People think that writing is easy.
You just put your thoughts using words.
Writing is easy, yes, I agree. Most people can write.
But do you know what is hard? Writing a good content.
Do you know that most of the blog posts online don’t get read?
So in Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, Ann Handley will guide us to be a better content writer.
Here are the 10 things I learned from this book.
1. Forget high school rules
The problem by implementing writing rules that once taught in high school is it makes your writing boring!
There is no only one way to cook, and certainly there is no only one way to write either.
Be creative, experiment, and just remember that there are no rules when it comes to creative work.
Writing is a form of art, and that means you won’t get punished by writing in a different style (unless you’re in high school).
2. Place the most important ideas (or words) at the beginning of each sentence
Let’s see an example:
“According to bodybuilders and experts in the fitness industries, building a new habit to workout routinely is the hardest part for beginners.”
As you can see, the main idea in that sentence is that building a new habit to workout is the hardest part for beginners.
The main idea should be placed at the beginning. So:
“Building a new habit to workout routinely is the hardest part for beginners, according to bodybuilders and experts in the fitness industries.”
At first, you might encounter difficulties writing like this, due to your habit.
Even I sometimes didn’t put the important part at the beginning.
3. Use real and simple words, and avoid made-up words
Write using standard words, not some offbeats and slangs, if possible.
Jargons may sounds good in your ear, but when they’re exposed to the people who read them for the first time, they don’t do so well.
Basically, write using words that can be understood by as many people as possible, without changing the meaning.
Also, made-up words may sounds fancy, but the truth is people hardly understand them.
For example, words like solopreneur, technopreneur, socialpreneur (I hate this one) and other-preneur are made-up words.
Just write entrepreneur. That’s it.
4. Use active voice if possible
Generally, you want to use the active voice instead of passive voice.
The reason is simple:
It’s generally easier to understand active voice sentence.
For example, take a look at the following sentences:
The blog post was written by a South East Asian guy.
A South East Asian guy wrote the blog post.
The first is passive and the second is active, and people generally prefer the second form.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing sinful about using passive voice.
It’s just active voice is much more preferred by the general population.
5. Find your voice and use different tones for different purposes
You may say something that is already being said by other people, but your style is what make what you’re saying feels different.
After all, we share so many thoughts with other people.
It’s perfectly normal to have the same thoughts.
One method to find your voice is by observing the way you talk.
Yes, write just like you talk in a lecture, or maybe write like you tell a story to your friends (with some editing , of course).
Your voice is your asset as a writer (even more as a blogger).
Voice doesn’t change, but your tone should, depending on the feeling you are trying to convey.
Be funny and humorous when it needed, and be serious when it comes to “serious” matters.
6. Fact check your writing
No matter the subject, your level of professionalism decreased significantly if people find so many typos in your writing.
And not only that, the credibility of your work will be questioned if you didn’t state the data right.
That’s why it is crucial to always double-check names, company names, spelling, and numbers.
7. Cite as you write
By citing to the source of the data you shared, you’re making an impression to your audience that you’re a credible person who respect other’s work.
When you state something, whether it’s news, information, data, numbers, other people’s opinion, or anything else, it’s always the right thing to link to the original source.
Sure, it maybe an extra work for you to trace the original source.
But when you do that, you credibility will not be questioned anymore.
And one more thing, if you find the original source useful, a do-follow link is the ethical way to link to them.
8. Use short (but powerful) headlines
Too short, and it won’t be interesting.
Too long, and it will sounds like a title of science journal (not interesting either).
As a general rule of thumb, make sure every words add value to the headline.
Strip everything unnecessary and replace long words with shorter and simpler ones.
If you’re a blogger, just for you to know that Google search result only show about 70 characters (including space), so make sure your headlines show everything the potential visitors need to know in less than 70 characters.
Use data or numbers to keep your potential readers interested.
Brackets, exclamation mark, and thought-provoking phrases should be used moderately.
9. Use bulleted (or numbered) list
There are a few reasons to use list:
- It’s highly scannable
- It makes the content easy to digest
- It organize the content
- Short content wins over long content (given the same message)
- You can see the other benefits by seeing this list
10. The shorter, the better
Longer content are usually in-depth, complete, and credible.
But that doesn’t mean you should write as much as possible on a topic.
People don’t like to waste their time reading garbage on the internet.
As a general rule of thumb, get rid of anything that is not useful to the readers.
If something can be explained clearly with only 1,000 words, then don’t force yourself to write it in 3,000 words.
Remember, longer content are usually high-quality, but making a content longer doesn’t mean you improve the quality.
In the end, you will not provide any additional value.
Should You Read This Book?
If you’re a blogger, writer, or specifically, a content writer, this book will be beneficial.
Digital marketers and copywriters may also get benefits from this book.
And to the rest of the world, you may not find this book really useful.