Crafting strategic messages

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This is your message.

Everyone who writes wants to write strategically, right? To craft a message that achieves its desired outcomes and that the recipient finds easily readable.

The problem is that we talk too much about strategy and not enough about messaging. What I mean is, if the message is the needle, the writing is the haystack, which hides the needle. You have to dig, delve, dive in…

And even then, no needle.

I’d like us, as people who write stuff, to become more focused on messaging and to worry about strategy afterwards. A 1960s copywriter, Shirley Polykoff, said...

The Writer’s Catwalk: 8 tips for improving your style and tone

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Good style and tone can have a dramatic effect on your copy.

Voice, style and tone are to writers as fabric, stitches and scissors are to clothing designers. And, like them, we’re also slaves to fashion – the fashion of language.

Defining the materials

Tone: The feeling or sound of your writing e.g. polite, irreverent or friendly

Style: The way in which a piece is written – based on word choices, grammar and language

Working the catwalk

It’s important to be aware of the style and tone you’re using in your writing so that you can adjust it to fit different...

FAQ: Apostrophes to pluralise acronyms

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Q: Is this right? The apostrophe on the acronym looks funny. But I don’t know how else to punctuate it… ‘Our company helps SMME’s to develop into fully independent companies.’

A: No, it isn’t. We don’t use apostrophes to make acronyms into plurals. It’s SMMEs. BUT another problem is that the ‘s’ should be small, and your text is all in caps. So now what?

FAQ: Capital letters on job titles

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Q: Should all job titles be capitalised? What is the industry norm?

A: I love this question! As a rule, job titles are not capitalised when they come after the person’s name. Like this: ‘John Smith was appointed director of the Industrial Business Unit in 2001. Prior to this, he was general manager of a mine in Tanzania.’ The simple reason is that when it’s expressed before the name – General Manager John Smith – it’s a title and should take Title Case. But when it comes after, it’s merely a job description. So no Title Case.

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FAQ: Draftsperson or draughtsperson?

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Q: Is it draftsperson or draughtsperson? Drafting or draughting? Draftsman or draughtsman?

A: As far as I know, or can tell from the experts I consulted on this, ‘draughting’ is used in relation to people who do drawings, rather than those of us who draft documents; i.e. write words. The drawers are draughtspersons. But the Americans have switched to the simpler form – draftsperson – and that is probably spreading. Depends how much of a purist you want to be. They don’t seem to have different meanings.