This is part seven of the epic 15-part “Content is King” series on the BWM blog that focuses on the importance of content marketing for SEO, conversions, and brand building.
Marketers understand that creating various types of content through social media, videos, website pages, and other forms require consider time investment. But having a solid editorial or creative team is the key to making sure your content is optimized and relevant to your key audiences.
Businesses don’t necessarily need a Rhodes Scholar or Pulitzer-Prize winning writer on their marketing teams. But it certainly helps to have proficient writers that can maximize the engagement potential of written content. This is because blogs, e-books, and other forms of text-based content create a significant ROI for SEO and user engagement.
We mentioned at the start of this series that 82 percent of all customers have a positive outlook on a company after reading custom content. Additionally, companies that blogged 11 times or more in a month get three times more traffic than competitors that don’t blog.
So what can a marketing team and their editorial staff/writers do to write high-value and engaging copy? What are some of the best ways to keep online visitors engaged with their website and brand?
The following tips are going to read like a mix of basic writing tips and grammar-heavy nitpicking: but that is exactly the point. Engaging content copy should be error-free, easily readable, and ultimately resonate with the needs of your ideal consumer.
Short sentences and short paragraphs help readers to easily follow your content pieces
In previous parts of this series we covered why it is important to rely on simple and short sentences when writing content. Shorter and punchier sentences can help transition ideas quickly. A shorter sentence is also good for closing out any new ideas as well.
However, writers may try and keep their content contained within large paragraphs of four or more sentences. Try and limit paragraphs to only a few sentences to keep your text from looking compacted. In the two examples below, you can see for your self the difference between large and short paragraphs:
Here is the first regarding a little business pitch from a custom shoe provider using strong content writing formatting –
“Buying customized shoes is not necessarily the easiest shopping experience. You’ll either have to scour for a nearby retailer, get on the phone with the retailer, and wait days to get your shoe. What if you had a new option to get any customized shoe on the same day?
That is why Custom Sneaks is the best way to get your customized shoes. Want to build your shoe in minutes? Then try using our online building tool to make shoes however you’d like. Want your shoe tomorrow? You can request to pick up your shoe at your closest retailer for a minimal fee the next day!”
And here is what happens when you try and stuff all your information into one paragraph.
“Buying customized shoes is not necessarily the easiest shopping experience. You’ll either have to scour for a nearby retailer, get on the phone with the retailer, and wait days to get your shoe. What if you had a new option to get any customized shoe on the same day? That is why Custom Sneaks is the best way to get your customized shoes. Want to build your shoe in minutes? Then try using our online building tool to make shoes however you’d like. Want your shoe tomorrow? You can request to pick up your shoe at your closest retailer for a minimal fee the next day!”
I think you can tell the difference between those examples. So make sure you use a simple paragraph structure, with short sentences, to make your content engaging and easy to read.
Grammar check as much as you Spellcheck any written content pieces
Content should have minimal mistakes if any at all. Which is much easier said than done if you don’t effectively check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Most people make mistakes and will never be able to draft a mistake-free piece of written copy at all times. Thankfully, most word processing programs contain spelling and grammar checks to make sure your written pieces are pristine. But some people may get in the habit of forgetting to use these tools, which may lead to some clumsy mistakes.
Find a word processing tool that makes the most sense for you: Microsoft Word is industry-standard while online tools like Grammarly and Hemmingway are great web-based alternatives. It also helps to build upon some key grammar skills to make content creation and drafting second nature:
Try and limit the use of commas when possible – Unless a clause or phrase requires a brief pause you don’t need a comma. This can led to people using a comma splice, to inaccurately pause their ideas mid-sentence (that comma back there is a splice since the pause isn’t needed). You can also build two separate and punchier sentences instead of a comma to make your writing read easier. We call this the “two-sentence rule.”
Let’s fix one of my sentences to demonstrate the rule:
“But some people may get in the habit of forgetting to use these tools, which may lead to some clumsy mistakes” now becomes “But some people may get in the habit of forgetting to use these tools. Failure to use spell and grammar check may lead to clumsy writing mistakes.”
The new sentences allow us expand upon both the behavior of forgetting to spell check and the respective consequence.
Many people also aren’t sure whether or not they need an extra comma when making a list of three or more items. This is referred to as oxford comma and can help separate listed items from one another.
For example, “I like the smell of wine, cheese, and grass” (oxford commas) may read much differently than “I like the smell of wine, cheese and grass” and could mean that you like some sort of weird cheese-grass combo smell.
While I defend the use of the oxford comma make sure you follow any style guidelines or stylebook based on the industry you’re writing for.
Double check contractions, possessives, and just apostrophe use in general.
Social media may have done the most damage to the use of contractions. Comment sections riddled with the correction “your not you’re” are a prime example of how people can misuse the contraction. A good rule to remember is that a contraction contracts a pronoun and verb “to be.”
For example, “you are” contracts down to “you’re.” Your is the possessive form to show ownership from the second-person point of view. I.e “Your dog is behaving badly.”
In addition, make sure you are using an apostrophe correctly when showing ownership. Place the apostrophe before the “s” to show singular possession and after the “s” to show possession from multiple people/things.
Here’s another example: “My business’s proposition can save you money” indicates that one business has/owns the proposition. “My business’ earn a lot of money annually” indicates that the subject owns several businesses that earn a lot of money.
And as a refresher its vs. it’s can be tricky. “Its” indicates that something is in possession of an object/thing while “it’s”is the contraction for “it is.”
An ellipsis, or commonly referred to as “dot, dot, dot” (…) is not used as closing punctuation
An ellipsis by its most basic definition is punctuation that indicates the omission of a piece of information to condense a quote, accelerate a thought, or remove an unnecessary piece of information. What an ellipsis doesn’t do is replace a period or conclude an idea.
Here is the correct way to use an ellipsis: “Hey Mike can you … never mind I forgot what I was saying.” The speaker in this scenario forgot what was being said so it was unneeded information omitted from the sentence. An ellipsis can be a great way to convey confusion or forgetfulness when used in informal writing. However, it doesn’t make sense to use in more formal or academic writing.
Ever got this email? “Let’s meet on Wednesday …” What does that even mean? If anything it suggests that the meeting is discussing something not useful or redundant if it needed to be omitted from the sentence.
Or how about a viral copy-and-pasted LinkedIn post: “I started with $0.78 in my bank account… ” An ellipsis is not a period. It just adds more confusion to what is most likely a very cliche and annoying copy-paste post on your feed.
Keep these content writing tips in mind to create simple, effective, and engaging content pieces that have minimal errors.