For the time-poor among you (so basically, everyone), we’ve put together a slideshow, with some great tips for writing for the web. If you’re new to digital content, have a read and as always, if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask!
We’ve all been there. You’ve spent hours working on the perfect pitch or article and in a proud state of exhaustion, you publish without a second thought. Only then do you, and all your colleagues and followers, realise that you’ve made some key mistakes. Mistakes you could have easily fixed. Mistakes that just chip away at your credibility as a knowledgeable resource in your field. Mistakes I can help you avoid.
I have created a basic checklist that should help you avoid some of the common mistakes. Use it wisely.
There vs They’re vs Their
It is so easy to mix these up.
There has a number of meanings. It can be an adverb, a pronoun and adjective or a noun. It generally refers to a place, but not always. For example
My cup is over there.
Is there anybody out there?
My cup there is empty.
We’re going over there.
Their is a possessive adjective. This means it is indicating that you own something. For example
You can borrow their ball to play soccer on Thursday.
They’re is a contraction. This means it is a shorter way of writing they are. For example
They’re coming over for dinner after the game.
If you would like a more detailed explanation, read this article on E Learn English Language, which explains it all in more detail.
Loose vs Lose
This is an incredibly common mistake, which can fundamentally change the meaning of your sentence.
Lose is a verb to describe the loss of something. For example
I lose my keys if I don’t leave them in the same place.
Loose is an adjective to describe the opposite of tight. For example
When I lose weight my trousers become loose.
Desert vs Dessert
Mixing these two up could be the difference between a delicious chocolate mud cake and eating sand.
Desert has two meanings and two pronunciations. The first is a noun describing a dry, baron land. The second is a verb to describe abandoning someone or something. For example
I thought I found an oasis in the desert, but it was just a mirage.
A loving mother does not generally desert her child.
Dessert has just the one meaning. It is the noun to describe the tasty treat you have, or shouldn’t have, at the end of a meal. For example
My husband forgot to share his chocolate dessert with me because it was too delicious.
You’re vs your
Your is a possessive adjective. This means it shows that you own something. For example
Did you bring your book to class?
You’re is a contraction. This means it is a shorter way of writing you are. For example
If you’re going to go for a walk in the rain, I suggest you bring an umbrella.
Everyone’s favourite pedant Ross Geller explained it his way when breaking up with Rachel.
The dreaded apostrophe
The apostrophe is a mean and complicated beast. Knowing where to put it can have even the most engaging writers stumped. There are many ways to use and misuse the apostrophe and Scribendi have written a really comprehensive article on the proper use of apostrophes. One of the most common mistakes people make is in relation to plurals. Plurals that are not possessive do NOT require an apostrophe. For example
I play football on Thursdays.
Don’t let your computer do all the work
By all means use tools such as spell check and grammarly. Please don’t let that be your last line of defence. The great thing about these tools is that they will often pick up on major mistakes or incomplete sentences, but they will never be able to pick up your intent. You need to read over your work to make sure you haven’t altered your intent with a well-spelt typo.
Is your spell check on the right region? It’s easy to forget that even though we are speaking the same language, sometimes our spelling is specific to our country.
Read it aloud. If it doesn’t sound right when you speak the words, chances are, it’s wrong. Reading it aloud will give you a realistic feel for the rhythm and feel.
Finally – NEVER PROOF YOUR OWN WORK.
Even experienced editors and proof-readers follow this rule. When you are personally invested in the content it is so much harder to pick up the small mistakes. Always ask a colleague or friend to give your work a once over, just to make sure.
You are the expert. You have oodles of experience. You know your product. You’re passionate about your product.
The problem is you just don’t seem to be able to translate that passion into engaging content. Why?
There are many reasons you might be missing the post. Today, we are going to talk about jargon. That dreaded terminology that took you months, if not years to pick up is likely turning your content to gobbledegook. It’s time to unlearn those words, and simplify, simplify, simplify!
Here are some tips for keeping your content clear, engaging and authoritative. Write down what you know and then give it a little bit of love.
Just remember – it’s all in the KISs
Keep It Short
You want to find the most efficient way to relay your point. Why use 15 words when four will suffice?
All you are doing is alienating and likely boring your audience.
Your copy overall does not need to be long to be effective. Neither do your sentences. By shedding the excess, you will likely cut a lot of the jargon by default.
Keep It Simple
Your field is likely full of complicated definitions and terms that make communicating within the industry easier. You must remember that no one else understands your jargon. If you want to illustrate your point, strip away the technical words. Assume your audience does not have a glossary of your terms. Be as clear as you can without patronising your reader.
Your thesaurus can absolutely be your friend. Just try not to overdo it, like Friend Joey Tribbiani once did.
Keep It Straightforward
Get to the point. Unless you are writing for writing’s sake (which by the way is a perfectly admirable thing to do), there is no need to beat around the bush. Tell it how it is.
Sometimes it can be hard to remember that using your jargon is not, in fact, the most straightforward way to explain something. Sure, if you are speaking to people within your industry that may be so. Clients, partners and other stakeholders won’t understand.
It can be helpful to break down your content into bullet points or headings. This can often highlight for you what your most important points are.
Keep It Stylish
Create a brand style guide. Work with your marketing resources to identify how you want to represent your brand to the public.
Know your tone ahead of time. This can be a really simple way to avoid using jargon. If you have planned your style ahead of time, you might also have identified a handful of key phrases that relay your brand clearly. Using these instead of industry jargon will be far more effective.
Keep it Succinct
You want to make your content clean, clear and sharp. Don’t be precious with your words. There is a lot of literature about how to declutter your life or your house. The Japanese KonMarie method tells us to keep only those things that spark joy. When it comes to your writing, ask yourself, “does this sentence support my point?”
- Remove anything that doesn’t serve your purpose.
- Avoid the passive voice; it’s clunky and unclear.
- Use strong purposeful words. The more direct your words are the fewer you’ll need to use.
- Don’t be redundant.
When it comes down to it, using jargon in your copy is the easiest way to lose your audience. Non-industry readers won’t understand and they will check out. It is so much harder to win back an audience member than to just keep them interested.
So when you’ve written your first draft – KISs your jargon goodbye.
The web is awash with articles, blogs and links from the newest expert on any given topic. It can be wildly overwhelming as both a consumer of content and a content marketer to actually decipher what is useful.
This can often scare people from getting out there and creating their own original content. Don’t let it scare you and your business. Invest in unique content.
Here are just 5 great reasons why.
You are the expert in your field. You know your business and you know your product better than anyone. Creating original and unique content illustrates your authority.
When clients, partners and potential clients can see that you know your stuff, they will more likely have more confidence and trust in you and your service.
Heighten your brand authority by authoring useful information.
- Time and Proximity
Events, legislative changes, news or even simply the weather could affect your industry or service. Show the world you know exactly what is changing and how your service or product can accommodate that change.
Your response to real world changes shows your audience or client base that your business is mindful of the world around us. It is also the only way that you can show them how your service or product is useful as a result.
- Push people back to your website
If you want to drive traffic back to your website, this is a really great and genuine way to do that. Instead of trying every trick to manipulate people back, why not create engaging content that people actually genuinely need or want? The more engaging content you create, the more people will willingly subscribe to your channels.
As your audience gets to know you as a producer of great content, they will start to both recognise your brand and website as valuable.
- Increase your search rankings
This is another important benefit. There are many ways to pay your way to the top of the search rank. If you want those pesky search spiders to crawl all over your page, give them something to find. Creating smart and sensible content on a regular basis will remind the spider that you are here. By updating your content and using useful and relevant copy, your rankings will increase by default.
- Remind people who you are
Producing content that exemplifies your service or product is a really great exemplar of what you can provide. Give people a taste of the kind of work you can do for them by producing unique content about you and your industry.
Instead of just claiming you know your stuff, show people. Show people where your brand fits into the industry and why they should remember you.
Don’t forget that there is already some fantastic content out there. Read and follow groups you respect and even compete with. Get a feel for who is creating great content and by all means curate existing content, join the conversation and engage with your industry.
By creating interesting and unique content and connecting with other great content producers, you’d ensure you and your brand remain ahead of the game.