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POWER Up Your Writing

Plan, Organize, Write, Edit and Review


WELCOME

Follow this guide’s five easy steps – plan, organize, write, edit and review (POWER) – and you’re on the road to creating your best manuscript yet! In this guide, you will find valuable tips and best practices from experienced writers and editors that you can implement in your daily work. Each section offers guidance on the writing process in general. Be sure to check for special tips in an array of “pop-up” boxes or sidebars. While the POWER formula applies to just about any type of writing you do for Mercer, this guide also contains a handy section on writing for various mediums (everything from emails to flipbooks, such as this one). And if you want more instruction on best practices in writing, see the list of additional resources that are useful for both new and experienced writers. Special thanks to the following taskforce members who made this guide possible: Stefani Baldwin

Justin Harper

Garrison Cox

Sarah Leibert

Teresa Elwert

Rivkah Pontos

Lillian Flores

Marianne Richards

Polly Greene

Inna Ward

Joanne Hahn

Jennifer Whitney

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CONTENTS

Plan............................................................................................. 2 Organize..................................................................................... 4 Write........................................................................................... 6 Edit.............................................................................................. 8 Review........................................................................................ 10 Tip sheets.................................................................................... 12 Resources.................................................................................... 14

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The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say. ~Mark Twain

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With any marketing initiative, the first and perhaps most important step is planning. What do you hope to achieve with your project?

PLAN

During the planning stage, you should evaluate the need for the project and consider how you plan to disseminate your message. (The last thing you want to do is give your audience materials in a boring manner, especially since technology allows for so many exciting options that may better fit your messaging.)

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I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

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Ask yourself the following questions during the Plan stage (click for more information):

What is the business need? Who is my target audience? How does Mercer differentiate itself from the competition? Which format will best convey the message?

What message will you communicate? What action do you want your audience to take? Will your product support a current “go-tomarket� initiative, meet a recognized business development need in your region or globally, and have a reasonable chance of being seen by clients and prospects?

Which business/ function and client resources will need to support this project? What is the timeline for this project?

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Once you’ve completed the Plan stage, you’re ready to organize your information, as follows: ■■

Outline. Organize your thoughts by jotting down the main points that should appear in your introduction, main text (or body) and conclusion. Using bullet points, list the main points you want to express, then add supporting ideas to each one.

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Writer’s tip

Length. Decide approximately how many words the article/text should be and apportion them among the three main elements. As a general rule, the introduction might contain 20%, the body text 70% and the closing 10%.

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Flow. Organize the main points in a logical sequence and determine where they will go

ORGANIZE Ask yourself the questions on the following page during the Organize stage

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Alternative outline approaches While many writers follow a formal style of outlining, here are two alternative approaches for minds that think in a more nonlinear fashion.

Does my text meet the word count requirements?

Have I covered all the main points? Does the information fit the type of media I will be using?

Did I organize the information in order of importance? Did I hook the reader in the headline and introduction?

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Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler

The approach you use for writing a marketing communication will depend on the form of media it will appear in. However, many written communications will contain certain common elements (for guidance specific to the type of media you are using to create a communication, see XY).This section provides tips for enhancing each of these elements. As you write, don’t slow yourself

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down by editing; if you do, you are likely to get stuck somewhere in the middle between the writing and editing stages. Just let the words flow and complete the entire draft before you think about editing.

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Using bullets in copy Bullets can break up long copy and draw attention to important information. Read more ...

Click on left for more information.

Headlines

The headline allows the reader to quickly understand what’s in the article. Your headline should be:

Introduction Body copy Subheadings

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Concise (between four and 12 words)

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Explicit (giving the reader a good insight of the content)

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Understandable (avoiding acronyms or jargon)

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Catchy (if explicit)

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Composed of strong keywords (which is helpful for items to be posted on the Web, as they can be useful for search engine

Conclusion Contact information Copyright Imagery Quotes Case studies Pull quotes Sidebars

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Write what you

Meet your readers’ needs intend to express

Ensure that the style and tone are consistent

Fine-tune your sentence structure Check for correct grammar, punctuation and spelling

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EDIT

Why bother editing an email? Clicking “send” in Outlook is tantamount to putting your signature on paper. Would you sign a document that was poorly thought out and carelessly written? Read more ...

To give your readers information and ideas that will drive action, you have to present a clear, engaging message. And to achieve that, you must be a diligent editor. To improve the clarity of your writing, pay attention to: ■■

Paragraph length – Paragraphs in singlecolumn text shouldn’t be more than five or six lines. If you’re presenting particularly complex information, consider making your paragraphs even shorter.

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Sentence length – Use as few words as possible to convey your meaning. Try not to exceed 15-20 words per sentence. Sentences heavy with technical detail, such as actuarial information, are easier to read if they are short.

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Sentence variety – Vary your sentence structure to maintain your readers’ interest. Too many short, choppy sentences can be as hard to read as overlong ones.

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In the Review stage, you double check that your editing step achieved its purpose. Use the checklist below to review your document – or to evaluate your colleagues’ documents.

Content 1. Is your purpose clear to the reader? 2. Do you have a specific request for action or information? 3. Is your information accurate, sufficiently detailed and complete? 4. Do you persuasively list benefits of the product/feature you’re promoting to the reader?

Sequence Design Structure Tone and style

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How readable is your writing? Try the Flesch readability score tool. Read more ...

Are grammar, punctuation and spelling correct?

Final proof Did you run the spell-check program? Has someone else peer

If this is a repeat mailing, did you highlight new information?

reviewed your work?

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TIP SHEETS

Need guidance on how to write for a specific medium or audience? Download one of our tip sheets!

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Best practices in writing for:

Emails

Flipbooks

Non-native English-speaking audiences

PowerPoint

Social media

Video production

Websites

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On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser (2006). The Business Style Handbook, by Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene (2002). The Classic Guide to Better Writing: Step-by-Step Techniques and Exercises to Write Simply, Clearly and Correctly, by Rudolf Flesch (1996). The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White The Online Copywriter’s Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Write Electronic Copy That Sells, by Robert Bly (2006). The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World, from the editorial staff of Yahoo! (2010). Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing, by Patricia O’Conner (1999). Links are to the US Amazon site, but these books are also available elsewhere. Another great resource is Mercer’s own Books24x7, a website that allows users to search for books on good writing at no cost. [DESIGNER: Link for Books24X7: http://intranetapp. mercer.com/books247/default.aspx]

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A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order. ~Jean Luc Godard

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Argentina

Mexico

Australia

Netherlands

Austria

New Zealand

Belgium

Norway

Brazil

Philippines

Canada

Poland

Chile

Portugal

China

Saudi Arabia

Colombia

Singapore

Czech Republic

South Korea

For further information, please contact your local Mercer office or visit our website at:

Denmark

Spain

www.mercer.com

Finland

Sweden

France

Switzerland

Germany

Taiwan

Hong Kong

Thailand

India

Turkey

Indonesia

United Arab Emirates

Ireland

United Kingdom

Italy

United States

Japan

Venezuela

Malaysia

04122-MI

Copyright 2011 Mercer LLC. All rights reserved.

Mercer style writer's guide flipbook  

This interactive flipbook was developed as a guide to help Mercer employees write their marketing materials.

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