Polished content writing is invaluable to learning the arts and smarts of Knowledge Commerce
I’m sure you’re a cost-conscious and perfection-conscious Knowledge Commerce solopreneur, as most of us are. You are also aware you are the face of your brand, and you’re writing is the visible proof the quality of your brand.
What you write on your blog – or your ebooks or video-scripts for courses – is often likely to be your own original content. Because you find outsourcing to be harder work. Outsourcing means more supervision, and it never comes out right anyway. Right?
If you want to bring some polish to your content writing, first steer clear of too much-convoluted advice. The more you read, the more you would begin to feel there is so much to writing that you’ll never get it right.
Content writing is easier than you think. If you can take care of the ten points below, writing with polish is a breeze.
10 tips that separate polished content and brands with authority.
The real polish in writing comes from polished ideas. It does not come from polished words and sentences. Writing polished content for your brand requires putting thought on content value first.
Then come the four hallmarks that separate brands and their writing styles. These four hallmarks are creativity, confidence, credibility and conviction.
Here are ten tips that can tick all the right boxes for your brand and content:
#1. Use time and effort to find the right evergreen topics to write about.
Great polished writing is of no consequence without content value to target audiences. So, think about your customers and the questions they may have for your business.
In choosing topics, try to select “evergreen topics” i.e. those with eternal value. They should as useful and relevant today as they will be to audiences 5-10 years down the line. Some subjects have an expiry date. Others have perennial appeal.
Evergreen content keeps your brand fresh and relevant always. Well into the future, people will continue to search for the information you’ve provided. Search engines like Google, will serve your articles to new generations of searchers.
Even though newsy content is exciting, it’s temporary. People more often look for the intrinsic value of timeless ideas.
#2. Manage your writing time with a lot of thought on efficiency.
Before you begin writing check your own bio-rhythms. Some people are day-birds, others are night-owls. Some can work through distractions, other’s can’t hold a thought even if a pin drops nearby. After you’ve checked your best times of day to write, see if you can do it in chunks.
Give yourself a breather of 10 minutes free times between stints of longish writing. Walking around and doing a bit of physical activity in the gaps seems to help refresh the mind.
One brilliant device I’ve found useful (as do many authors) is the Pomodoro Timer. It’s a tomato-shaped kitchen timer that many authors swear to be a writer’s magic tool. You can set it to, say, 45-minute work intervals followed by 15-minute breaks.
This brings a certain discipline to your writing. Focus when its time to put your head down. Offload work from the mind when its break time. See the difference!
#3. Research your topic from many angles and look up good blog authors.
Research helps in two ways if used with cleverness. One, you can pad up your own article with great content if you read more. Look for those reputed to make solid and worthwhile points. Two, use research time to read varied writings from different authors. The more you read, the more you get benchmarks of polished writing to try and emulate.
Rather than reading fiction, I find it helpful to read the writings of other bloggers. I pick especially those who are great influencers and known for their blog posts.
In my niche of Content Marketing, I read people like Brian Clark, Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, Jay Baer, Jeff Bullas, Jon Morrow, Darren Rowse … and of course, the inimitable Seth Godin.
It helps me start my day by some good reading of all the previous day’s articles they’ve written. It seems to bring some polish to my own work for the day, without quite realizing it.
#4. Write your first draft with freedom and don’t edit your flow.
If you try to edit as you write your first draft, you’ll lose your spontaneity and freshness. You’ll also lose your own unique language and style. Write with freedom, following the “flow of your consciousness”.
Your brain workings are different when you write, versus when you edit. So, give a gap of about ten minutes before you begin to edit your first draft, and proofread it. When editing, don’t lose the essence of your style by going through your draft with a machete. Only trim back excesses.
A great deal of writing is about brain management. Most of us don’t realize … there are distinct parts of the brain that kick into action for different things. For example, the brain part that helps you read is not the brain part that helps you write. The brain part that’s creative is different from the brain part that’s logical.
Editing, to the brain, is a logical activity that it cannot do along with creative writing. Try it. You’ll either be able to edit or write, but not do both together!
#5. If your writing was based on inspiration you could wait all day.
Great authors will tell you. Inspiration never comes first.
It’s not like in the movies, where the hero stares into space, chewing his pencil. Sunlight streams in from a window, and an awesome idea dawns. He scribbles it all down without let up, till he has a sterling piece of writing. It’s a classic fit for moving generations of readers …
The non-cinematic truth is this. You need to start your thinking muscles, like you would give your car a rev up every morning. You need to do this to get the engine purring.
Write something – even the sentence “I have nothing to write” – about 15-20 times. The thinking muscles in your brain start to get into motion. Inspiration starts flowing from mind to keyboard without your even knowing it.
#6. Remove the first paragraph after you’re written the whole article.
Every author, great or small, always writes a lousy first paragraph. Even the ones who write “content” with a one-line starting paragraph to be fashionable.
Why is the first paragraph so horrible – and dispensable? This is because we humans tend to “beat around the bush” mentally before coming to the point. You too may notice that you meander quite a bit into related ideas, before coming to the point of your article.
Don’t stop yourself from doing so, though. You need that bit of a circling around the topic before everything falls into place. You will soon tackle the main topic of your article with conviction and authority.
So, like great writers, do this. Write the whole piece, as it occurs, and then knock off the first paragraph or two. Your article won’t miss this at all. In fact, it will be so “to the point” that other writers will stand in awe of your “utter clarity from the word go”.
#7. Like Mark Twain ‘damn’ the inclination to write the word ‘very’.
I don’t know who invented the word “very, but it’s the most abused word ever in the English language. When you are not sure what adjective to use for making an emphatic statement, you tend to get by with using “very”.
Like this: “It was a very nice piece of writing – in fact, it was very moving and I had a very good feeling after reading it. I am very tempted to tell my friends about it. I’m sure very many of them will love it too.”
Mark Twain said we should try substituting “damn” every time we’re inclined to write “very”. The use of the word “very” suggests a lazy writer. There are loads of more forceful adjectives to use instead of “very”.
There’s a great infographic from ProofreadingServices.com … on 128 words you can use instead of “very”. If you can’t use some of these, that’s very, very bad!
Infographic courtesy: ProofreadingServices.com
#8. When you see yourself using adverbs, the only thing to do is to remove them.
Adverbs are important parts of speech in English. They are words that add extra descriptions to verbs. Like, in the phrase “running fast” … running is the “verb” and “fast” is the “adverb that describes the “running”.
But if you write “running fast”, it’s a mortal sin according to experts. It shows that the “verb” you have used is weak and needs reinforcement. Instead of saying “running fast” you should have used a more powerful verb like “speeding”.
Powerful writers see adverb-users as amateur writers. In your writing polish, the presence of adverbs is a sign of a weak vocabulary.
Drop those adverbs before writing peers disdain your work. Take refuge in the PowerThesaurus. Find power verbs instead to count as a “professional”.
#9. Never use the passive voice where you can use the active voice.
One thing to watch in your writing is the “active voice” versus the “passive voice”. The way to do do this is by actually using your voice! Read out a sentence aloud and you will see if your weak “passive voice” sounds as good as you intended.
Read out this sentence first, aloud: “Sam is remembered by people for his music”. Now read aloud this version: “People remember Sam for his music”. Can you hear the difference? The second version is shorter, crisper and sounds full of conviction. The first version sounds less vigorous and forceful.
What happens is this. In passive voice, you put the “object” of the sentence i.e. “Sam” first. You put the “subject” of the sentence after that i.e. “people”. Then you connect them with a long verb like “is remembered”. Whereas in “active” voice, the subject comes first and the object after i.e. “Sam” comes before “people”. Instead of “is remembered” you can use a shorter verb “remember”.
Passive voice adds more words into the sentence weakening its impact. Passive voice is for puny writers. Active voice is for muscular writers.
#10. Make the paragraphs short – not more than 2-3 sentences at most.
There’s a very modern need for short paragraphs that didn’t exist in the old days. Writers of old literature used to write paragraphs as long as our articles. The whole idea of paragraphs was to separate broad sub-topics in an article.
That’s why people always said: “If you want to speed-read, read only the first sentence of a paragraph.” The rest of the whole paragraph would be an explanation of the first sentence.
Nowadays, the purpose of a paragraph is different. We have sub-headings of bigger font-size to separate the topics of articles. There are two reasons for making paragraphs no longer than two sentences. One, it’s easier to read on mobile screens. Two, smaller chunking of text, with lots of white space around, it makes text “scannable”.
It’s all about writing for people who want to skim articles instead of reading – because they have attention spans shorter than goldfish.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.