Express Yourself!

Sgt Green doing bayonet training - not good at writing

“The nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”

Thucydides

Writing for the first time isn’t straight forward. How do you gather your ideas? What makes a good article? Why do people stay to read? Our advice would be this:

Offer resource or insight. Readers come here for two things – resources to use or insights into leadership. Your article needs to provide at least one of these. Even better if it provides both. So ask the questions: What insight am I providing? What resources am I sharing?

Draw on your special knowledge. What do you know that very few others know? Perhaps you learnt something on your last posting, a recent op tour or during your own research? Sometimes you read a book that links to something you know, saw or learnt during your career. These things make what you write unique and interest readers. Without this unique and special knowledge you are just writing opinion. And opinions are like… well, you know. Everyone’s got one.

Bring yourself into the story. If you are writing about your special knowledge, write as a person and bring yourself into the story. It makes your opinion credible. If your story is especially relevant to the insight or resource, even better – get it in up front. People want to read about other people, so make it human and about you.

Decide on your structure. Get a blank sheet of paper and write down, in big headings, the themes you want to write about. If they fit together, see if two of the themes can be merged. If not, then you’ve got your structure blocks for the article. Then think about the order. Make the article flow in an obvious way. Once you have the headings in an order, you’ve got your structure.

Don’t give a lazy reader the chance to stop reading: Hook, Engage, Act. The hook is really important. The hook may be current news (if you can write quickly!), it may be a provocative question. It could also be a controversial statement. Best of all, it could be an interesting anecdote or story from your own experience: the story that explains the insight or the resource.

Once hooked, engage. As soon as you finish the hook, explain or summarise your article in two or three lines. This is important. The readers are hooked, by why stay for the rest? Engage them by making sure they know where they are going. You have a clear structure so use headings to help the reader. They are like signposts. Without them your reader will forget  why they are reading your article.

Make the reader want to act. At the end of the article you need to recommend action. Or at least provide a usable idea for how things could be done better. This is the difference between a story and an usable insight. The reader needs to be able to ‘take it to the bank’. If they can act more effectively as a leader because of what you write then you’ve been effective.

Check for reading difficulty. If you want your article to be readable, check it online for readability. A readable article doesn’t need to be dumbed-down but it does need to be accessible.

With these tips you should be able to write a readable, engaging and (most importantly) useful article to help improve other’s leadership. Then relax and bask in the glow of having made other leaders better.

 

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Media Credit: Image © Kirk 2017