Content Marketing Doesn’t Work If Your Writing Makes You Look Like A Joker
The right content on your website can attract visitors, establish your credibility and build trust. The wrong content on your website can drive people away with a permanently bad impression of your company.
Now all you have to do is write those assets, blogs and posts – and do it in a way that makes your prospects keep reading till the very last word.
Here are five tips for writing clear prose that your readers will find informative and engaging.
#1. Use Clear, Simple Language
The majority of your readers are skimming your copy, not reading it carefully. Don’t throw sand under their wheels by using longer words when shorter ones will do. Go ahead and disconnect your thesaurus app: everyday language is perfectly fine.
Longer words don’t make you sound smarter. So say “use,” not “utilize,” and “try,” not “endeavor.” No one has ever gotten to the end of a blog post and thought, “Well, that was interesting, but I wish the author had used a lot of big words.” Nope, if they get all the way to the end, they’re thinking, “Hmm, that’s useful information that I completely understood.”
#2. Avoid Jargon And Acronyms
Speaking of understanding: Remember that most of your readers don’t understand your product or service as well as you do. That’s why they’re reading your content: they want to tap into your expertise and get a better grasp on the subject you’re explaining.
You’ve probably gotten into the habit of using a lot of jargon, abbreviations and acronyms with your coworkers. We all do it, every day. But in your blog post, you’re talking to a civilian, not the person at the next desk, so stay away from the insider lingo.
After you’ve written your first draft, go back and read it through the eyes of your spouse or neighbor. Would they know what the abbreviations stand for? Would they follow all of the technical details? If not, rewrite and simplify those sections.
#3. Break Down That Wall Of Text
Since your reader is skimming, present your copy in chunks that can be understood at a glance (or maybe two glances). Your sentences should be no longer than 25 words. If they’re longer, you’ve probably strung together a couple of separate ideas that can each go into its own sentence.
Same for paragraphs – a reader will see a long paragraph and skip over it completely as more trouble than it’s worth. So if a paragraph is more than three-and-a-half lines, break it into two shorter paragraphs.
#4. Talk About ‘You,’ Not ‘Me’
Your prospect is concerned about the pain they’re experiencing, and looking for a solution for it. They don’t actually care about you, except to the extent that you can solve their pain. So don’t talk about yourself. Even when you’re explaining what you can do for them, talk about them.
Did you notice how often the words “you” or “your” have appeared in this blog? It’s about 40 times so far – compared to one “we” and two “I’s” that didn’t actually refer to the author of this blog. Not particularly noticeable till it’s pointed out, is it? But “you” language is an effective way to keep your reader engaged.
#5. Have Someone Else Read Your Copy
You’ve followed all of these tips and have written a solid blog, and you’ve run the spell- and grammar-checks on it. Now, before you post it for all your real readers, run it by a test reader.
Ideally this will be a trained editor who can fine-tune all that pesky punctuation, but you may not have one handy. If not, pick a coworker who has a pretty good grasp of grammar; you know who that is.
Ask them to read it through for grammar and punctuation, but also for meaning. If there’s a section that doesn’t make sense to them, it probably won’t make sense to your prospects, either.
Every writer needs an editor. I have decades of experience, and my fellow editor went over this post before it went live. He undoubtedly tidied up a couple of mistakes.
It’s All About The Reader
All five of these tips have one thing in common: they’re about engaging with and smoothing the way for the reader. You can have the best information in the world, but if you don’t communicate it effectively to the reader, you’ve wasted everybody’s time, including your own.