This is my first New Year’s resolution: I will use the inverted pyramid structure in everything I write for the museum. I already knew this but it was last week’s writing workshop with TextWorkshop which convinced me to put it into practice..
Last Tuesday museum staff gathered in the exhibition room with Rebecca Mileham of TextWorkshop. We were eager to learn how to make our exhibition panels, website information, press releases, tweets and Facebook posts as effective as possible.
Rebecca used images, flip charts, video clips, discussions, writing sessions, Top Tips and quirky postcards in her lively presentation. She had a wealth of ideas to share. As requested we had each chosen an object from the museum collection and brought along a photo of it. All writing activities during the sessions focused on these.
For me these are the most memorable ideas:
Writing for visitors looking around the museum:
- Agree first on the focus of your museum’s story. Make sure all the team have it in mind when writing. For us it would be that we are about the social history ofManchester’s Jewish community.
- Define your audience and then immerse yourself in their language.
- Use language that isn’t too academic. So use simple language but not simple ideas.
- Writing for displays should start with a hook like an amazing fact, question, unexpected phrase etc.
- If you are writing a panel to explain an object, look amongst all the material you have for one intriguing idea about it and use it at the start of the writing.
- Make writing enticing or challenging so that a visitor’s response would be “I didn’t realize that……..” or even “I don’t agree that …..”
- Keep the tone light by having fun with the words, using rhyme and rhythm etc
- Writing around the museums should be short so keep editing down. Extra information can be given through “layering” for example the most important stuff can be on the walls but more details can be available in drawers that visitors are invited to open.
Writing for websites, twitter and Facebook
- Keep it short because readers scan screens rather than read every word.
- Put the most important points first.
- Mix up long and short sentences
- Use sensory language which brings our story to life.
- Use images
- DON’T LEAVE THE BEST TO LAST.
We are following this up with our own staff workshop. We’ll bring along our own writing for a “constructive criticism” session. Oh help!