Gone are the days of relying on MLA and APA style guides and scolding yourself every time you use a contraction. In the content marketing environment, the more original you can make your brand voice, the better you stand out from the crowd.
To make the most of that, I’ve concocted a cocktail of writing do’s and don’ts. Whether you’re a writing whiz or writing makes you cringe, here are some easy-peasy ways to spice up your content that will entice your audience.
Use the power of good
All of these hedge words minimize your content’s effect – you want to sound more like a shark and less like a minnow.
Calls to action are another opportunity for powerful writing. Ensure your CTA is compelling enough to motivate readers to click it. Use that mindset when editing and turn simple statements into strong calls to action. For example, instead of writing, “You have to see this video now,” get rid of the fluff at the front and go with “See this video now.” Simple. Strong. More trustworthy. More effective.
Oh, and P.S., negative calls to action kill over positive ones. Take our example above even further. Exchange “See this video now” for “Don’t miss this video.” The negativity prompts the reader to get a feeling they will be missing out. That emotion prompts them to click.
Most importantly, write like you talk. Read your writing out loud. Does it feel awkward coming out of your mouth? If yes, then it will read awkward. Revise those words so you can speak them confidently and your readers can consume their power.
TIP: Onomatopoeia is so dang money. Weave it in like seasoning, adding juuuuuust the right amount. Booya.
See what I did there?
At my company, our biggest social writing no-no is the phrase “check out.” It is the vapidest, lazy call action on the planet. It delivers zero value. It does nothing to convey what happens if you actually “check something out.” When you don’t give people an idea of value, the mystery feels spammy. Instead, give them a taste of what they can expect if they click.
Verbs are your friends, people. Serve up calls to action like “Increase your engagement 12,000% (not a typo) with AI and make your eyeballs go BOING.”
See? Waaaay better.
Please don’t be boring. Long sentences with no breaks? Yawn. No visual signals? Zzzzzzzzzzzz.
Write like you talk with unique tones and emphasis. Use italics, bolded words, ellipses, parenthesis, real numbers not written out. That visual panache avoids a total snooze fest. (That should be a bumper sticker.)
But beware of overdoing it. Because, for example, if you include exclamation! points! after! every! word! they! lose! all! meaning! AND TOO MANY WORDS IN ALL CAPS JUST LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE SCREAMING AT SOMEONE.
Fix the worst mistakes
Stick a fork in your arm now if you don’t use spell-check. Look, I get it. The word “restaurant” never looks right; “necessarily” isn’t necessarily easy to type, and don’t get me started on the correct form of your. But spell-check alone isn’t enough. At least two sets of peepers must be on the draft, checking grammar, making sure links click to the right place, evaluating its readability, etc.
Then there’s the worst transgression in your content – being unkind to others. Let’s face it, most people sound like jerks in writing. It takes effort. Smiley-face that jam up. Read it out loud before you click send. As you do, ask yourself: What is your intention?
Hint: One intention in content marketing is to get someone to do something you want them to do – that’s the whole point.
Have compassion. Remember that the reader on the other end of your content doesn’t have time to decipher the intended meaning. Take the time to ensure that what you want to communicate is understood. And be nice.
Will your content totally tank if you don’t use these writing-related tips? No. But that 12,000% increased engagement I mentioned earlier? That was propelled by following this advice. Just sayin’!
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute