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Don’t SPUG yourself up

After a week of talking to people about writing, one thing's clear: Lots of people are so afraid of writing that they get paralyzed. Or, at best, they don't write as well as they could because they psych themselves out. In either case, it often boils down to tiny but important aspects of writing: spelling, punctuation, usage and grammar.

Getting the big idea

Most of us, when we think about it for about 5 seconds, can articulate the big important things we need to communicate effectively:

  • Our audience: The person or people we expect to consume our communication and the questions they may have about our topic
  • Our purpose: What we want people to think, feel, do after they consume our content
  • Our content: The most important thing we want "consumers" to know, and the details necessary to flesh out the concept.

For more details on sussing out this part of your piece, download our Content-Purpose-Audience packet.

Sweating the small stuff

But what I've noticed trips people up when it comes to actually composing anything is fear of mechanics. No, not those talented folks who keep our vehicles running or the ones more closely associated with organized crime. I'm talking about the mechanics of writing, or what we affectionately call SPUG (spelling, punctuation, usage and grammar).

Getting out of your own way

And you know what I say to that? Take a breath. Seriously. Now,  instead of freaking yourself out about the errors you might make and what people might think about you for making them, just start writing already. Get the big stuff down on the page. Play with it. Make it pretty. (This is what we call revising). Once you've got your draft in good shape, then -- and only then -- can you begin to futz around with SPUG. And if you're not sure you've gotten these small but critical elements correct, ask an expert to go behind you and correct the remaining errors.

The big ideas are the truly valuable part of your content. The mechanics, formatting, SPUG, etc., are literally the last things you should worry about. Not because they're inconsequential, but because it makes the most sense to focus on them at the end of writing. Or even as you go. But certainly not before!

It's good to sweat the small stuff, but not if it keeps you from doing the big stuff.

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For more tips on writing, click here.

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