At the beginning of my internship, I listed one of my goals for the summer as improving my writing skills. Now, I know what you are thinking: shouldn’t I already have strong writing skills as an intern at Porter Novelli? The truth is that you always have room to improve your writing, no matter how fantastic your skills. Don’t believe me?
After my first month here, I joined a writing workshop with all the members of PN’s technology practice. Senior VPs and interns alike turned out to refresh their prose. I walked out with plenty of tricks and tips, and pulled out four key pieces of advice to help you out:
1 & 2: Keep it concise; don’t use jargon. I clumped these two together, because excluding jargon and “life sucking” words keeps writing concise. After a few weeks here, I was attached to anything with an “ize” at the end. I wrote about customers utilizing solutions to optimize results. The writing seminar made it clear that unlearning this jargon was the only way forward. There is plenty of marketing speak you will pick up within your first week as an intern, but be careful what you repeat. Every word needs to have meaning and purpose and if there is a simpler way to say it, use that word instead.
3: Find the active voice. Basically, the action is completed by the subject of your sentence. This also helps keep sentences concise. Avoid “to be” verbs, which generally lead to passive voice. To better explain, here is an example from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.
“The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:
I shall always remember my first trip to Boston.
This is much better than
My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.
The latter sentence is less direct, less bold and less concise.”
Side note – a great verb does not need an adverb.
4: If you are stuck, take a walk. Writing is like any other skill; you need to “stay in shape” to perform your best. Try writing every day and don’t multi-task when you write. Focus. If you are focused and still can’t seem to get a word on paper, take a walk outside. Moving around will get you thinking again.
If you are looking for more positive feedback on your next assignment, try these four tips. Afterwards, let me know how it goes. Do you have any additional tips to add?
– Brianna Wagenbrenner, Porter Novelli Atlanta