The Constipated Tortoise

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The Constipated Tortoise

Creating legal marketing content can be hard work and slow going, making you feel like a constipated tortoise.

Law firms have reams of content generated by lawyers, a number of whom have told me they are frustrated English majors who like the idea of writing, but don’t like doing it.

As Ernst Hemmingway said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

While drafting marketing content doesn’t have to be that dramatic, these 12 tips may help the going to be easier and more regular:

  • Tell – Don’t Sell

Bash into a topic head-on instead of backing into it with preamble. Burying the lead can cause a reader to scan or, worse, stop. Once your topic is declared, tell your reader why they need to know about it.

  • Write Declaratively

Using an active rather than passive voice will distinguish your style. Put the subject at the start of the sentence instead of at the end and forgo the drama.

  • Punch the Headline

Lawyers love ‘lliteration especially for headlines. Instead, keep your title short and punchy. And avoid alliteration always.

  • Offer a Perspective

While you can’t provide a legal opinion, you should always have a point of view especially as it relates to business. This is where you can demonstrate the value of your expertise.

  • Be Clear

Clarity trumps persuasion. Clearly explaining a topic shows mastery and enables a reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

  • Ban Buzzwords and Slang

They’re rarely awesome in written form. Deep six your bandwidth for reaching out and sharing.

  • Write Tight

Blog posts can be around 300 words, oftentimes less and occasionally more. (This post is 494 words, including these ones.) Bulletins should be 50 words – the number of words that fit on a smartphone screen.

  • Edit Ruthlessly

William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” This means remove anything you’ve written and love that does not support your message.

  • Sentence Spacing

Use one space between sentences, not two. Two spaces is evidence that you learned to type in the days when one needed to hit a typewriter’s space bar twice so the keys wouldn’t stick. Use one space and you’ll appear 20 years younger – in print anyway.

  • Line Spacing

For online content, limit paragraph depth to seven lines. Providing a line of white space every seven lines or less helps a reader rest his or her eyes and encourages reading rather than scanning.

  • Nix Justified Margins

Justified margins are used for book publishing, and can look stiff, stuffy and downright weird especially for online use. Use a ragged right margin like you see here.

  • Use Your Own Voice

Writing like you speak injects a shot of character. Take it as a compliment when someone says, “I can hear your voice when reading your words.”

Writing is easy – writing well is difficult. And everyone’s a critic. Even Truman Capote dismissed Jack Kerouac’s work as, “That’s not writing, it’s typing.”

 

Heather Suttie is a legal marketing and business development consultant. She works with a range of firms — BigLaw to NewLaw, Global to Solo. Reach her at +1.416.964.9607 or www.heathersuttie.ca.

1 Comment

  1. Carolynn MacKinnon Reply

    Great food for thought, Heather…just as I am sitting down to write marketing content. Thanks! (Now how do I break the habit of ending a sentence with two spaces??? )

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