Suggestions for resources on writing skills.

Garden Kitty

Tranquillo
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A friend of mine was just tasked with having to write a number of articles for a newsletter at a senior living facility. None of this has to be great literature, just little human interest articles, but she is a little anxious about the ongoing assignment. She asked me if I knew of any forums, books or websites that would be a good resource for writing tips. She's a good communicator and can relay ideas clearly, so I think she'll be fine, but she's worried about translating her ideas to writing.

Does anyone have any useful suggestions that I can provide to her?
 

Jenny

From the Bloc
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20,806
Just a suggestion, but I've found that books etc don't help much when the issue is not skill but mindset. It might be better if she finds someone who can review her first articles and offer feedback until she gets into the swing of things and builds her confidence. Someone who writes similar newsletters, or a journalist, perhaps a PR person who is used to writing press releases for media, it's all similar.

The other suggestion is to just write. Many people stare at a blank page or screen and don't know where to start, but once they do, once they get past that initial anxiety, it's fine. So just do it, because the more she does it, the easier it will get.

Plus, this is a newsletter. Sure it should be interesting and all that, but there's no need to worry about style and making it into prose - it's informational, so just put the facts into sentences and go. Again, as she gets used to it, she'll improve and her own style might even emerge.
 

Prancer

Your Overlord
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ITA with everything Jenny said and would just add that instead of writing tips, she should look at newsletters written for senior living facilities (or for senior groups). She can use those existing materials as templates of a sort until she becomes comfortable with her own style.

I would also suggest that, if she can't find a professional, she instead find a representative of her audience. She should recruit a couple of people from the senior living facility to read for her and make suggestions before she publishes.
 

Prancer

Your Overlord
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Standard and still pertinent tips:
I don't find tips like that helpful :shuffle:.

For example: Write a great introduction and they're likely to read on; write a boring one and they'll turn the page.

What is great? What is interesting? What is boring? According to whom?
 

Jenny

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Another thing, since the audience is likely small (residents, their families, employees) then along with providing information that a) the audience wants and b) management wants people to have, the way to make it interesting is to include names as much as possible.

People like to see their own names and read about people they know, and it's not a bad overall message for the facility to put emphasis on the people they serve either.
 

Spun Silver

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I don't find tips like that helpful :shuffle:.

For example: Write a great introduction and they're likely to read on; write a boring one and they'll turn the page.

What is great? What is interesting? What is boring? According to whom?
If she's going to write well, she's going to have to learn to be her own critic. Since writers generally lack the time or money to convene focus groups, she'll need to step back and consider whether she herself would find her lede interesting. Or she can ask a family member or friend to be her test reader. It's not rocket science.
 

Prancer

Your Overlord
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If she's going to write well, she's going to have to learn to be her own critic. Since writers generally lack the time or money to convene focus groups, she'll need to step back and consider whether she herself would find her lede interesting. Or she can ask a family member or friend to be her test reader. It's not rocket science.
But finding an interested reader, which I suggested above, is not the advice there. And just because I find something interesting doesn't mean that you will, so what good is it for me to read my lede (which I am going to be inclined to like) and find it interesting?

I could give more examples, but the bottom line is that unless you have the writing skills to apply advice like "write concisely," writing tips are more frustrating than helpful.
 

AxelAnnie

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I wrote a newsletter for both my kids school, and for the barn. Unless your friend lives at the facility, she better find a couple of people who do.......so she can get some news.

Columns are great because they make the layout interesting. Then there are a couple of topics that can always be covered like: Who is new to the facility? New grandchildren, new marriages in families. You could even do a little bio on one person at a time.

And, clip art make it appealing. Maybe some information on who to contact for what. At the barn I used to have a riding tip for the month. She could have something like that.......health tip? Fun tip?

What a fun ( and nice) thing to do.
 

Garden Kitty

Tranquillo
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Thanks everyone. I will share these tips with her. Ultimately this is just a small, non-professional newsletter but it's new to her and she wants to do a good job.
 

Japanfan

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21,462
Just a suggestion, but I've found that books etc don't help much when the issue is not skill but mindset.
Writing is a skill that is improved in the practice.

My work as an editor has included providing writing tutorials. That has involved demonstrating some rules, tips and tricks. And the person could spend just two years learning to adeptly employ those rules, tips and tricks.

And when I've provided tutorials, I've told clients that they need to write and send me their writing for editing and feedback. Virtually every time, they've not been willing to do the amount of writing they need to improve.

Two tips I do have: 1) Use the dictionary liberally, and 2) try writing sentences in different ways to see which is best and/or flows best with the previous and following text (something most people won't bother to do).

It might be better if she finds someone who can review her first articles and offer feedback until she gets into the swing of things and builds her confidence. Someone who writes similar newsletters, or a journalist, perhaps a PR person who is used to writing press releases for media, it's all similar.
Agreed.

The other suggestion is to just write. Many people stare at a blank page or screen and don't know where to start, but once they do, once they get past that initial anxiety, it's fine. So just do it, because the more she does it, the easier it will get.
In journalism school we were told to just keep staring at the blank page until it started to bleed.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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25,955
@Garden Kitty something else that might help her is to look at previous issues of the newsletter, and to see what the articles look like in terms of e.g. tone (lighthearted or more serious), length, topic. That may give her some help in producing articles in the same style. If she's being asked to contribute because the current newsletter is not going over well with its readers, then the previous articles will also give her some direction in what to avoid :)
 

Oreo

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I write, edit, and do the page layout for a international travel organization newsletter that goes out to a couple of thousand of people four times a year. It was something I was unexpectedly "tasked" to do. I have general interest articles, a profile of a member (400-500 words) that they write, a photo contest, and a "for fun" page that can be some kind of quiz (photos, anagrams) that helps to engage people (the first to email in with the correct answers gets his/her name enshrined in the next issue). When you figure out what does or doesn't work for your readers, you will get better at it over time. As much as people love seeing his/her name in print, other people do not and will get bored pretty fast, so keep pictures and names in proportion to the size of the newsletter. You can also ask people to contribute articles, but be warned, some people have good intentions but don't follow through. A lot of people are terrified of writing. You have to plan way in advance and have backup. The most important thing is your own mindset because if you're under deadline or you're not in the mood you'll resent having to do the newsletter. There are times you have to fool yourself that you're really enjoying the creative process, but in the end when people start complimenting and thanking you, it's all worthwhile. Have fun with it!
 

Jenny

From the Bloc
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20,806
As much as people love seeing his/her name in print, other people do not and will get bored pretty fast, so keep pictures and names in proportion to the size of the newsletter.
Agree with this, despite the fact that I'm the one who said include lots of names :) You raise a good point as I recall how one of my old bosses, every year at the company Christmas party, would single out the same 2-3 people in his remarks, and how tiresome that was for the other 75 or so of us, not to mention our confused spouses who had no idea what he was on about.

So when it comes to staff at the seniors place, definitely make sure you spread it out - even going so far as keeping a checklist of who you mentioned when. But the seniors themselves, I'd have at it because I think they'd enjoy it.
 

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