At Bold Type, we’re fortunate to know a lot of incredible writers—university professors, communications professionals, authors, and entrepreneurs. These experts have taught us so much about writing effectively, and we want to share their advice and insight with our network. We hope you’ll enjoy learning from these pros in our Q&A series.
Anne Boyle is an independent strategy and marketing consultant who helps marketing agencies, graphic designers, and creative firms expand capacity in strategy, branding, marketing research, marketing planning, campaign development, and content creation. Agencies use Anne to win and do better business with clients committed to sustainability and social good. Check out Anne’s website or connect with her on LinkedIn!
Bold Type: What does your job entail, and how is writing important to that?
Anne: Writing is essential to every aspect of my work.
As a strategic planner, I must distill the essence of an organization into compelling and easily understandable strategic platforms and actionable plans.
As a marketing strategist, my primary goal is to find where an organization’s desired perception and ask intersect with their audiences’ values and realities. Good, targeted messaging is vital to articulating that intersection.
Though I write in all aspects of my work, when organizations hire me as a writer, it’s for a mix of content strategy and producing writing “products” - whether that be in the form of shaping a brand’s positioning and voice, copywriting a marketing campaign, thought leadership writing, or research and analysis writing.
As a business owner and professional person in general, writing is important to clearly convey my ideas and making compelling arguments as I write emails, proposals, reports, rationales and a host of other communication.
How have you seen professional writing and UX change during your career so far?
Considering that the internet and email were relatively new when I began my career, I’ve witnessed a host of changes. The two biggest are:
The movement toward more casual, more stylized, and more personal writing. This shift is connected to the “new” writing formats afforded by email, social media, and now texting and messaging.
The democratization of publishing that has removed the barriers to entry for “authors” of all kinds. In many ways, the ability to self publish and contribute to mass communications that did not exist just a few decades ago resulted in some deterioration of both the craft of writing and the art of discourse. But it has also afforded incredible thinkers and writers a platform and exposure previously unavailable, which I believe has elevated the craft of writing in too many ways to list here. Personally, knowing that my writing and thinking has the potential to reach so many people keeps me at the craft, and motivates me to continue growing as a writer.
For you, what makes something “good writing”? What makes something “bad writing”?
Good writing is writing that resonates with me, helps me understand different perspectives or realities than my own, teaches me something, or moves me in some way.
Lousy writing is rushed or rambling, obvious or obtuse, and riddled with careless errors.
How do you edit your own work, especially if you’ve been staring at something for a long time or feel over-familiar with the content?
If time allows, I take a break from it and go back to it a day or two later. Then, I run it through Grammarly to check the basics of grammar, punctuation, and spelling (I'm a horrible speller). Finally, I'll ask someone else to read it and give me feedback. I have a few go-to reviewers for different purposes.
How does good (or bad) writing impact a professional’s personal brand?
Good writing has the power to connect with people and compel them to take action.
Bad writing distracts readers so they don’t understand (or care) what you have to say.
Which Social Media channel interests you the most right now, and why?
LinkedIn interests me most because it is most useful for my professional pursuits—for the moment, anyway!
What individual, publication, or brand has a writing style that you admire?
There are too many to list. A few that are top of mind:
The brief and oh-so-relevant-to-my-current-pursuits thinking from Paul Jarvis
The ballsy approach and persona of Ash Ambridge
The insightful and no-nonsense emails and blog posts from David C. Baker
The calming, reflective, and lyrical prose and poetry of David Whyte
What’s one bad habit from school writing that you wish people would give up?
Can’t think of one.
Feelings about the Oxford Comma?
I used to side with AP’s former preference to omit the Oxford comma. By the time AP caved in and integrated the use of the serial comma, I had been wrestling with the clarity afforded by it for a while. Their shift cemented my adoption. I suppose the British empire’s influence on us will never die.
What bothers you in emails?
When people don't read the email that preceded their response, and they don't answer questions, or they ask questions that have already been answered.
And when they forego capitalization. How hard is it to hit the shift key?
Finally, what’s your #1 editorial pet peeve?
Oh, there are so many! But the one that always makes me cringe is when people add an apostrophe when they're trying to make their last name plural. For example, signing a card "The Smith's" instead of as "The Smiths" irks me to no end.