Writing is a skill that comes naturally for some, and is a struggle for others. Whether or not you’re confident in your abilities, or if you have a job that doesn’t require it, it can still sometimes be necessary to write something that will be read by someone else.
Words carry weight and tell a story. The written word is a powerful tool for communicating a message to an audience.
As you think about writing in the context of ministry, consider how your writing is received by the intended readers. Are you saying things that get in the way of them hearing? Are you using jargon lost on your readers? Do you feel your writing is stale?
Whether you’re writing for a church newsletter or blog, a social media post, a poster or flyer, an email, or anything else in creation, here are some tips (in no particular order, because they’re all equally important) you may find helpful as you work to communicate clearly with your audience.
Check your spelling and grammar
Have someone proofread the document. Many tears have been shed in embarrassment in my own life because I didn’t check my writing close enough and didn’t ask someone I trust to help proofread. It’s a quick task that saves a lot of pain.
Shorter writing is better writing
Often times, we feel we need to provide a wealth of information and context where it’s not need. Or, we create sentences that have to be read and re-read to be understood. Keep it simple and to the point. Short paragraphs and sentences win.
Avoid passive voice
The passive voice is almost always avoidable. The active voice is much stronger and more compelling. Consider the difference between these two sentences:
A brunch was held to welcome new church members.
- New church members were welcomed at a brunch.
Don’t know which one is which? The first is passive, the second is active. Here’s a helpful infographic that explains the difference.
Don’t get jargony
In the church, we use a lot of words and phrases not uttered by the average person. Consider how you might explain concepts and ideas better to people who may be unfamiliar with words we use regularly.
Make it personal
Compare the difference between these two sentences:
Volunteers are needed to help with VBS in August.
In August, we need your help to make VBS a great experience for our children.
It’s easy to read things and think that they don’t apply to us personally. Consider making things applicable to the people reading them.
Find a replacement for said
Tired of writing stories that use the word “said” after every quote? You’ve got 200+ options right here.
Don’t bury the main point
There’s nothing worse than trying to figure out the topic or main point of an article. Make your statement early and clearly.
Sentences that use words like “generally” and “many” sound flimsy and can make you sound like you’re holding something back. Be bold and precise!
Consistency is key
I believe in one space after periods. Some people believe in two.
I use the Oxford (serial) comma. Other people do not.
Some, when referring to God, capitalize the word "Him" when referring to Him. Others do not.
Regardless of what you choose in these (and other) situations, do it consistently. It’s a little touch that shows great care.
Adjectives are like taxes
Taxes are a good thing. They help pay for police, fire, schools, roads, etc. But too many of them cause a great deal of angst. It's the same for adjectives.
Adjectives help describe and bring life to nouns. However, overuse of them can clutter writing (see point #2). You don’t have to call a fire hot, or a winter cold (at least in the upper Midwest). Use adjectives when they have the most impact on the reader.
Any other essential writing tips you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments!
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