On Writing Well: A Simple Guide to Writing Great Content

Don't overlook the importance of writing. Whether it is a short blurb or longer narrative, heed these tips when crafting content.

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“Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” – Brenda Ueland

Digital media begins with an idea expressed in words, whether it be a short blurb or longer narrative. Even when content is delivered in a video or podcast, it must be logically organized and conform to the architectural structures of good writing.

In an effort to increase output, content marketing professionals often overlook the importance of writing well, which includes presenting of a clear topic, using a consistent voice, paying attention to sentence structure and clarity, conducting adequate research and revising.

The more human a brand appears through its messages and language, the more consumers will connect with it. Each communication should represent a unique personality and serve the company’s overall objectives. While voice may be modified depending upon the platform and context in which messages are presented — colloquial language, for example, in a tweet or Facebook post that introduces more formally-written content — it should still compliment an overall tone and perspective consistent with a brand’s image.

Always keep your audience in mind. To communicate successfully, content should be crafted in a unique and natural way that readers can relate to on a human level. Today’s consumers are most influenced by messages that convey sincerity and trustfulness, and they regard overt attempts to sell or persuade with suspicion.

While imitation may be the highest form of flattery, “it’s better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” To determine your brand’s voice, look for content that you enjoy reading and experiment with a similar style. Try to tap into the personality behind the writing. Be sure to examine how the writer structured the piece (with particular attention to the introduction and conclusion), how the ideas were connected and how the call to action was delivered.

Revising is essential to cutting out superfluous language, cliché, clarifying ideas and improving sentence structure — mixing up longer and shorter sentences, for example. Over editing, however, can sometimes work against a finished piece by stripping out the personality or naturalness of the original language. Always try reading the piece aloud.

Show, don’t tell. Telling can be useful and necessary, but most people don’t realize how vital showing is to an effective story, or even a blog post. Use dialog and sensory language when possible. Figurative language creates an image in the readers’ mind and is more engaging than simple description. A proper balance of showing and telling will make your writing more interesting. Follow the advice outlined in Strunk and White’s classic reference book, Elements of Style:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Remember that that each piece of content should make only one point and conform to the format and particular medium in which it is presented. Be careful not to provide too much detail than the space allows, or to give only spotty coverage of your chosen angle. A longer piece allows more room for exposition, whereas a short piece of content must identify and zero in on one aspect of a topic.

Basic writing tips to keep in mind include:

  • Avoid a succession of loose sentences. Do not explain too much, overwrite or overstate.
  • Write with nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs. Do not overuse qualifiers such as rather, very, little, pretty, etc.
  • Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
  • Use clear, specific and concrete language.
  • In summaries, keep to one tense.
  • Check for errors in subject-verb agreement, basic grammar and correct use of pesky plural possessives.
  • Use the active voice.
  • Revise and rewrite.
  • Experiment with headlines and test their effectiveness.