Creating marketing content is sometimes like a race: you’re always looking for more keywords and topics to cover so that you can reach more potential customers. But as with everything, quality matters as much as (or even more than) quantity. Not only do you have to provide useful information, but you also have to make sure it’s presented in a professional, digestible way.
In other words, a big part of writing good marketing content is simply writing well. To help you with this, here are some tips and techniques professional editors use that you can apply to your own content writing processes to level up your work.
Show, don’t tell
If you’ve been anywhere near the publishing industry, you will be familiar with this piece of advice. In the novel-writing world, editors will often advise their authors to use the character’s actions to demonstrate who they are and how they’re feeling, as opposed to having the narrator say outright that the character is sad or upset or disappointed.
The content marketing equivalent of this “show, don’t tell” tactic is to use examples. Sometimes a concept can be a bit difficult for your target audience to understand, and trying to explain them can lead you to long-winded sentences that are hard to digest. In such a case, you can rely on the help of a good example.
For instance, say you’re a freelance copywriter writing a post on your blog (for some personal marketing) about how to create a good tagline. One of the biggest tips is to be concise—and you can demonstrate that immediately by listing a few popular taglines like “Just Do It”, or “Finger Lickin’ Good”. Then, use these examples to expand your point. Explain how these short taglines are easy to remember, and they fit well on posters and packaging where they can be read at a glance. Again, to strengthen your example you could add a photo of said poster or packaging in your piece of content.
With the aid of concrete examples, your readers can see your logic right there and then. This way, you’ve done the hard work, you’ve shown them what your point means and how to carry it out in practice.
Use simple language
One might think that literature favors flowery language, but that’s not always the case. A fancy phrase every now and then can make an impression on readers, but most of the time, long sentences and big words discourage people from reading your work! Simple writing works the best.
When you write, keep your sentences short. Minimize having multiple phrases in a sentence—break it up into two! And be efficient with your words. When presented with a choice, always go for a strong verb instead of adding an adverb to describe an action.
This applies to a lot of definitions and explanations, too. As mentioned, explaining specific or technical concepts to an audience who presumably doesn’t know about it yet is a big part of writing marketing content. Whenever you can find a simpler word choice (something that’s not industry jargon, for example), use it.
Similar to the last tip, you don’t make readers work too much in order to find the piece of information they want. So keep it simple!
Stick to a style sheet
Consistency is a big part of quality writing—how would you feel if, in one document, you see the word spelled as “color” in one paragraph, and then “colour” in the next?
As part of the service they offer authors, many editors go over details that are commonly mistaken in the text—including fictional details like addresses or character names—and summarize them in a single document called a style sheet. As they revise the manuscript some more, the author and subsequent editors can refer back to this style sheet when they’re not sure about something.
In publishing, you’ll often get one style sheet per book or per book series. But for marketing content, the consistency cannot vary project by project. Each website should have a coherent style. As such, a style sheet is arguably even more crucial in the marketing context.
If you work in-house and your business hasn’t got a style sheet yet, it’s time for your team to huddle up and create one. You may want to include grammatical details that are often overlooked (like when to use em dashes and en dashes), since not every content marketer will be perfectly trained on that. But more importantly, you can outline stylistic preferences, like:
- Spelling it “nonfiction” rather than “non-fiction”, “internet” rather than “Internet”
- Using the first-person plural pronoun (“we”) instead of the singular one (“I”)
- Bolding only for headings and not in body text
These rules aren’t made so that the text is spotless on a technical level; they’re made to enforce a clear and professional voice for the brand. For some inspiration as to what else you might include, look no further than Linkub’s detailed editorial guidelines.
Once you have that style sheet, make sure that anyone who is writing content for your business can easily access it as they work.
And if you’re a freelance writer, it’s good practice to check with each client to see if they already have a style guide for you to follow. If not, maybe you can suggest creating one for them as an additional service. That way, you show that you are a thoughtful, trustworthy professional who can help the client up their content marketing game—someone they can definitely collaborate with for a long time.
Step away after the first draft
As a content writer, you often take on the responsibility of editing as well. If you work in a team, you may help others edit their content. If you work alone as a freelancer, you do most of the editing to make sure your client is as happy with the product as they can be.
From content structure to grammar, syntax, and spelling, there is quite a bit to handle when editing. You have to be in a good, clear mindset in order to do it well, especially when you’re reviewing your own work. How can you get into this mindset? Try distancing yourself from your first draft for a while.
You may be itching to publish your content or submit it to a client or supervisor, but a mind that has worked for several hours on a single project will be muddled. And a muddled brain can sometimes overlook weaknesses in the writing’s logic, or second-guess everything so much that you want to rewrite the whole thing.
A tired self-editor can also make mistakes when copy-editing a text. If you’ve just written something, you’ll probably skim read it when revising. After all, you wrote the whole thing, didn’t you? You know exactly what’s coming up next! With that mindset, you’ll likely auto-correct your mistakes in your brain, but the text itself remains unfixed.
The gist is, reviewing a draft right after writing it might not be the best way to spot its weaknesses. Instead, put the draft away and work on something else. Ideally, you’ll pivot to a non-writing task, like scheduling material to publish or sorting out some invoices (if you freelance). Let the writing machine in your brain rest to avoid overheating it.
Give yourself half a day if you’re not on a tight deadline—wait until the afternoon or the next morning—and review your work with refreshed eyes. That extra bit of time away might just be what you need to improve the quality of your work.
Change the font of your document when you edit
Another tip to tackle the skim-reading mindset when self-editing is to change the way your document looks. When you edit your own work, you’re familiar with how the sentences look. You know where everything is subconsciously. It’s like waking up in the morning and going to brush your teeth—you don’t have to look at the counter to know where your toothbrush and toothpaste are. Autopiloting through the process is a natural option.
That’s not the ideal mindset for when you edit your work, which is why you can try switching the view up. If you’ve been writing in the Calibri typeface, switch to Times New Roman for your edit. Change the size of your writing so that the lines don’t always end on the same words as before.
These are just some things you can do to trick your brain into thinking it’s reading something completely new. Instead of skipping over repeated words and auto-correcting spelling mistakes, it is more compelled to pay attention to every word given this different view. And that attention makes it harder for mistakes to slip through, meaning you’ll end up with a neat content copy by the end.
Hopefully, you find these tips helpful and can incorporate them into your own work process to level up your content. Whether you’re working on blog articles or email marketing, here’s to making sure that your writing is flawless and professional!