Writing is at the foundation of most marketing tactics. From website content, ad copy, emails, blog posts, sales collateral, and even internal communications, there is always something that needs to be written in your organization.
So it’s highly likely that if you’re reading the Evergage blog, writing is part of your job in some capacity — even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer.” And since it’s National Writing Day today, we’ve compiled some writing tips from the content and copywriting experts that will inspire you to always put your best words forward.
Here’s what they recommend:
Focus on the Writing, Even if “Writing” Isn’t Technically in Your Job Title
When I speak at conferences or meet with businesses, I’ll often start by asking how many people have writing in their job title. A few hands will go up. Then, I’ll ask how many people write as part of their jobs — that might include writing blog posts, publishing case studies, communicating with investors, etc. Suddenly, everyone’s hands go up.
The issue I’ve noticed, however, is that for the latter group, writing is often an afterthought. It’s something they have to do, not something they like or want to do. So, typically, they rush through it. As a result, they tend to overlook a few really critical components of writing: choosing words well, writing with brevity and style, and tying everything back to a core story. When those components are missing from writing — or any content — it just doesn’t resonate.
Don’t Tell Yourself That You Can’t Actually Tell a Story
There’s always a story. If there’s not a story, scrap the idea and move onto the next one. We like to tell ourselves in copywriting that people only care about themselves — but that’s not entirely true. People care about underdogs, and people love to watch kings fall. That is, people care about other people’s stories. And everything has a story.
Always Keep a Goal in Mind
Before you write, consider what you’re seeking. Do you want the post to drive a sale? Do you want it to engage your audience? Do you want the post to handle some mechanical goal, such as receiving more links, more bookmarks, and thus improve the rank of your site? Maybe your posts only serve to point out that you’re the thought leader. Know your goals before you post. Here’s why.
If you want a sale, write very briefly, driving towards a call to action. If you want to engage your audience, ask them questions. If you want more bookmarks, write something long and encompassing, or with many resources embedded. If you want to be a thought leader, write succinctly, with one main idea and support of the idea per post. Realize that each post serves a different function, and so make sure that you satisfy the goal of the post.
Don’t Overthink It
Write fast. This doesn’t mean to publish fast. It means to write fast. Too many people start writing and harp on each and every word, the grammar and more. You will get to that. The act of real business writing should start with a simpler action: write. Write it all down. Write it down as fast at it comes. You must always set aside some time later to tweak, edit, chop, improve and fix the nuances. If you bring to your writing a sense of urgency, you will have fewer issues getting stuck or — even worse — not being able to begin. Even if you’re heading down the wrong path, please keep writing fast and let the words flow, you may well be surprised at how quickly your fingers and brain will course-correct.
Ruthlessly Edit Everything
When it comes to editing, you want to be ruthless. Go through the document dozens of times. Naturally you start at the top and rewrite. Work your way down.
- Eliminate petty sentences, use active verbs and get to the point.
- Cut your introduction and jump right into the meat of the story.
- Eliminate sections that are irrelevant (often impossible unless you leave your copy for a day or two).
- Use simple words, short sentences and small paragraphs.
If you get stuck on a particular part, jump to another section and edit from there. Eventually you’ll connect all the sections with transition sentences so that you can read through the entire document without making substantial changes.
At that point you might move a paragraph here or a sentence there, but for the most part you are making small changes (like finding a better word than improves) that benefits the flow of the document or refines the originality of your content.
The experts agree that, no matter what you’re writing, you should never write just to fill space. It’s easy to fall back on buzzwords or internal jargon. It’s much more difficult to truly focus on making something that people want to read. With so much competition fighting to capture the attention of your audience, it’s more important than ever to avoid phoning it in.
And with personalization, you can ensure that the most relevant messages and content get in front of the each person on your site — so you have the best opportunity to make an impact. Make sure that the words they see help you make the most of this opportunity.
Finally, with all this insight from the legends like Ann Handley, let me leave you with this final thought from novelist and journalist Lev Grossman:
“Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.”