]
1. Don’t hedge
“Hedging” is when you go out of your way to cover every contingency in an argument. Example: “Nowadays many middle-school girls have at least some affinity for vampires.” The hedges are “almost all” and “at least some affinity.” These may be strictly true, but it’s soft, pudgy wording that lacks punch. Instead: “Nowadays middle-school girls love vampires.”
About the Author: Jason Cohen is the founder of Smart Bear Software, maker of Code Collaborator. He was also a founding member of ITWatchdogs, another bootstrapped startup which became profitable and was sold, and is a mentor at Capital Factory. He is the author of Best Kept Secrets of Peer Code Review, which examines modern, lightweight methods for doing peer code review effectively without everyone hating life. He also blogs regularly at A Smart Bear.
You can obtain a free copy of Best Kept Secrets of Peer Code Review, sign up for a free subscription to Cohen’s newsletter, and read the complete 10 Secrets article by visiting http://blog.asmartbear.com/.
So many books, so little time. I assume that you are convinced that it a good thing to read business books. But, what next? Which books should I read? How should I choose the next title? And, what is the best process for reading a business book? Here’s a 7 step process that you might find valuable.
1. Ask – what is the next issue I need to work on?
Reading a business book flows from your agenda for improvement and development – life improvement, business skill development, business strategy development. You read in order to _____. (you fill in the blank, for you). Unlike reading for pleasure, it is part of your life and career work to read business books. So, you start with this question: what do I need to work on next? After you know the answer to that question, then you…
2. Choose the right book.
There are lots – no, really, lots – of books. There are plenty of good books. And there are some really bad books. You don’t have a minute to waste on reading a book that does not deliver what you need. So invest a few minutes up front: read a few reviews. (Start with Bob Morris’ review page at Amazon. Bob is part of our blogging team, and Seth Godin calls him “a critic that matters.” If he has not reviewed it favorably, unless it is brand new and he has not read it yet, there is a likelihood that the book is not worth reading). Ask someone that you respect which book they have read on the issue at hand. (remember your mission – stick to the issue at hand). And then — start.
3. Read the introductory and the concluding chapters carefully – and first.
The better writers give you much of the “argument,” the guts of the book, in the introduction. And the concluding chapter will frequently help you develop your own post-reading strategy – you know, the “what am I gong to do with this knowledge” strategy.
4. Unless you are on a Kindle or one of its competitors, read with pen in hand.
The book is yours – mark it up, especially when you find something that is truly useful. Your own notes in the margin can become guide your next steps…
5. Revisit the book about a week after you finish the book.
About a week after you finish reading, go back though very quickly – read the table of contents, read your margin notes… This brief refresher (you can do it in 5-10 minutes) will help remind you of what you intended to put into practice, and cement the thoughts in your mind.
6. Talk about the book – a lot.
If you will share what you learned with others, and talk about the best ideas from the book often – especially in the week or two after reading it – then the ideas will take hold in your own work and personal life. You might want to summarize what you learned in an e-mail to your distribution list. This will help others, and help you more.
7. Repeat the process – look for the next issue to tackle.
Don’t be in too big a hurry, but as you put the ideas of the book you just finished into practice, and you see the positive results, then it is time to ask: “what’s next?” Sadly/wonderfully, there is always a “what’s next?” This is what keeps us growing and successful.
Here is a chart I posted in Build Your Own Strategic Reading Plan — or, How Should You Pick Which Business Book(s) to Read? a few months ago that might help get you started:
A Strategic Business Book Reading Plan
|If you need to:||Then you might want to read:|
|Aim higher – personally||The Other 90%|
|Think/work like an athlete in training||Outliers
Talent is Overrated
|Think like an innovator||The Creative Habit
The Art of Innovation
|Get better at time management||Getting Things Done
The Power of Full Engagement
|Become a better servant leader||Servant Leadership|
|Nurture and build your people||Encouraging the Heart|
|Market more effectively||Waiting For Your Cat to Bark
The Tipping Point
The Long Tail
|Get better connected||Wikinomics
|Network more effectively||Never Eat Alone|
|Communicate more effectively||Words that Work
Made to Stick
|Be a (very good) generalist||Reality Check|
|Negotiate more effectively||Women Don’t Ask
Ask for It
|Play well with others||The Five Dysfunctions of a Team|
|Learn to learn||The Opposable Mind|
|Learn to tell the truth||Crucial Conversations
The problem is big. The reasons are many, varied, complex (what M. Scott Peck would call it “overdetermined”). And the implications are scary.
The problem: America really is losing its middle class. This is a trend that we’ve been reading about for quite some time. But it has accelerated throughout this new century, and in the current crisis it has become even worse.
Now Elizabeth Warren, the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard and currently the Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, has written America Without a Middle Class on the Huffington Post.
Her conclusions are alarming:
America today has plenty of rich and super-rich. But it has far more families who did all the right things, but who still have no real security. Going to college and finding a good job no longer guarantee economic safety. Paying for a child’s education and setting aside enough for a decent retirement have become distant dreams. Tens of millions of once-secure middle class families now live paycheck to paycheck, watching as their debts pile up and worrying about whether a pink slip or a bad diagnosis will send them hurtling over an economic cliff.
America without a strong middle class? Unthinkable, but the once-solid foundation is shaking.
Look at these charts, especially the one on the left: basically, men are making no more money than they did decades ago, and now, family income is on the decline.
I wrote recently with this observation: I have read a lot of business books over the last 11+ years, and I can identify plenty of good, challenging, useful themes that seem to flow from the best-selling books. Not one book comes to mind that deals with the problem of how to build a company that treats as important maintaining and nurturing the work force.
The need is obvious – jobs, with growth in income. Will there be a resurgence – or is the middle class truly on the endangered species list?