As content marketing becomes the most important marketing skill to have, creating content has suddenly taken the front seat. It is THE quality that any good marketer needs to possess to be successful at his job.
Content writing may seem like an overwhelming task to a content marketer. Adding structure to your thoughts and presenting them in a way that makes people enjoy the write-up makes for good content writing skills. As content marketing becomes one of the most important marketing verticals in the digital era, creating valuable content has suddenly acquired the front seat. Content writing is THE skill that a good marketer needs to possess to be successful at his job.
Let’s have a look at some important content writing tips during the three most important stages of content writing:
Before You Start Writing
Read a few writing samples
This step is quite significant when writing for a brand, a client, or a person. It’s easy to explore new content writing structures when writing for your own blog, as you are free to experiment. But when writing for others, you are expected to precisely encapsulate the tone of voice and the design theme of the brand/ client.
It is a good practice to read a few writing samples of your client’s pre-existing work before you sit down to create new writeups for them. This process will ensure that you are finetuning yourself with the same writing style.
Identify your target audience
Before starting to write, it is important to get a proper briefing on the assignment from your client. Each brand has a different set of a target audience, and it would decide the tone of voice of your write-up. While an article meant for a sports apparel brand could be informal and conversational, with a spunky tone of voice, an article for a banking sector client needs to be more formal and informative in nature.
Similarly, your voice and writing style will be very different for a personal blog than an opinion-based article or a business case study. This is one of the most critical aspects for content writers. Being mindful of your target audience is key to developing a more useful and accurate piece of work.
Emulate different writing styles
Reading is the first prerequisite to writing. Spend a lot of time reading books, newspapers, and reliable blogs. When you read the work of others, you subconsciously learn sentence structures and writing formats. This practice is quite similar to running to build your stamina and increase your fitness level.
While reading, make mental (or written) notes of the work that you find creditworthy. When you find an article that is too good to stop reading, dissect it into a basic structure and see what makes it so attractive. Another way to find your voice is to emulate the style of writers you like slightly. While this is not the ideal way to build a voice, it will help you find your niche in a few weeks.
Research data to make your writeup credible
Research is one of the essential steps of content writing. This process adds credibility and authenticity to your work. Research is also the only way to fully understand which ideas would bring the most value to your readers. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use the time filter on Google Search. Once you hit Search for the topic, click on Tools and then filter by time. This tool filters articles based on week, year, or month.
- Use a split-screen on your computer or phone to make notes as you read exciting points during your research. This will act as the outline of your work (discussed below).
- Keep handy a few links for images and quotes relevant to a topic.
When You Start Writing
Let’s get down to the most critical aspect of your job — Writing.
Here are some valuable strategies for creating a great first draft.
Outline your work
This is one of the most crucial steps. Journalists and writers from around the world start all their work by outlining first. Write down the headings and subheadings on a blank page.
Later, add some bullet points below each heading to indicate the information you would arrange in order. Some writers also use a separate digital-notes file or notebook to make this outline. Here is a basic outline you can follow for content writing:
The introduction should offer a glimpse into what’s yet to come.
These are the first few paragraphs that establish the facts and points of the article. Most vital information should be given to readers in this part.
Elaborate on the points explained above and convince readers about your narrative.
Present examples, stories, anecdotes, case studies, or statistics to drive the point home.
The wrap-up is supposed to tie the whole article into a neat bow. This part is where you share the takeaways, give parting tips, or present a call to action.
Keep Your Writing Simple
In the words of renowned American novelist Jack Kerouac, “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” Good writing resonates with each reader. Your vocabulary and sentence construction should be rich but not complex. There is a big misconception that a great write-up is composed of extraordinary words and idioms. Sure, the content should enrich the reader’s language, but it should not undermine their intelligence.
There are few things that you could follow to simplify your writing:
- Replace adverbs with appropriate verbs, e.g., “John spoke softly into his wife’s ears” could be written as “John mumbled in his wife’s ears.”
- Get rid of unnecessary adjectives. E.g., “unexpected surprise” > “surprise” (since it is always unexpected).
- Use simple words which are easily comprehensible by your target audience.
- Reduce wordy sentences, e.g., “in order to” > “to”.
- Just be true to yourself and write what comes to you naturally. People connect better with what comes from the heart of the writer.
Use active voice over passive voice
Once you gain better familiarity with grammar, sentence structures, and vocabulary, you can explore different writing styles. A great tip for your writing to read better is to avoid using the passive voice as far as possible and sticking to an active voice.
Examples of active voice vs. passive voice:
- Active voice: She cooked a delicious meal on Christmas eve (subject + verb + object).
- Passive voice: On Christmas eve, a delicious meal was cooked by her (object + past participle + subject).
As you can see, an active voice paves the way for a more engaging read, conveying the message clearly by introducing the subject faster, unlike the passive voice where the subject falls at the end of the sentence, making readers disinterested in it. Active voice reduces the processing time for readers by getting to the point faster, whereas the passive voice convolutes the sentence, leaving the reader confused.
Refresh the basics of writing
Over time, writing becomes like any other task; writers write as if they are in an autopilot mode. When you reach this point, it’s important to jog your memory about the basics.
If you have just become a writer, then you should read more about the basics of writing. Understand basic sentence structures and grammatical parameters. You do not need to enroll in a writing class, but pursuing a course every few months does help in keeping the writing muscles alive.
Ideally, every content writing enthusiast should own a copy of the book, The Elements Of Style, by William Strunk JR and EB White. This book proves to be an excellent guide for writers.
Hacks for faster writing
Getting down to the actual writing work is one of the most complex parts of this job. Here are some tips that will make this process simpler:
- Use the same tool (Docs, Word, Notes-Application, etc.) each time you write. This practice reduces your writing time as you get familiar with the keyboard shortcuts and formatting options.
- Work from a comfortable desk and seat and create a relaxed writing position for yourself.
- Writing is a habit; build one.
- Write the first draft in a single flow, without pausing to correct spellings and typos each time. You could always do that during the second read. This helps you pick up the pace and write the first draft faster.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique to help you remain focused.
Editing The First Draft
‘Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.’ — Patricia Fuller.
Revisit your writeup multiple times to bring a fresh perspective
The first draft of content writing should never be the one you send out to publish or to your client for approval. You must work on it a few times to eliminate any grammatical, syntax, or spelling errors. Over time, you will observe remarkable improvements in your first drafts.
In Stephen King’s book, ‘On Writing’, he mentions how important it is to distance yourself from your work before editing it. Do not jump into editing immediately after you finish writing. Give your mind the time to disconnect from the content and revisit it later with a fresh perspective.
Remove, reword, and rearrange, keep these three words in mind while editing
First, remove any words or sentences that do not add value to your article. These could be repetitions, overused words, or incorrect sentences. Try to make sentences short and to the point by reducing redundant words.
Second, reword or paraphrase sentences and paragraphs to make them sharper. You should also check for inconsistencies in tenses, tone of voice, and language type, for example, American English, British English, etc.
Lastly, rearrange your sentences or paragraphs to make the final piece more meaningful. Ensure that there is a coherent flow in the content from top to bottom. The reader should understand what you are trying to say without getting lost in between the write-up.
Some useful tips for editing
Here are a few important strategies that can help you edit your content faster:
- Read your work aloud when you edit it.
- Increase the font size and font type when you edit.
- Use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway App to fine-tune your content.
- Use a Text-To-Speech tool online to listen to your writing. It helps you spot errors quickly.
- Seek help from friends or professional editors.
- Be patient! Editing is a time-consuming process. Take your time to make your first draft ready for submission.
You may make mistakes, but never stop writing. The popular author Richard Bach once said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
Writing takes time, effort, and time (again!) to master. The more you work on it, the better you get at it. You should consider investing some time in reading books on how to write better. Some of the best books on how to become a better writer are ‘Everybody Writes by Ann Handley’ with excellent tips on business writing, marketing, and blogging. For creative writers, ‘On Writing by Stephen King’ has interesting insights on writing novels and harnessing your creative writing skills. ‘The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker’ is a must-read for understanding the science of mind when it comes to language.
- Read a few writing samples of your client’s pre-existing work to understand their tone of voice.
- Know your target audience to create relevant content for them.
- Read different content pieces to find your unique tone of voice.
- Research trustworthy resources to make your content more credible.
- Outline the article before you start writing.
- Keep the language simple and easily understandable.
- Use active voice instead of passive voice.
- Keep refreshing your writing skills.
- Always edit your first draft by revisiting it multiple times.
- Remove fluff and redundant words.
- Proofread the content to check for spelling, grammar, and typo errors.
- Write something each day, even if you have no content writing assignments to meet. This keeps you in practice and ultimately makes your writing more professional.
Read, read, and read! The more you read books, news articles, and blogs, the more you gain familiarity with sentence structures, grammar, vocabulary, different tones of voice, and the flow of content. Always think like a reader while writing your content; try to answer the possible queries they might have about the topic in your article. Lastly, use simple language that everyone can understand. Be real and have fun.
It depends largely on client requirements and your target audience. Stick to the article’s topic and read relevant articles online to understand the subject matter better. Consider the business goals of the article before writing. Pay attention to creating great headings, as most people like to scan an article through headings before reading the entire thing. Always summarize important points at the start or end of the page to give people what they came for, even if they are not interested in reading the entire thing.
Unique content can be written by researching multiple resources, collecting useful data from each source, and stitching it together into one writeup with your exclusive perspective. Do not copy the text from a source as it leads to plagiarism, which is highly detrimental to your reputation as a content writer and negatively affects the brand’s SEO rankings.
Effective content writing is unique, informative, and engaging. With tons of articles present online, it is important to distinguish your write-up from others. This can be done by bringing in a unique perspective on the topic and giving readers valuable insights on the subject matter. Your content must achieve your client’s business goals by increasing sales, generating more leads, or simply getting more subscriptions to the website or blog.
Articles, be it for a newspaper, online publication, or website, usually follow three parts: introduction – body – conclusion. While the introduction draws in readers by narrating the main points of the article that are to follow, the body brings interesting facts and pointers that are valuable for readers. The conclusion binds the entire article together by briefly summarizing the above-mentioned main points and sometimes inserting a call to action.
While content writing does not require any specific degree to succeed, knowing the effective strategies to improve your writing skills is necessary to grow in this industry. Writing is something that can be learned over a period, with practice and right reading exposure. Just start writing something every day and circulate it among your friends and family members to see if they like what you write. You could also consider taking help from professional content writers to get the right guidance in your journey.