Good writers have an enquiring mindOne of the prerequisites of being a good writer is to have an enquiring mind and not take anything at face value. This is the only way they can develop a real understanding of what they are writing about.

Good writers don’t just regurgitate information picked up from some blog or cut and paste bits and pieces of information they don’t really understand and stick them together hoping that what they end up writing will make sense.

It is also difficult for writers to ask leading questions of spokespeople they are interviewing, to ensure they provide rich content, if they don’t understand the topic themselves.

When researching a trend, good writers will follow the thread of what it is all about, right back to its origins if need be, test out what various authoritative people have to say about it and connect the dots to get a complete picture. They might also gather supporting statistics that they have tested out, for example by comparing the figures published by different analysts and research firms.

They will probe deeper and deeper into their topic, asking questions like: Why did this happen? What were the influencing factors behind this? Where, when and why did this all start? Who will be affected, and how will they be affected? Which of the various opinions about this is the most credible? Is the source of the information reliable and knowledgeable? How has this trend evolved and where is it likely to be heading in the future?

If writers only have a superficial, fragmented understanding of the topics they are writing about, this will be reflected in the articles or any other content they are writing.

When this happens, it will confuse the readers and leave a lot of unanswered questions in their minds. They will get bored and go and look for another article that is more enlightening and is written by someone who knows what they are writing about.

Jennigay-whitecliffs-5Jennigay Coetzer is a freelance business and technology journalist with 25 years experience, and she writes regularly for Business Day. Email her at jennigay@icon.co.za for more information about her upcoming writing skills workshops or connect with her on LinkedIn. An ebook version of her book A Perfect Press Release – or Not?, a guide to writing press releases, can be downloaded free from her website: www.jennigay.co.zatogether with lots more writing tips.

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