The Gigster Guide To Writing

Want to write for Gigster? See the bottom of this post for more details.

Every organization has its own voice, including startups. Unless the startup is primarily media company then it can take time to figure out how they communicate with their audience. The way you write for your audience will have your outlook, beliefs, values and culture baked into its DNA.

Gary Vaynerchuck is correct when he says that “every company is a media company“. That means knowing who you’re creating content for and what it is that you need to make the world understand.

We will continue to update and improve this document over time as any good startup should.

The Gigster Voice – Crisp, Useful, Friendly

There are a few ways we like to describe who Gigster would be if they’re a person:

  • We’re that really smart, likable person you went to college with who moved to Silicon Valley.
  • We’re that friendly person you go to when you need savvy advice on new technology.

The three defining characteristics of the Gigster voice are crisp, useful and friendly. Here’s what that means:

Crisp

Sharp and efficient. This implies efficiency and the use of simple and clear language. Plain English that avoids long words or flowery language.

Useful

There must be information or insights a reader can implement immediately. The opposite would be abstract ideas that don’t have practical value. Occasionally we’ll publish editorials or opinion pieces but those are the exception — not the rule.

Friendly

Gigster is warm, not cold. Readers should feel as though they’re reading something written by a kind person who cares about them — not an impersonal machine.

Be Concise

Time is the most valuable resource we have. When a reader gives us their time that is a privilege and investment we take seriously. We leave the Purple Prose to Austen and Dickens. We write like Capote’s In Cold Blood, not Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Hemingway’s gift for economy is what we aspire to.

Never write in 8 words what you can write in 7 or fewer.

Explain It To Me Like I’m Five (And Make Me Feel Smart)

Using jargon and complexity is lazy. The value we provide our audience is taking a complex issue and making it accessible. This doesn’t mean dumbing down or patronizing the reader. A magical thing happens when you do this — the reader feels smart. Great writing elevates the reader.

Novice writers try to sound smart to impress the reader. This drive for status alienates readers and its a serious turn off. It betrays an insecurity in the writer. True experts don’t view knowledge sharing as a status game. True experts love sharing knowledge and elevating the reader.

A great writer takes the reader with them on their journey through the piece. They connect the dots, close loops and take the reader to the final destination without belaboring the point or stating the obvious.

They take responsibility for the success of communicating the concepts in the piece. When the reader doesn’t understand it is, usually, the writers fault and that’s the default assumption that great writers have.

That’s why a great writer will constantly ask themself: “How can I make this simpler and easier to understand?”. It’s similar to a computer programmer re-factoring their code to make it clean and efficient.

The Flesch-Kincaid score is a good proxy for how easy your piece is to follow, use it.

Do Your Homework

Great writers rely on facts instead of opinions. They express their opinions as well but their opinions are informed by facts. Change the facts or bring new data to bear and they’ll adjust their opinions accordingly.

The published piece is usually the outcome of an investigation. There’s an initial hypothesis that the writer investigates. As new ideas, facts and information comes to light the thesis will evolve.

When a writer has done their homework the clues will be in their writing. These manifest in citations of key data and references to experts in the field. The writer may be contrarian but their views are still informed by deep thought on the subject and they won’t be ignorant of the key research in the field.

Short Sentences

Wherever possible break long sentences up into shorter ones. This makes the piece easier to follow and digest. Smaller bites are easier to chew. When you find yourself using a lot of conjunctions then this is a sign that your sentences are longer than they could be.

Let Me Skim

People rarely read content online — they skim. Make content that’s easy to skim. That means short paragraphs and intuitive formatting.

Use headers, bullet points, bold, italics and underlines in ways that make the reader’s life easier. Be consistent so that the user becomes familiar with our conventions. Be careful not to over-use these elements or the piece will look ugly and cheap.

Avoid Adjectives & Adverbs

Use adjectives sparingly. Using adjectives too often makes them less powerful when you do use them. Many writers use adjectives to distract the reader from the underlying weakness of their argument or thesis. That doesn’t work. If your thesis is strong then you want to present it as simply and clearly as possible.

Eliminate Weasel Words, Modal Verbs and Hedging

Take a look at these sentences:

  1. “This is one of the best ways to improve your bottom.”
  2. “Many people say this improves your bottom line.”
  3. “This could improve your bottom line.”

These are all examples of weak and lazy writing. Here’s how these sentences should be written instead:

  1. “This is easy to do and it will improve your bottom line.” Before it was vague and unspecified. It’s clear, specific and direct.
  2. Tom Smith, James Brown and Mark Zuckerberg use this approach to improve their bottom line.” [with links pointing to evidence that this is true]. Before it was vague and lazy. The writer hadn’t done their homework. Now it’s clear and specific.The argument from authority is no longer explicit but implicit and much more powerful. If you don’t have these quotes or evidence then you haven’t done your homework and you have assumptions you need to examine more closely.You’re disrespecting the reader’s time when you shirk this responsibility.
  3. “This will improve your bottom line.” Make a statement and stand by it. If there’s nuance then explain it: “If you’re a b2b startup then this will improve your bottom line. This is also true for b2b startups with a strong brand. For b2b startups without a strong brand the benefits might still be there but are much less certain.”

Model verbs are often a sign that a writer is using weak language and hedging. Be careful when using these verbs. See if you can replace them with statements. Weasel words try to give the appearance of specificity to a vague statement. Again, this is a sign of lazy and weak writing.

Key Questions

Whenever we write a piece we continuously ask ourselves key questions. This keeps the piece on track and makes sure we’re serving the reader.

  • Why should the reader care?
  • Why is this important? (both the piece and each passage)
  • What can I remove to make the writing tighter?
  • Is there a more concise way to express this idea?
  • Are there any opinions I can replace with evidence or by citing an authority?
  • Could my smart friend from another industry read and follow this piece?

Other Guides

These are the guides we refer to time and again when we’re writing.

Example Posts

Here are the pieces on our blog that best exemplify the style of writing we aim to achieve:

Gigster is always looking for top writers. Our general rates are USD$400 for a 1,000+ word post (like this one). We pay well because we expect the best.

If you’re interested please email your LinkedIn, any links to online writing profiles and links to the published pieces you’re most proud of to: christian.thurston@gigster.com.

Startup, IT & journalism backgrounds preferred. We always pay weekly and on-time. If you have large social followings then let us know. Make the subject line count and please include your availability.