Writing is a talent.
It’s an acquired skill. And if writing is a struggle, it can really slow you down. Just think of all the things that demand to be fed with more content on a regular basis:
What if writing content for your website, the parish bulletin, social media, and newsletters was easier? And your messages were more succinct and effective?
If you find yourself writing frequently (and banging your head against your desk even more frequently), good news!
Here are two simple tools that can help improve your writing today.
Be bold and clear with the Hemingway Editor
Can’t find somebody to proofread your work quickly? The Hemingway Editor provides an instant proofread. Whether you’re using the free online version or the paid app, this tool instantly points out the following:
- Sentences that are difficult to read
- Complicated phrases or words
- Sentences that are very hard to read
- Unnecessary adverbs that muddle sentences
- The use of passive voice
Recently, I was struggling with a new post for the eCatholic blog. I had written a paragraph I simply couldn’t untangle. Then the Hemingway Editor came to the rescue.
Here’s how Hemingway graded my original version. (Hint: Yellow = bad. Red = really bad.)
As you can see, Hemingway wasn’t pleased. The poor marks forced me to simplify and reorganize my thoughts.
Plug content from your web pages, bulletin, or social media posts into the Hemingway Editor. Is your writing as “bold and clear” as it should be?
Optimize your headlines with the Headline Analyzer
A few swipes through a Facebook news feed reveals a powerful truth: It’s all about the headlines.
Whether you’re writing blog posts or bulletin blurbs, strong headlines can make a big difference. This is where CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer comes in.
Here’s what this tool can do for you:
- Provides an overall headline score (on a scale of 1-100)
- Assesses the headline’s word balance (i.e., common, uncommon, emotional, and powerful words)
- Grades the headline based on character and word count
- Provides a preview of your headline in a Google search and email inbox
- Shows the searchable keywords readers could use to find your content
In fact, the Headline Analyzer powered the evolution of this blog post’s headline. I tried different combinations of words, compared the scores, and settled on a headline that made me happy.
- Version 1: Use these slick tools to improve your web copy
- Version 2: How to write better content for the web
- Version 4: Grade your writing with these helpful tools
- Version 8: Write better web content with these helpful tools
How you can take action today
Many pastors write a weekly “column” for the bulletin. (Some parishes wisely repurpose the column for the web. This is great!)
However, pastors oftentimes place their weekly column in the bulletin 1) without a headline at all or 2) with a headline that is the same each week.
Common headlines include “From Fr. Dan,” “Pastoral Reflections,” or “From the Pastor’s Desk.”
Quick test: “Pastoral Reflections” vs. “This is what Jesus saw in Zacchaeus. He sees it in us too.” Which would grab your attention in a Facebook news feed?
This week, focus on these two areas to improve the messages your parish is currently sharing:
The parish bulletin
- Suggest a captivating headline for your pastor’s weekly bulletin column.
- Test the clarity of your bulletin content with the Hemingway Editor.
BONUS: Brainstorm ways your bulletin content could be repurposed for the web.
- Evaluate all your homepage headlines with help from the Headline Analyzer.
- Improve the content on a page of your website using suggestions from the Hemingway Editor. (Again, your homepage would be a good place to start.)
Lots of people can write stuff. But few can write clearly and effectively.
Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.-Flannery O’Connor, American writer and essayist