15 Helpful Writing Tips From Three Girls Media
Content marketing has been proven time and again to be a useful strategy for reaching potential customers. To do it well, your content creation needs to be on point, and a big part of that is writing in a way that connects with your target audience and clearly shows them what makes your brand better than competitors.
Are your writing skills up to par? Are you doing all you can to successfully connect with your audience? Keep reading for 15 tips to make sure your marketing copy helps your business shine.
1. Know your content marketing audience.Take the time to research who you’re trying to target, so you can make sure anything you develop as part of your content marketing strategy is likely to catch their attention.
As an example, if you are talking to physicists, you can talk about scintillation and refraction, but if your audience is a Kindergarten class, stick to calling the stars “twinkling.”
2. Create and follow content creation deadlines.If you’re inconsistent with your content creation efforts, your results will show it. An effective content marketing strategy includes well-planned and thought-out messages shared on specific platforms at key times – all in order to best reach your target audience. If you decide not to follow your deadlines, it’s ultimately your brand that will suffer.
3. Plan ahead with your content development.What type of content are you creating? What is the main point? Although you might not make a formal outline, taking the time to think about what you want to convey and how you plan to communicate it will help you write more effectively. This is also a good time to take note of seasons and special days and how they can amp up your content marketing plan.
4. Make the call to action crystal clear.How do you want your target audience to respond to your content? Tell them! Ask them to contact you for more information, offer them an exclusive coupon if they sign up for your newsletter or encourage them to tag your brand on social media so you can engage with them there.
5. Keep content simple and in your voice.According to Webster’s Dictionary, the term ‘highfalutin’ means a pretentious language that is bombarded by high-flown bombastic words. Basically, it just means using too many $100 words when the basics are only needed.
Although lengthy words and sentences might make you feel smarter, they’re confusing and harder to read. Remember, the point of content creation is to share information and establish your credibility – not prove that you have a large vocabulary.
David Ogilvy (known as “The Father of Advertising”) specifically recommended against using, “Jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of pretense.”
Instead, he said, “Write the way you talk. Naturally.” By writing with your natural speaking voice, your text will be much easier to read and your brand’s personality will shine through.
6. Avoid lazy language.I always think of Professor Keating in the Dead Poet’s Society for this one:
So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.
As you read over what you’ve written, are you using the best language possible? You may not be wooing women, but you are wooing current and potential customers!
7. Take out extra words.Remove extra words from your content marketing copy, even if you’re not limited by a word or character count. Look for throwaway words like “that” and “really,” and as you read over what you’ve written, think of ways to express the same idea with fewer words. In addition to making it easier for readers to take in and respond to your message, you’ll thank yourself for developing the skill when you do come up against character count limits.
8. Watch for word repetition.As you read over your copy, do you see the same words used repeatedly? Although slipping in certain keywords or phrases throughout your content can be good for SEO, too much redundancy can really put off readers. Use synonyms instead of the same words close together (which Google’s latest algorithm actually encourages). If you have trouble thinking of them off the top of your head, remember Thesaurus.com is your friend.
9. Write in active voice.As Grammarly explains, “Active voice means that a sentence has a subject that acts upon its verb. Passive voice means that a subject is a recipient of a verb’s action.”
So, for example, compare these two phrases:
- Active: She wrote the blog post.
- Passive: The blog post was written by her.
10. Break up your content’s formatting.David Ogilvy included advice about this as well: Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
No one wants to read a wall of text. If you have a lot of information you want to share, make it easier for your readers and make it that much more likely readers will at least skim all of the content you worked so hard to create.
- Use shorter words
- Simplify the sentences
- Turn the details into a bulleted or numbered list
- Include sub-heading to break the text into sections
- Add visual elements to the post to break up the text in the readers’ minds
11. Check your sources.As Abraham Lincoln said, “The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy.”
Obviously that quote is incorrect, but a major side effect of having a vast quantity of information at our fingertips is that details are easily incorrectly attributed. Do your homework and cite your sources appropriately. You don’t want to accidentally share fake news in your content!
12. Include compelling visual elements.I touched on this above as well. Consumers respond well to images and videos, so make them a key part of your content creation efforts. Even if you’re writing text, think about ways you can incorporate a striking visual to complement your point.
13. Read it with fresh eyes – and out loud.Coming back after taking a break for at least 30 minutes (or ideally overnight) – as well as saying and hearing what you’ve written out loud – can help you notice redundant language and think about a better way to craft a phrase. As David Ogilvy advised: Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
14. Proofread your content. Then proofread it again.Remember that everything you create for your content marketing strategy – from your website to your social media marketing efforts – is a reflection of your business! Double and triple check for embarrassing typos or misspelled words. Watch for mistakes Spellcheck or Grammarly may miss, too! Here are some common ones that are easy to use incorrectly:
- Semicolons. A lot of people are afraid of semicolons because they don’t know how to use them. This article on The Oatmeal does a great job of explaining how they work. The main idea is:
- They connect two related sentences
- They can be used in a list that uses a lot of internal punctuation (like a list of cities and states, for example)
- I.e. vs e.g. This is an extremely common mistake.
- When using these abbreviations to make a point (i.e. to clarify something), most people assume “i.e.” stands for “in example.” The truth is it’s Latin for “id es,” which means, “that is.”
- As Grammar Girl explains, “Here’s how I remember the difference. Forget about i.e. standing for “that is” or whatever it really means in Latin. From now on, i.e., which starts with i, means “in other words,” and e.g., which starts with e, means “for example.” I = in other words. E= example. A few listeners have also written in to say that they remember the difference between i.e. and e.g. by imagining that i.e. means “in essence,” and e.g. sounds like “egg sample,” and those are good memory tricks too.”
- Apostrophes. There are two reasons to use an apostrophe:
- As a conjunction (such as don’t or can’t)
- To show something belongs to someone (such as, “that’s my mother’s ice cream”)
- NOTE: There is an exception to this rule: “it’s” is only used as a shortened version of “it is.” If you want to note that it belongs to someone, no apostrophe is needed (for example, “the dog lost its collar” is the correct way to write it).
- Word usage. You’ll find a lot of self-proclaimed grammar nerds complaining about people using the wrong version of “to” or “your.” As a refresher:
- You’re = You are
- Your = It belongs to you
- They’re = They are
- Their = It belongs to them
- There = A place
- We’re = We are
- Were = Past tense of are
- Where = A place
- Then = A point in time
- Than = A method of comparison
- Two = The number 2
- To = Indicates motion
- Too = Also or excessively
- A lot = two words. This was drilled into my head by my 8th grade English teacher; it was one of his biggest pet peeves that he passed on to me. He had the whole class repeat over and over, “a lot, two words.” If you’re ever in doubt, remember, “A lot = two words.”
15. Ask for content marketing help.If you’re not sure how to create and/or follow a content marketing strategy, reach out for assistance! In the end, getting a little bit of help from a company like Three Girls Media can go a long way when it comes to getting the word out about your business.
This carries over to your actual content creation efforts, too. It’s always good to have a coworker or trusted friend offer their feedback if possible. They can help you clarify your point and check for mistakes you overlooked. As David Ogilvy said, “If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.”
Our content marketing team is ready to help!