My parents say I was absolutely desperate to learn to read, and once I started I couldn’t stop. When I was little the best treat of all was the magical half hour between bedtime and lights out, when I was allowed to read in bed, happily pinned beneath slippery flesh-pink bri-nylon sheets, stacks of woollen blankets and a candy-yellow candlewick bedspread. I adored it. Years later, reading still comes top of my favourite things to do.
I love to engage with a great story, get totally lost in it, while away the hours. Heavenly. But there’s more to reading than pleasure. If you want to write better, it makes a lot of sense to read more.
Why reading more breeds better writing
Every good novel, every self help volume, reference book and coffee table tome is a masterpiece of great communication, a thing of beauty and perfection. Read enough books and you soon get into the rhythm, can soon see what it means to communicate clearly and accurately with the imaginative slant needed to keep people reading.
If the rhythm falters, if you hit a hiccup, however minor, you’re brought up short, hurled back to reality. You’re suddenly conscious you’re reading, and the spell is broken. A spelling mistake has the same disturbing effect. And exactly the same thing happens when you hit a hiccup reading a web page, blog post or online article.
Ideally, you want to write the way you speak. That’s what authors do. That’s why, once you’re in the zone, a good book flows so well, as if you’re hearing it in your head rather than reading it off the page. And that’s why you get so lost in it.
In a perfect world you’d apply solid story writing principles and practices to every web page, article, blog post, white paper, ebook, whatever. Oh, and your internal and external business communications too – emails, newsletters, invoices, covering letters, form letters and sales materials. Your GDPR documents. Your corporate brochure. The lot.
When you use the same clear, simple, authoritative, human tone and style for all your written stuff, and do it well, you go a long way towards a good, strong brand that your audience will recognise. Familiarity and consistency breed trust, which in turn drives more sales. The same goes for staff, partners and suppliers, all of whom respond well to a stronger, more consistent message – it’s what humans do.
A quick word about grammar. Some say it doesn’t matter. It does. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, even if you’re rubbish at grammar yourself, when English is your first language you’ll notice mistakes, and it’ll either pull you up short or confuse you, both of which will ruin that all-important flow.
You might want to write your own website, blog posts and so on. That’s great. You know best what you want to say, and how. But you might also like to run your work past someone obsessive like me – someone who would rather forgo a meal than a book – to make sure it flows as smoothly as a smooth thing from a very smooth place! Bring me your editing and I will make it so… 😉