A report by Demand Metric says that 70 percent of people like getting information about a business from an article or blog post rather than traditional advertising. According to a Demand Gen Report, 65 percent of B2B consumers prefer credible content from industry influencers. The same report states that 71 percent of B2B respondents read a blog at some point on their customer journey.
Whether you are a blogger, influencer, or content marketer, the content you create depends upon good, sharp writing. But what is good writing? What goes into it? What separates good writing from mediocre or poor writing?
As with any art form, there are not many hard and fast rules to writing, and it can involve much experimentation, and sometimes you can justify breaking what rules and best practices do exist. However, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, marketing writing, blogging, or whatever else, there are several rules of thumb every writer needs to bear in mind, if not in their initial drafts, then in the rewriting/editing phase, as to make for a polished and effective final product.
1) Clarity is key: Above everything, what you are trying to get across has to be clear. Even if you are trying to be subtle, you need to make clear what you are implying and describing. There needs to be a logical flow from one idea to the next. You have to make sense.
2) Show, don’t tell, whenever possible: If you are writing a character, do not just tell your readers that they are mad. Have them be mad! Have them shout or kick over a wastepaper basket. This is an essential part of storytelling (which is really what digital marketing is). The audience needs examples and actions to show them what is happening and allow them to emphasize with and understand the situation.
3) Good writing is concise writing: This does not mean that all writing needs to be short and as cropped as possible. A concisely written book can still be hundreds of pages long. What does it mean to be concise when writing? It means that you should not use any unnecessary words. The piece of content is only as long as it needs to be, not too short nor too long. It gets to the point, being only the length it needs to do so.
4) Whenever possible, use the active and not the passive tense: The active tense means using action verbs in a sentence. In such a sentence, the subject performs an action. The passive tense relies more on being verbs and sentences where in an action is performed upon the subject. The active tense tends to make for stronger, more direct writing and is much easier to read.
5) Be specific: Don’t be vague or generic. Be as specific as possible. If someone is listening to music, what is the song? If you can’t say what the song is, what type of music is it? If someone is having a problem with their email, what specifically is the problem and how does it impact their job, life, and responsibilities?
6) Rewrite and edit: The first draft is always for yourself. You know what you mean, since you’re the one who wrote it. Every other draft is meant for your audience, so you have to make sure that someone else can understand it. This means making sure your content is precise and sharp, your information is accurate, your grammar is correct, and that everything sounds right. How many drafts should you do? How much rewriting and editing is required? That often depends upon you (and your editor, team, time, and needs).
7) Continue to write and read: Writers write. The only way you become better at anything is to keep at it. Keep writing, rewriting, and polishing your existing and future projects. And, of course, remember that you also need to read. Language is your tool, and reading makes you better able to wield it. You see how other writers have gone about telling their stories and expressing their opinions. You can only grow as a writer by both writing and reading as much as you can.
So, get something done. Put pen to paper. Just write. Don’t worry too much about how good it is for now. Once you have something to work with, you can go back and change, tweak, and revise it as much as you like. Some novelists have thrown out hundreds of pages before settling on a direction they like for their books. Some writers like to outline their projects and others prefer to discover what they are trying to say while writing it. Many choose a method that falls somewhere in between. Do whatever works for you and helps you get something done (preferably before your deadline).
Want to learn more about writing? Whom better than perhaps the greatest of all time? Find out “4 Takeaways from Edgar Allan Poe for Content Marketers.”
Michael McNichols is a Senior Content Manager for Oracle Digital Marketing. He has over ten years of experience in professional writing and has been widely published.