For over two years I've met biweekly by phone with one of my favorite colleagues. Of course gossip for a few minutes, but the bulk of the hour is spent discussing professional development. A while back I asked her, "How do you know when your writing is good enough to go public?" We'd each been working on respective writing projects—a process that tends to pull you in so deeply you have difficulty being an objective critic of your own work. With her masterful efficiency and confidence she responded, "Great question, shall we figure that out right now? What elements do you find essential in good writing?" By the end of that call we'd established an 8-point guideline. It works because it guides the quality of the overall content but does not detract from the creativity of the writer.
Have you considered what makes your writing high quality? Whether you're blogging for Psychology Today, creating your professional website, or writing a self-help book, this checklist can boost the quality of your content. Here are our 8 simple steps for self-assessing your work:
1. Does your writing provide value? Your audience is investing their precious time so how are you rewarding them? Are you giving them something to think about? Providing information they've never heard? Making them smile?
2. Is your work respectful of your audience? Like in medicine, first do no harm. Avoid the pitfall of ranting and instead develop a thoughtful argument to support your idea. Avoid yelling at your readers or talking down to them-- you and your readers are equals regardless of the opinion you're expressing.
3. Does your writing target the right audience at the right time and place? You risk losing your audience if your work feels scatterbrained, awkward, or out of place. Think of your overall body of work and then ask yourself if your piece of writing fits in.
4. Is it concise? Support your ideas with specific detail and do so without all the fluff. Keep in mind the old saying, 'show don't tell'.
5. Is it clearly relevant to the services you provide? Regardless of the story you're telling or the information you're providing, you ultimately want to attract an audience to your services. Does your writing actually connect readers to your services or do you just like seeing your words in print? Ouch.
6. Does it enhance or detract from your professional identity and voice? Does your writing sound authentic or were you trying to be somebody you're not? Readers will see right through that. Your style and voice will be honed over time, but as long as it feels authentic you're probably on the right track.
7. Who's really the focus? Does your writing have "Dear diary" syndrome? Does every one of your paragraphs begin with "I"? Count up all your "I", "Me", and "My" pronouns and then ask yourself who the writing is really about. You must involve your reader. Go ahead and tell stories that make your writing personal, but make sure you're providing value to your reader—see #1.
8. Does it contain a call to action? So they read your piece, what next? Will you invite them to your website or to purchase a book you've written? Ask them to follow you on social media? You don't have to beat your readers over the head and drag them back to the cave. Finesse a simple call to action at some point in the work. Like this:
Do you like reading about writing? Read my article about blogging in which best-selling authors Seth Godin and Neal Pasricha answer the question, "Why do you blog?"
Brad Waters MSW, LCSW provides career-life coaching and consultation to clients internationally via phone and Skype. He helps people explore career direction and take action on career transitions. Brad holds a Master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan and Master's certification in Holistic Health Care from Western Michigan University. Brad is also a personal development writer whose books are available on Amazon and BradWatersMSW.com
Copyright, 2013 Brad Waters. This article may not be reproduced or published without permission from the author. If you share it, please give author credit and do not remove embedded links.
Special thanks to Glenda Haskell for her years of wonderful collaboration and coaching. This article may not be reproduced or published without permission from the author.