9 Learnable Writing Skills You’ll Need in 2018 (and Beyond)
I spent the better part of my life learning to write well.
In school, I felt pretty confident about my writing skills. I mean, my five-paragraph essays rocked. I hacked academic writing to the extent that I could write about anything, no matter if I understood the matter or not.
The word choice was so clear-cut, the style so freezingly cold, and the form so orthodoxy that teachers just couldn’t help nodding their heads as they were reading my carefully engineered essays.
When I turned from a nerdy student into a nerdy business owner, I had to face the reality: My tricks just wouldn’t work here. In the online business world, you need a completely different set of skills than when you write academic essays, fiction, or any other kind of writing you learned in school.
Business writing courses don’t help you, either. Most of them teach you how to put together a resume or a business letter, not how to write for business as a business owner.
Now, here’s the thing. Business writing is your #1 competitive advantage and the most scalable marketing skill.
But business writing doesn’t mean what it meant ten or even two years ago. Knowing the rules so you can hack the system is not enough. Being a good writer is not enough. Nowadays, business writing consists of many different skills, and not all of them are just about writing.
Here are nine skills you need today and in the near future. The good news? All of them are learnable.
Copywriting is everything you see on web pages, in ads, emails, and other marketing material. Its goal is to make the reader do something specific—click a button, buy something, give you their email address, and so on.
I mean, think about it again. You can make people do what you need using just words. But don’t get me wrong here. Good copy isn’t about manipulation or cheap tricks; it’s about understanding your reader and inspiring them to take action.
Good copywriting is creative, human, clear, bold, based on empathy, and in line with your values. It’s both science and art.
2. Writing for the web
People don’t read your words on paper but on their devices. So this means that you need to adjust your writing for people who are busy, distracted, and not really in the reading mode.
You need to know how to get their attention and how to get your message across before you lose them—which will happen sooner than you think.
You also need to consider the context/platform, the tech side, reader’s experience, and the online publishing etiquette.
3. Using multimedia
Nowadays, writing isn’t just about writing. To help your audience get your message and to humanize your brand, it’s a good idea to add other types of media, such as visuals, audio, video, slides, templates, and more.
4. Writing for social media
Whether you like it or not, social media are a huge part of our daily reality. Investing your time in learning about one of the platforms, digging its culture, and knowing how to connect with people on this particular channel is a smart move for any business owner.
5. Creative writing
Business writing isn’t about following a set of formulas. That’s just not enough anymore. Being able to connect ideas and stand out is just as important as knowing how to put together a sentence in a way that makes sense.
To bring more creativity into your writing, add storytelling (see the next point), screenwriting, or fiction writing into your curricula.
As the Internet is transitioning from a place described as “virtual reality,” full of anonymous individuals, into a real place where humans meet humans and from real relationships, traditional values become more and more important.
That’s why I love to talk about humanizing your brand through storytelling. I believe that this trend will only accelerate and that now is the best time to get ahead and make storytelling part of your branding strategy.
7. Design and visuals
You may say this isn’t a writing skill. But I’m convinced that nowadays, the way your writing looks and works (because design isn’t just about pretty surface) is almost as important as what it says.
The sub-skills may include making your website look attractive, having a consistent brand design, knowing how to make longer text look digestible, using visuals to support your copy, telling stories through visuals, caring about user experience, and more.
Information is more and more accessible, but it also means that you need to develop skills to help you retrieve, analyze, and interpret it: Critical thinking, problem solving, self-discipline, and presenting the ideas in a creative, confident, clear, and legal way (attributing, citing).
9. Using your voice
Because your blog posts, web copy, and emails shouldn’t read like a textbook chapter. People need to hear your voice and feel your humanness so they can trust you.
Here’s a post to help you write in a conversational tone – a good place to start getting writing skills ready for 2018 (and beyond).
More skills worth mastering
I know what you’re thinking. It almost seems like I want you to learn Defence against the dark arts. But from my experience, learning a little bit of code can make your life a lot easier.
As someone who works online, refusing to learn to code is almost like refusing to learn at least the basics of the native language of the country you work in. You can get by. But the effort is worth the result.
Search engine optimization is not as complicated as you may think and mastering the basics doesn’t take long. And again, the effort pays off, because changing just a few things can make your content a lot more visible.
No man is an island… Not even in the soloprenerial world. Collab skills help you when you outsource part of your work, create something together with your business friends, and work with your fans and clients.
✯ What writing skills would you like to work on next? And do you have any to add? Let me know in the comments.
✯ Curious about storytelling? The Brand Storytelling Kit will help you craft your brand story. Learn more here.
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