Word Up

Alexandra Franzen's on a mission to simplify communication. With more than 250,000 readers, we're listening...

Photography: Danielle Cohen / Courtesy of: Alexandra Franzen


Writing, to those who do it well, is often fluid. Effortless. But to the rest of the population, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard can be about as painful as a double root canal, especially when you’re trying to explain what it is you do, or sell your products or services.

Cue writer, blogger and teacher Alexandra Franzen, who might just be the poster-child for simplicity and who likes to write from her bed (“I call it my ‘besk’”). With 300 private clients and a 10-city writing course that’s been touted as one of the top 50 conferences to attend, she knows her game. We caught up with the woman who writes for everyone from Time magazine to lifehacker.com to chat straight-talking and making every word count.


On being clear…

“People are hungry for good, clear words. Words that propel their businesses forward… and as much as I love writing for other people, it feels even more exciting to teach people how to write for themselves. I believe there’s great value in understanding the basic bone structure behind what makes a piece of writing ‘work’, even if you choose to hire someone to help you refine down the line.”


On that bone structure…

“When I say bone structure, I’m talking about templates, scripts, prompts, fill-in-the-blank phrases, worksheets, and whatnot. People often think using templates for their writing is ‘cheating’ but I don’t agree. Templates are like training wheels on a kid’s bicycle. They’ll get you up and rolling, gathering speed and momentum, building confidence. Eventually, you may find that you no longer need them. But in the meantime, why make self-expression harder than it needs to be?”


On the roadblocks…

“In business, any problem you’re having is, at its essence, a communication problem.

Not selling enough stuff? You’re not communicating what makes your stuff helpful and amazing, clearly enough. Zero media buzz? Could a journalist sum up what you’re ‘all about’ in 10 seconds? Miracles happen when people learn how to express themselves with clarity and simplicity. Being understood doesn’t just feel good – it’s essential for your profitability and success.”


On work vs play…

“Play is absolutely essential to fuel your creativity. I’ve learned that playtime isn’t something I have to earn, or a ‘reward’ for a long day’s work. It’s actually a non-negotiable component of my work.”


On the creative process…

“With copywriting, I look at every writing project as a puzzle or a maths problem that needs to be solved. And the correct solution is usually the simplest one. My creative process isn’t complicated. I start putting words on the screen, and continue to ask myself, ‘How could I make this simpler, more clear and more true?’”


On fighting overwhelm…

“A long, hysterical phone call with my mum always washes away my troubles and gives me a sense of perspective. To this day, she doesn’t quite get what I do for a living; she knows it has something to do with ‘the internet,’ but that’s about it! She always reminds me to create space for what really matters: family; friends; love; connection… and chocolate.”


On keeping motivated…

“A daily dose of sweat, music, kissing, coffee, sugar (ideally, in caramel form) and time spent with excellent human beings – that’s my positivity regime!”



Three ways to be a better writer (the Alexandra Franzen way)

1) Stop over-thinking.

2) Stop over-editing.

3) Focus on ONE topic. (Convey ONE simple lesson, clearly. Don’t worry if it’s not ‘amazingly original’ or ‘totally life-changing.’ Timeless wisdom is timeless for a reason!)

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