What I know about writing

With ten years and counting of communications and storytelling, here are three things I’m sure of about effective writing.

1. Have an opinion

If your views are contentious, there should be well-made arguments or at least, very good explanations to back up your standpoints. It’s okay to disagree or have an absurd stance — this is what makes writing humourous, eye-opening, and almost always personable — just don’t hold back on the justifications!

So write confidently. Your audience will be able to pick up any hesitations if you are in any way unsure of yourself. They’ll think you’re grasping at straws, or worse, simply stirring shit up for clickbaiting.

Think of all the writers and the material you enjoy reading; they all have personal views. Some with more strong opinions than others, but there’s always a perspective to explore.

2. Don’t dismiss your reader’s intelligence

A couple of years ago, I wrote a feature profile on journalist Megha Rajagopalan, who was one of the first to expose the Uighur crisis in Xinjiang for Buzzfeed News. I referenced her articles, adding hyperlinks, and thought that was that. However, upon being published, I realised whole excerpts of her news article was added into my story. Ms Rajagopalan’s Xinjiang series made tidal waves in the newsworld, long before I interviewed and wrote her story. It was not new news, and repeating her words seemed redundant — especially when the story is about her own experiences and perspective. So I pushed back, and thankfully, it was shortened for better reading.

In a world of short attention spans, it is always good practice to be concise. If you’re writing stories of a particular interest, assume that your audience already knows to some degree what you’re on about. They are looking for something actually new and interesting. They will access your hyperlink references if they need to. And if they don’t, that mysterious back story will keep them thirsting for more.

3. On writing authentically

It may mean you write how’d you speak, for one. Now’s not the time to write like you would in news copy. Add inflections; change up your prose; add your own rhythm; and don’t be afraid to use informal, colourful language if this is really what you would say.

Writing this way always draws the reader, specifically to you, the writer. Give them a sense of your personality, and if they like it, you’ll find yourself a loyal following. People have a strong inclination to discover more from people they feel an affinity with — and the best way to get readers feeling this way is to have you writing in your own voice.

And this means writing beyond your own judgement. If you write rather formally, so be it! If you’re not comfortable with expletives, then don’t add any. If you enjoy puns, then go ahead and include it in your writing.

Writing authentically also means building trust. This is of course vital in brand development as I have mentioned earlier. But in storytelling it’s about being transparent, and speaking openly and honestly about challenges. It’s about not making farfetched promises or writing with hyperbole to stretch the expectations of your reader and/or supporters. In doing so, your story, along with your values, become believable.



Journalist and communications specialist. Spilling stories and insights on writing with authenticity.

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Quyen Tran

Journalist and communications specialist. Spilling stories and insights on writing with authenticity.