5 Tips to Make Your Technical Writing Brilliant

Posted by Ryan Lym

shutterstock_611593025It's true that technical writing isn't easy, but that doesn't mean that you should shy away from it. Instead, check out these tips to up your writing game. You may find that you have an inner technical writer after all.

  1. Keep it Short

    You've probably heard this tip for just about every kind of writing, but for technical writers, every word matters even more. Because people come to technical writing looking for direction, the last thing you want to do is tack on extra verbiage. In other forms of writing, you might find that you add a few words here and there for personality. Try not to do that in technical writing. Generally, technical writers want to keep things as dispassionate as possible, for ultimate clarity.
  2. Consider Your Structure

    When you're doing a technical piece, you need to make the information as easy to absorb as possible. One great way to do that is to look at the structure of what you're writing. Bullet points, lists, and short paragraphs are a great way to make sure that what you're writing is easy to read and understand.
  3. Use Simple Sentence

    Generally, in writing, you want to vary your sentence structure a bit, so that people don't feel like they're reading something in a monotone. Technical writing? You want to make sure that you put the most important information at the beginning of the sentence, which means you may get a bunch of really similar styles of sentences that kind of feel choppy. That's okay! Technical writing is about conveying information, not about beautiful words. If you use simple grammar and get the most important information in first, you're making sure that more people can understand what you're talking about -- which is again, the whole point.
  4. Edit, Edit, Edit

    This again, may seem like a general writing tip, but editing for technical writers is a bit of a different process than when doing creative or copywriting. What you're looking for is the ability to streamline the writing. Cut out any useless fluff. Shorten sentences and make the format better. Make anything complex easier to understand. Once you've done that, it's time to put it to the test...
  5. Ask a Friend for Help

    One of the biggest things I can advocate for technical writing is to hand it over to someone you trust to read it over. If you're not allowed, as per your contract, you can try to read it again on your own, but that's basically the editing step all over. By asking a friend to read it over, you can see where your writing has fallen short. They should be able to understand everything that you've written, and if they can't, it's back to the drawing board. Make sure that you pick a friend who's willing to be honest with you, though. That's probably the hardest part of all!

If you've ever struggled putting a product together because the instructions were unclear, you've seen some bad technical writing in action. Just knowing where technical writing can fail will put you in a good position as a writer to really rock. Following these guidelines and responding positively to any feedback can help you gain the confidence and skills you need to expand your writing abilities and call yourself a technical writer.

Tags: Technical Writing

4 Real Examples of Killer Copywriting (And What Makes Them Work!)

Posted by Raj Chander

shutterstock_426136780-1Like a color or true love, top-notch copywriting is one of those things that's easier to identify than it is to describe. We've all seen examples of awesome writing, whether they've been online or simply on a print ad on a bus or highway.

But if you're a freelance writer or a business owner looking to write better copy, identifying examples of great copywriting will only take you so far. Yes, you might be skilled enough to imitate some examples you've seen, but for true mastery, you should understand the techniques behind great writing.

In other words, you want the what as well as the why.

Here are 4 examples of high-quality copywriting from actual advertisements that companies used successfully to sell their products, with explanations of why they are effective:

1. "They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano, But When I Started to Play!"

John Caples for The U.S. School of Music

Why it works: This classic ad has been studied and copied for dozens of years, with good reason - it's one of the best examples of storytelling in advertising history. The headline alone paints a vivid image of a person being sneered at after attempting to play piano, which is continued throughout the ad itself. Caples forces the reader to envision themselves dazzling friends and family members, masterfully playing on the basic human desire to impress others.

2. "At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock"

David Ogilvy for Rolls Royce

Why it works: David Ogilvy wasn't given the nickname, "The Father of Advertising" for no reason. He has stated that this Rolls-Royce ad was his personal favorite - it's also arguably his most famous. The writing works because it grabs attention immediately by bringing up an unexpected comparison. How many other luxury car makers do you think were advertising how quiet their clocks were? From there, Ogilvy takes the reader through a series of matter-of-fact statements that describe the rigorous testing and construction requirements. This paints exactly the type of meticulous, precise image that the advertisers wanted their brand to represent.

3. Gary Halbert's Dollar Letters

Gary Halbert for Multiple Clients

Why it works: While the concept of a "dollar letter" - attaching money to a piece of sales correspondence - wasn't technically invented by Halbert, he is the writer who made its use famous. One of these letters would typically include a dollar bill attached to the paper (obviously), and an explanation that, yes, this was real money for the recipient to keep. From there, Halbert would go into the full sales letter, explaining why he was sending money. The specific reason varied depending on the client he wrote the letter for, but it worked by grabbing attention and standing out from others. It also proved that the advertiser was serious about promoting their product-; after all, who would give away money to promote something if they weren't confident in their offer?

4. "To Housewives Who Buy Condensed Milk"

Claude Hopkins for Van Camp

Why it works: This is a great example of what people mean when they say that content marketing has actually been around for a long time. At its core, this ad for evaporated milk is simply information. It doesn't rely on any fancy tactics or disruptions - it straight up tells the audience why the advertiser's product is better than the status quo. If you are selling a product or service that has real value and can make an impact, you shouldn't have to rely on fancy gimmicks or tricks. Just explain why you are better and give them a chance to see for themselves.

These ads are all different in their own way, but share one similar quality: They use killer copywriting to get the job done. By studying these legendary examples from the masters, understanding the techniques they used, and applying them in your own writing, you'll have a much better chance at successfully winning customers and fans.

Tags: Killer Copywriting

Are You "Au Courant" with the SEO Scene?

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_325944776The French proverb “tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse” can be translated several ways, but in essence it means “everything passes, everything breaks when tired.” What does this have to do with SEO? Everything!

There are many old-school SEO practices writers are using that are simply no longer effective. It’s easy to fall into the habit of using the same ranking methods you’ve been successfully using for years. But both you and your clients suffer if you fail to stay current with modern SEO techniques.

Stop Writing in the Past

What modern SEO techniques rank your content best? Here are five practices you may still be using but might want to put out to pasture so you can write the results-driven SEO content your clients are looking for.

  1. Too many internal links. Using anchor text to link back to different website pages would seem to make sense, and the practice did at one time have a positive impact on rankings. Today, Google and other search engines are more often discounting these links and, in extreme cases where they judge them to be overdone or spammy, penalizing a site for them.

What to do instead: make sure internal links are well-written and relevant. The sentence they’re included in should read naturally.

  1. Thinking mediocre content is saved by external links. Content writers are constantly being told that gaining links from “influencers” is great for ranking. Yes, earning links on other websites does help improve where your site ranks, but they must be organically earned. That means producing great content in the first place. Unnatural links will not help your content rank, and they could hurt you in the long-term.

What to do instead: write content that engages and delights readers. High quality content that’s on topic creates a positive branding association without resorting to spamming.

  1. Indiscriminate guest blogging. Some people say guest blogging is dead, but that’s not true. It has dramatically changed and it’s no longer enough to haphazardly submit guest posts to sites you hope will reward you with a link (thinking the multitude of links will lead to better ranking).

What to do instead: guest blogging still helps to create more exposure, demonstrate expertise, and build trust, but be sure your posts are submitted to sites that are relevant to yours.

  1. Creating separate pages for keyword variations. Google’s RankBrain algorithm is an AI system that helps it better process search results. In simple terms, RankBrain can interpret searches people submit to find pages that might not contain the exact words used in the search. This ability eliminates the need to create separate pages for the same topic. For example, if you write a page about “car repair services,” RankBrain understands it’s probably a good match for people who also search car maintenance, car tune-up, or auto services.

What to do instead: stop creating new pages for every keyword phrase and create a more comprehensive page for keyword topic. An LSI keyword generator can help here.

  1. Forgetting to write for people. Have you ever written a page or post that repeats a particular keyword in ways that feel and look awkward? Do your heading tags have little or nothing to do with the actual content but they do include that keyword? Then you’re probably writing to bots, not people. This can be a tough one, because many clients who don’t keep current with current SEO tactics believe this is still important to do.

What to do instead: write your content for the real people who are reading it. They are the ones who be buying the products or services.

And what if the client insists on doing it the “old” way? A good approach is to put it in the form of a question. Say something like, “Based on what I’ve learned about Google’s latest algorithm, this piece reads a little like keyword stuffing to me, what do you think? Do you want me to remove some of the keyword mentions?” Some people do still fiercely cling to this technique, but at least you asked!

The Bottom Line

Hopefully you’re now au courant on all things SEO. To stay that way, be sure to subscribe to several websites that keep you updated on Google’s ever-changing algorithms and ranking processes. Staying informed and working new SEO techniques into your content writing routine will help you get the results you and your clients are looking for.

Tags: SEO content

Be a Hero: How to Write Supercharged B2B Blogs

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_604360730Writing blogs for a business that sells to other businesses or government entities is a lot like writing blogs aimed at consumers: they must be unique, relevant, and useful. But there are some key differences and knowing what they are will make you a better B2B blog writer.

The Not-So-Secret Formula to Writing Blogs for Business

B2B blogging has finally come into its own. More businesses are including it in their overall marketing strategy. They are learning to capitalize on social media’s contributions and produce content that B2B readers crave.

Here are three great tips on how to master the art of writing blogs for business to business clients.

Go Deep

B2B readers are a different breed from B2C ones in that they often thrive on posts that include lots of details and industry jargon. While you don’t want to overuse jargon in any blog post, its strategic use can make the reader feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated for their shared knowledge. The trick is in making the content easily understood by industry neophytes, but dense enough to establish an organization as an expert.

Embrace “Risky” Thinking

The audience loves learning about trends, but people really get excited about posts that predict what may be in store. Well-researched B2B blog posts that go out on a limb generate more sharing and feedback than strictly informational posts. And when the predictions prove to be shrewd ones, the return can be substantial. And don’t limit these “future of” posts to a January release. If there’s a trending topic in an industry, it’s worth theorizing on its future any time of the year.

Have a Purpose

Whether you’re writing content that focuses on lead generation, the customer journey, or a combination of both, be clear on what you want the post to achieve. Otherwise, how will you measure its success?

Good buyer personas let you write targeted content that talks to people in the right way. Pay attention to what buyers are looking for and write posts that answer their questions and concerns. To build personas that help you achieve your goals:

  • Use surveys for in-depth insights that get to the heart of the customer’s problem.
  • Conduct interviews to learn what made current customers buy (or not buy) a product or service.
  • Learn from collected data how buyers interact with a company’s website and write posts that reflect common habits.

As a writer, you don’t always have easy access to this information, but you can get good data right online.

Visit forums like Quora and sites like LinkedIn to hear from experts in all sorts of industries. Data tools like BuzzSumo and Moz’s Open Site Explorer (soon to be Link Explorer) help track social shares and help you build smart link prospecting. And social media is an excellent source for fleshing out personas. All of these approaches will help you write content that is highly targeted and, most importantly, effective.

The Bottom Line

Writing well-researched, tightly focused B2B blogs can generate a substantial number of new visitors, leads, and conversions for any business. They’re an indispensable tool that, approached correctly, will result in blog posts that wow your readers and produce the numbers you’re looking for.

So, You Want to Be a Web Writer? Start Writing!

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_425996653Is there a difference between “regular” content writing and writing for a website? Yes. Even though both are considered part of a strategic marketing plan, how you write copy for a website is unlike producing other content for blog posts, articles, white papers, and more. If your goal is to add web writer to your resume, read on.

Top 3 Ways Webpage Writing is Different

You’re probably a fabulous content writer, crafting engaging stories that draw readers in while establishing the brand you’re writing for as the top solution to a reader’s problem. So it stands to reason you’ll be great at web page content too, right? Not so fast – web pages are more difficult than they look.

  1. They require a different level of clarity than other content. While natural language tends to be repetitive and filled with unnecessary words, the writing for a web page must be clear and concise, making its pitch to keep someone on the page in under three seconds.
  2. There’s no room for your “vision” as a writer. The client’s vision is all that matters and if she or he wants the metaphors scrapped, you have to find another way to make your point. Suggestions are usually welcomed, but it’s important to remember who, in the final writing showdown, is the boss.
  3. Web writers don’t do it for the acclaim. Appreciation and gratitude are always welcome, but writing web page content that helps a brand grow should focus more on relevancy, not making an impression.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that to be an effective web writer, you need to unlearn some creative writing techniques you’ve honed over the years.

Writing Tips for Web Writer Beginners

A company or brand has one goal in mind for their website: that it acts as an ambassador that draws people in, keeps them there, and convinces them to take an action that is mutually satisfying.

There are tips that apply equally to “other” content writing and web pages. Here are a few key ones that greatly matter for website content.

  • Start with keyword research for SEO. Organic traffic is the lifeblood of a website. The most successful websites are the ones whose writers take the time to do their keyword research. And while most of those keywords may never end up on the page, knowing what people search for lets you write content that contains phrases the search engines use to rank website pages.
  • People debate about one to two sentence graphs in blog posts, but that mostly comes down to a matter of taste. Many experts agree, though, that the content on website pages should be written for scanability and short attention spans. That means shorter paragraphs of three lines or less. Don’t worry if an idea seems “incomplete;” pick up the thought in the next paragraph.
  • Some might argue this applies to all content writing, but for website pages it’s particularly important: keep the reading level low. Content written at a third-grade reading level is 36% more likely to engage a reader. That doesn’t mean “dumbing down” the writing. Unless the product or service you’re writing about is an extremely technical one, just make it easier for readers by choosing simpler words and cutting down complex sentences.

The Bottom Line

Rising to a top-level web writer takes discipline and solid writing skills, both of which are easily within your reach. Learn how to optimize the page for SEO, keep the reader’s attention span top of mind, and practice, practice, practice. You’ll soon be writing persuasive web page copy that’s short, sweet, and successful!

Tags: web writer

How to Succeed at a Writing Services Company

Posted by Ryan Lym

shutterstock_736148884The internet has made being a professional writer that much easier. While many writers use freelance sites to coordinate their gigs, many are switching over to writing services companies that take their areas of expertise and match them with clients. Writing services usually either have writers submit content that can be purchased, or clients request specific titles and writers fill them. Either way, these kinds of services have opened up many opportunities for writers, but it can take some hard work to make them really pay off. Here are some top tips to making your writing pay:

Be Patient

As a new writer on one of these sites, it can take a while to get established. After all, if you haven't work with many clients yet, how are they supposed to know what kind of quality you can provide? On some of these sites, this means that most jobs will be closed to you, and some of the jobs you see will be lower paying. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to simply be patient... and accept some of these jobs. They may not pay a lot now, or be that fun to write, but they will certainly pay off in the long run. The more you do these kinds of jobs, the faster your reputation will grow, and better jobs will come.

Be Personal

Even though you're online, remember that you're working with actual clients. Don't be afraid to do a little bit of networking! Ask questions, thank clients for their time, and be social. If you're not a faceless writer to the client, they're more likely to develop a relationship with you, which can go a long way. It also will likely mean better ratings and possibly more work. It's just a little bit more writing, and after all, that's what you're good at, right?

Be Persistent

One of the hardest things about starting out at a writing services company is finding jobs you can pick up. Often, the jobs that are open to newer writers get snatched up fast, so you'll want to make sure that you're checking the job board as regularly as possible. Set a timer to remind yourself, or set the board as your home page. Often, sites like these do set up email alerts when there are jobs, but don't expect them to still be there by the time you've read the email. It really pays off to do a manual check regularly.

Be Punctual

The last thing you want to do when you start on a writing services site, is to lose track of deadlines. If you're not used to dealing with deadlines, this may be a big shift, so make sure you have the time to finish the work when you pick it up. Usually, there's a way to extend your time when something truly gets in the way of finishing the article, but remember that your clients probably have deadlines too, and keeping them waiting hurts everyone. Starting off, I suggest picking up jobs you know you can start on immediately. This is a great way to make sure nothing gets procrastinated.

These tips should help you in getting established at a writing services company. Once you open yourself up to more clients, you should find that you're getting more work more often, and at better rates. If you follow these guidelines and always submit your best work, you should find that working for a writing services company can really pay off.

Tags: Writing Services

Making the Complex Clear: The Heart & Soul of Technical Writing

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_46111306Do you love taking complicated ideas and presenting them in an easy-to-follow manner? Do you know how to explain a complex topic without dumbing it down? These are two of the most important skills you can have when working in the world of technical writing services.

It’s Different, And It Ain’t Easy

Bill Gates once said that “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t really understand it.” Explaining difficult concepts isn’t always easy, but it’s essential when offering technical writing services. Technical writers are a special breed in that they love creating great content, but also have the exceptional ability to help people grasp information quickly.

If you want to start working as a technical writer, a love of in-depth research and extensive knowledge in one or more industries is a must. Here are some other ideas for building the skills, knowledge and experience you need to confidently offer technical writing services to clients.

Learn What Technical Writing Services Involve

Many technical writers work in the software, hardware, and cloud computing services, but technical writing is needed in just about any industry. No matter what company you’re writing for, technical content generally falls into two categories:

  1. Support content like online user guides that help customers use a product or service. You help people navigate new software features, put something together, or operate hardware, including everyday appliances.
  2. Corporate guides help employees understand technical concepts and procedures they need to do their jobs.

Build Your Technical Writing Skills

The quickest way to find out what those are? Look at job postings for technical writing services in the industries and topics that interest you most. Pull the required skills and experience each job calls for and then list the top 5 that are common to most of them. If you already have these skills, great! If you’re not up to speed on one or more, make it your goal to learn them. Here’s what your list might include:

  • Strong verbal and writing skills. This is a given for technical writers. While some companies prefer a writer with a communications degree, it isn’t always a requirement. What matters most is your ability to write clear and concise content on often complicated topics.
  • Experience in the industry or topic you’re writing about. Want to write about cloud storage? It helps to have intimate knowledge of coding.
  • Research skills. We live in a constantly changing world and that sometimes means hours of thorough research, particularly in fields that are rapidly evolving, like tech.
  • An understanding of your audience. It takes some sociological skills to be a good technical writer. Before you begin to write, you must understand who you are writing to. Knowing how the reader thinks and figuring out the best way to deliver content to them is one of the most needed skills for a tech writer.
  • Technical writing tools simplify the process of technical writing. Learn which ones other technical writers rely on and work to become proficient in one or more of them.

Resources to Check Out

Before you can educate others, you need to educate yourself. There are plenty of resources available to help you do just that. Many colleges and universities post free technical writing guidelines on their websites. Read up-to-date technical writing guidebooks. Take an online or on-campus course – the certification is a nice addition to your resume! And check out sites like the Society for Technical Communication, which offers online courses and certification programs. Finally, read lots of examples of content that simply explains complex ideas.

Bottom Line

Technical writing services are a highly-prized commodity, and skill in technical writing can give your career a real boost. Use these ideas to start planning and writing top quality tech content. It won’t be an overnight process, but the investment you make now will reward you many times over in the years to come.

Tags: Technical Writing

Everyone Can Be a Web Copywriter! Um, No

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_696222286The classic definition of a professional web copywriter is someone who creates content that has an impact on the reader, inspiring them to take some action. But what does that really mean? Is someone a good copywriter if they can write information-filled paragraphs that are grammatically correct and nicely formatted? Of course not.

A good copywriter is one who does the necessary research to truly understand a client’s intended audience. And then they work with them to develop a client-centric voice that builds brand awareness and provides real value to the target audience.

If you’re serious about being the best copywriter possible, here are the traits and habits you should develop and adopt starting now.

Traits of a Powerhouse Web Copywriter

  • Check your ego. Just as there are people who love to hear themselves talk, there are copywriters who fall in love with the cleverness of their own words. A good copywriter knows the web content she or he is producing is about the target audience. It’s quality over self. It requires a critical eye that is willing to review, revise, and remove wherever it’s necessary, even if it means cutting otherwise excellent verbiage.
  • Grasp human psychology. The best copywriters learn what makes people tick so they can create content that positions the product or service they’re writing about as the reader’s best solution. From simple rhyming to the oft-forgotten P.S. line, educate yourself on a variety of psychology hacks that help you write content that converts.
  • Follow trends. Most web copywriters produce content on a variety of topics, which translates into a lot of research. Even if you specialize in one or two niches, it’s important to stay on top of what’s trending in the industry you’re covering. Ask a client who their top 3 competitors are and check out what they’re talking about. Sign up for updates from industry thought-leaders so you’re always on top of the latest innovations. While you’re at it, also subscribe to several blogs that feature current trends in content creation, marketing, and web design.
  • Be curious. Look for inspiration everywhere. Strive to make your work stand out. Look for ways to put a fresh spin on much-covered topics. Keep good notes and look for associations between diverse thoughts and subjects. Learn what a unique selling proposition is.
  • Solve problems. And learn to express complicated solutions clearly and concisely. People love entertaining, original content, but if you want them to choose the product or service you’re offering, what you write must also touch them on an emotional level. This is why putting yourself in the reader’s shoes is so valuable. To come full circle, empathy is a powerful trait that helps you check your ego.

Practice Makes Perfect

There’s always something new to learn and more to discover when mastering the art of copywriting. Need some ideas on how to become a master copywriter? Try integrating these 3 easy steps and exercises into your daily writing routine.

  1. Skip your opening. Don’t get hung up on how to start a post; just start writing. When you reach the end, reread your content and then write your first sentences or opening paragraph. This is a great exercise for keeping your mind open to wherever your writing takes you. If you feel compelled to stick to a point you make in your first sentence, you can end up with writing that reads forced.
  2. Copy the masters. Painters do it and great writers do it, too. Head to some pro copywriting sites and use their posts for inspiration. Many prose writers learn their craft by typing verbatim books, short stories, or scripts by writers they love. Do it often enough and you’ll start to absorb the flow and style of the writing. Then move on to rewriting the original. Take a cue from advertising copywriters and start a swipe file so you always have a go-to source for new ideas.
  3. Exercise regularly. Use 5 to 10 minutes a day on a writing workout that improves your creativity, clarity, and storytelling skills. Free write, edit someone else’s work, rewrite an earlier piece of your own, write as many headlines as you can in 3 minutes or less.

Writing is a skill that can be learned by just about anyone. But not everyone is willing to do what it takes to stand out. Make time for perfecting your craft. Be disciplined about learning and practicing. Become a copywriting force to be reckoned with!

Tags: Web copywriter

6 Easy Tips for Great Website Copy

Posted by Alyssa Wolfe

shutterstock_1017576184Website copy plays a central role in a business’s online presence, and unlike other marketing content, it needs to be more evergreen. Think of website copy as the heart of your content; it should set the stage for who you are, what you do, and convey your style, brand, and voice. If you’re in the process of developing website copy, here are some essential yet easy tips to keep in mind to make it readable, engaging, and persuasive.

Tips for Creating Readable, Engaging, and Persuasive Website Copy

Website copy is crucial. On average, a consumer makes a decision about your website within a few seconds of landing on a website page. This means you have very little time to convince visitors to stay a little longer. Here are six easy tips to help you do just that:

  • Realize that your copy is scanned – Most people aren’t going to actually read your website copy, at least not right away, so important tidbits and optimized presentation is highly beneficial. A subtitle will draw the eye, and it needs to be clear and concise as to what it’s about. Quotes and other highlighted sentences can also be helpful. Make sure that the most important information “pops.” It should be easily scannable, and then website visitors can decide if they want to know (and read) more, or take action. Some ways to make copy easy to read and digest is by communicating information with headlines, using subtitles to add more information, using bullet points, and clearly communicating sales messages in these more noticeable areas.
  • Keep all copy in short, readable increments – You love your business—you know your business. You want to go on and on about how amazing your business is. Most people don’t care about the excess; they want the bare bones laid out clearly and concisely. Editing is your best friend when you write website copy. Your mantra should be short and simple. For example, short paragraphs, short sentences, short words.
  • Important information should always come first – If you know readers are going to drop off by the second or third paragraph, it makes sense to offer the goods up front. Your most important information should come first. You can achieve this by utilizing a more journalistic style. Answer the who, what, where, when, how quickly and efficiently; then expand.
  • Avoid passive tense, repetition, and over-complicated jargon, and speak directly to the visitor – When writing website copy, stay out of passive tense. You’ll want to keep it active, which is more action-inspiring. Also, repetition gets old quickly. Try not to use the same words over and over, or sell the same things multiple times on one page. Lastly, talk directly to your visitor using words like “you” and “your,” and talk to them in plain, simple language. Unless you are a highly-technical business with an extremely technical audience, there is no need to get ove-rcomplicated or overuse industry jargon. Think about what the customer wants to know and answer it as concisely as possible. Don’t make the audience guess by trying to be clever or witty or overly-academic.
  • Realize that visitors may land anywhere – There is no guarantee that visitors will land on your home page, so each page should let people know where they are and who you are, have a call to action, and be easy to scan.
  • Create an inviting visual balance with copy, font, white space, colors, and graphics – Nothing puts visitors off faster than a cluttered website. If there are lengthy blocks of words, jumbled images, loud fonts, or too much of anything, chances are your visitors will jump ship. While copy is an important part of the overall scheme, how it’s laid out is just as important as what it says. Make sure your fonts are stylish and readable, and that your website copy is placed thoughtfully in an inviting visual layout that encourages people to peruse and learn more about your business, or allows them to absorb the information swiftly.

Website copy will remain the same most of the time. Although it’s important to update or refresh it every so often, realizing that it is the core of what a business is. Today’s audience wants a website to answer their questions about a business. Think of your website copy as a way to do that clearly, concisely, and in a way that lets them know exactly who you are.

Tags: Website Copy

That Sucks! How to Spot Your Own Bad Writing

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_229859209Even the greatest writers write badly. Not just bad first drafts, but poorly constructed sentences, verb-tense errors, and run-on sentences, too. It’s easier to see mistakes in someone else’s writing than it is your own. Learning to catching your own mistakes and weaknesses, though, will help you improve your writing. That naturally leads to more work and greater success.

Tell-Tale Signs of Bad Writing

Just about everyone can write, but not everyone writes well. The irony, of course, is that while those whose writing is adequate are pretty happy people, those who write well are always looking to do better.

If you do a lot of content writing, it’s easy to fall into some bad habits. In the race to meet deadlines, there can be a tendency to fall back on what always works and be done with it. Up comes the next title, and the same missteps are repeated. If you have a nagging feeling your writing isn’t its best, check it to see if you might be making one or more of these common mistakes.

  • Vague, unclear writing that has no direction or, worse, too many of them. Good writing has a strong purpose. That’s why it’s so important to have a deep knowledge of your topic. If you don’t, you’ll be tempted to fill your piece with clichés and generalizations. Readers looking for relevant content will be left dissatisfied, never to return. If you simply don’t have the time to research an unfamiliar topic, find another writer who can do the piece justice or pass on the assignment.
  • Ignores the reader. The style may be stellar, but if your content doesn’t address what the reader needs to hear, it’s of no value. Make sure the reader’s problem, or pain point, is clearly stated.
  • Failure to edit. Truman Capote once said “I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” The same applies to keyboards. Most writing can be improved by multiple rewrites that trim away the excess.
  • Awkward transitions. Or worse, non-existent ones. From emails to white papers, it doesn’t matter what you’re writing. You must connect your sentences and paragraphs. Nothing’s more confusing for a reader than ideas that aren’t clearly explained or are left hanging. Don’t force your readers to make leaps of logic or assume they understand what you meant to say. As the writer, it is your responsibility to get the point across.
  • Filler words. Learn how to cut the padding out of your writing. This is different from editing. Don’t use words like “um” and “ah.” Eliminate superfluous words and use readability metrics to ensure you’re writing in way most people will understand. There are plenty of free readability tools available online and if you work in Word, it’s included as part of the spellcheck function.
  • Clichés. This is an easy writing trap to fall into. Clichés are clichés because they’re true, but that doesn’t mean you should overpopulate your writing with them. Overusing clichés can irritate the reader and distract her or him from the important point you’re trying to make. Use metaphors or real-life anecdotes instead.

Don’t Bore Your Readers

Just about all bad writing is boring writing. Whether it’s too confusing, too disengaged, over-the-top, or goes nowhere and offers nothing, if people don’t want to read it, it’s sucky writing.

The good news is that bad writing is not the same as being a bad writer. Bad habits can be broken. All it takes is a willingness to listen to criticism and recognize good feedback when you get it. Resign yourself to the fact that first drafts tend to suck and do what you must to improve it.

Even the best writers find the work difficult. No writer is perfect, and every writer can improve. Recognizing your own bad writing and finding ways to better it is an ongoing process. Fortunately, like most things, the more you do it, the more motivated you’ll be to keep going!

Tags: Advice for Writers, Bad Writing