Learning to write with authority is one of the greatest challenges novice writers face. While most people recognize authority when they see it, they are usually at a loss when they try to explain it. In truth, writing with authority is a multi-faceted skill set; proper organization, presentation, language, voice, and research all play important roles in achieving the authoritative tone readers and editors are looking for.
While research is no more important than other aspects, it is where the process begins. Proper research and fact checking are critical to setting the proper tone. Insufficient research leads to inaccuracies, and inaccuracies will undermine your credibility. No matter how much you polish the remaining facets of your skill set, an author without credibility is an author without authority.
Research: Know Your Topic
Personal experience relating to the topic of your articles is valuable in achieving an authoritative tone. Being an actual authority gives you a sense of confidence that naturally presents itself in your writing. Many authors specialize in writing about certain topics for just this reason. Having hands-on experience in the subject you plan to write about will prove invaluable. At the very least, it will greatly reduce the time you spend researching your subject.
Whether you have personal experience or not, you will need to do some research. There are two main types of research: primary and secondary. Secondary research is the summary, collation, and synthesis of research that already exists. Primary research is any type of research that you conduct yourself.
Possible sources for secondary research include written and multimedia works, as well as online sources. When conducting secondary research, you should always use the highest quality source available. Understanding how to evaluate and assess research done by others is critical. Even if you are conducting primary research (your own study), you will need to conduct some secondary research to understand background work, as well as to assist with formulating an educated hypothesis.
Accuracy: Check Your Facts
As an author who takes pride in their work, you should never submit a completed piece without double-checking the facts. The authority you wield as an expert depends on the accuracy of the facts you have included in your work.
Fact checking is critical to protecting your reputation. Before submitting your work, take some time to review it. Make certain all facts are correct. Look to see if your article contradicts itself. Review all proper nouns for correct spelling and capitalization. Verify that historical dates are accurate. Finally, make certain you attribute any quotes or references to their correct sources.
Using multiple high-quality sources helps to build a strong foundation for your work. Never assume that any single source is accurate. Even well-respected sources of information can sometimes be incorrect. If the source you are using cites the source of their research, it is worth investigating.
You might have all your facts straight and have conducted solid research, but if your presentation is sloppy then you risk not being taken seriously. This brings us to the next aspect of writing with authority: refining.
Edit: Refine Your Work
Making sure your ideas are presented professionally gives you the best chances for receiving the credit you deserve. Check your writing for correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Your reputation depends on submitting the piece complete, on time, and error-free. Taking the time to perfect and polish your work shows that you care and that what you have to say is important.
Doing all the above takes time, but it is time well spent. Including these techniques in all your writing projects will give you a solid start to developing your ability to write with authority. Writing with authority begins with knowledge. Proper research is critical to projecting the authority you demonstrate in your work. Likewise, fact checking is critical to preserving your authority. Finally, editing and refining your work gives it a professional touch, and gives it the best chances for success.
Ready? Let’s go!