Writing is simple. We do it every day by jotting down a note, sending an e-mail, or issuing a memo. All of these things make you a writer.
But what if your ambitions are greater than that? Do you want to blog regularly? Is ad-copy that you encounter inferior to what you could produce? Could that story you read have been ten times better if you had written it?
The Simple Truth
Competent writers read constantly. Their appetite is voracious; books, articles, poetry, or anything can be a source of inspiration; the written word is their mental fuel. And the best-read writers make the best Copywriters. It’s osmosis-in-action; they absorb conventions, usage, and grammar; they learn style, plotting, development, and characterization. It literally demonstrates what successful writers do.
What do I need to know?
It is wonderful if you know the difference between adjectives and nouns – all knowledge benefits you – even if you can’t differentiate between a gerund and a verb. What developed writers know is how sentences are constructed, by having read proper structure repeatedly. They subconsciously learned the patterns so thoroughly from their reading that errors glare at them from their own attempts. Repairs are obvious.
What should I read?
In the “Old Days” any hardcover book was a good bet; it was vetted by a real publisher with solid literary credentials. Nowadays, self-published e-books may reflect less familiarity with the rules of grammar, spelling and even word-usage, so you rely on them at your own risk. Stick with tangible books, or e-books published by respectable houses that still have real Editors.
“But which books?” you ask.
If your daily read is confined to Facebook (and the like) you may be in trouble. What passes for writing for the modern majority makes an Author uncomfortable. Pseudo-words like “alot” make them cringe; “gr8” grates on their nerves; and people saying IMHO (In my Humble Opinion) seldom know the meaning of the word “humble”.
So the direct answer is: Read those books that interest you. You’ll learn more by being interested in the subject matter. There are very few people that write poorly if they read frequently. You cannot help but learn what is expected and acceptable.
But here’s the trick! This post (which you just read all the way to the end) just demonstrated three vitally important precepts:
1. Short paragraphs are easy to read and avoid causing a mental protest the way large, uninterrupted blocks of text will.
2. Headings and White Space are necessary so the eye can rest momentarily to assimilate what was just read.
3. Picture and images reinforce concepts, utilizing both halves of the brain, again giving a mental respite. Captions tie the image to the text.
Do not torture your readers with intimidating blocks of text. They’ll just skip to the end for a summary, or stop reading all together. Leave a Blank Line between paragraphs so it’s obvious that the reader is getting a mental break soon; they’ll be much more inclined to read what you have to say. Use your Headings for the same reason.
Use pictures! There are plenty of free-use image sites such as my favorite: http://www.morguefile.com/ . They permit unattributed use (as above).
Now get back to work! But remember to read some books; they make you a much better Copywriter!