You know the feeling of the blank page glaring at you from your computer screen. Your cursor blinks, waiting for you to write something. But you are frozen. Where do you start?
As I started writing this post, I had that same feeling. Writing creates a level of anxiety that stifles your creativity and sends you off to check your Facebook page. What do I have to say that is interesting? Even if I do have something to say, will anyone read it?
With the abundance of articles, blogs and social media posts swirling around the Internet, you must find information that your audience craves. Find what they need to know, and how you can help them as an expert in your field. So, how do you do this? Start with these five golden rules.
Relevancy is key. Although your audience, language, research, visuals and grammar are all important, being relevant trumps them all. If you are not providing relevant content, then your audience simply does not care what you have to say and will go somewhere else.
For example, if you sell flowers, your audience is expecting you to tell them what flowers are best for Valentine’s Day, what flowers look best in the front yard versus on the kitchen table or even what flowers may cause allergies. They are not looking for advice on who to pick for their fantasy football league or how cool the new iPhone is. Even though this may be trending news, it has nothing to do with you as an expert on flowers, so avoid the temptation.
Don’t be boring. You can still be creative while being relevant.
To continue with our flower company example, you don’t only have to write about flowers and Valentine’s Day and anniversaries. This would get old really fast. Instead, think about how people use flowers for all sorts of occasions—weddings, birthdays, bereavement, I’m sorries, congratulations—the list goes on and on. Furthermore, think about trending news in your audience’s lives. Have they heard how bees are disappearing? You can write an article about how bees affect flower pollination. Are they excited about Halloween? Thanksgiving? The spring equinox? Write about how your company can fulfill their flower needs in creative ways during these holidays.
This example shows that your relevancy box doesn’t have to be square and boring. It doesn’t need to be a box at all. It can be fluid, moving, creative, inspired and whatever else your readers need it to be.
Do your research
I cannot stress the importance of solid research. If you are writing about a topic in which you are not an expert, do your research.
More likely than not, no one is going to care about your personal opinion. However, if you establish yourself as an expert, people are going to listen. Likewise, if you have other experts either support your claims or state facts of their own, your readers will see you as a credible resource.
But, don’t just stick in random facts from random people. You must find relevant facts from relevant people. And, these need to be primary sources! This means, find the original quote, find who actually conducted the study, find where the information originated. Nothing looks sloppier than a list of attributions because it quickly becomes a he-said, she-said sentence, thus diminishing your credibility.
I think this tip speaks for itself. As William Strunk says, “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences.”
Especially when writing online, your readers are skimming and looking for headings or bullet points. There is no room for fluff, and no one wants to read your flowery descriptions (unless of course, you’re writing about flowers). Keep it short. Keep it simple.
Proofread your work
As an editor, this is my biggest pet peeve—writers who do not proofread their articles. I can’t tell you the number of times a writer has turned in an article full of typos, misspelled words and improper grammar. As a writer, this makes you look sloppy, but as a brand this makes you look careless and unprofessional.
You don’t want to write a spectacularly relevant article with top-notch resources, only to find your company name is misspelled and you used “it’s” incorrectly throughout the entire article. All of the credibility you worked so hard to build will be dashed the second your reader notices a mistake.
Don’t let this happen to you! Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!
As a content writer and editor, I sympathize with you as you look at that mean blank screen and annoying, blinking cursor. But, with a little imagination, research and writing practice, your content will become a vital element of your marketing strategy. Just be sure to follow the rules and we’ll all get along.