March 3, 2017

6 Steps to Writing More Professional Content

This post is kind of similar to this post, which I did not realize until I was about to hit publish at 8 PM last night... and had no other posts queued up. Oops. While it's not ideal for me to share two blog posts similar in topic within two days of one another, I did not want to not publish anything. Similar or not to Wednesday's post, this post should shed some additional light when it comes to content writing.

I've noticed some trends when it comes to blogging and creative copy. Some bloggers and creative entrepreneurs have these trends down, and their content is a great example of what you should model (I say model, not imitate) your own after. Other trends, however, are best left unfollowed. Today, I'm identifying six trends to avoid and how to avoid them.

+ Take it easy with the slang.

Some slang is okay if using it is a part of your distinctive brand voice, but too much of it is icky and unnecessary. There is one blogger whose posts I read occasionally, and this blogger loves to use "fo'" in place of "for." I first noticed it on Twitter and figured this person was using the non-word for the sake of character limits, but "fo'" regularly pops up in blog posts, too.

No hate, but I don't think it adds anything to said blogger's content. If anything, it's distracting and takes away from the value of the post.

Now, if you're writing a book, short story, or other strictly creative work, by all means: use the slang. Maybe it's critical to your character development or appropriate to the time period in which you've set your story. When it comes to slang, consider the nature of the work and use your best judgment as to whether the two can and should fit together.

How to avoid it

Don't be the serial non-word lover. Include the "r" or whatever letter is missing. You should also avoid super industry-specific terms unless your blog/biz is very niche.

+ Do not swear too much.

This sort of piggybacks off of the idea of keeping slang to a minimum. But maybe you love swearing a shit ton. See what I did there? Just like with slang, dropping a cuss word here and there (except for maybe the f-bomb) is acceptable, but don't overdo it. I've seen websites that include "shit" throughout their copy. Even "kickass" in a social media bio isn't very professional.

Would you include these words on your professional résumé? How about in an interview or on a client call? Would you tactfully sprinkle the word "shit" or the phrase "kick ass" into your conversation? No? Then why are you including these words on your website that is essentially your online portfolio?

How to avoid it

Actively censor yourself. If you wouldn't write it on your résumé, don't include it on your "About" page. If you wouldn't include it in an email to a potential client, don't incorporate it into your sales page.

+ Do not write exactly how you talk.

Writing how you speak is a great thing... when you are not doing it literally. Typing out and publishing a stream of consciousness is probably one of the most unprofessional things that you can do in your content writing. Nobody wants to read something that lacks proper punctuation and sounds more like a long text message than a blog post or chunk of copy. Not having a sound grip on your brand voice is an issue, though. Need help? Click here.

How to avoid it

Punctuate, punctuate, punctuate. Use commas (but not comma splices). If the sentence is a question, use a question mark, not a period. Little things like this add up to make a big impact.

+ Do not regularly make careless mistakes.

I mentioned the importance of proofreading in this post, but I cannot stress it enough. The occasional mistake is okay, but if you're running an online business and/or blogging full-time, you need to step it up and edit. I understand that you might be juggling multiple projects or even businesses, but busyness does not excuse carelessness.

If you don't have the time to edit yourself, hire someone to edit for you or find a tool that can help. Posting content riddled with grammatical errors and syntactical inconsistencies is not professional, and I know some of us won't continue to read content written by people who make these mistakes often.

How to avoid it

Take care while you're writing. Sometimes, it's easier to crank out a post, throw in some keywords, and hit publish, so you can move on to the next thing, but easier isn't always better. By all means, crank out a post. But go over it once you've finished. Alternatively, as you write each sentence, make sure that it actually makes sense and lacks obvious errors before you go back over the whole thing.

+ Do not dig yourself into a stylistic hole.

What do I mean by that? You don't eat the same thing for breakfast every day, do you? Then don't start every sentence the same way. Mix up your adjectives, how you introduce a post, how you end a post, etc. Keep it distinctly "you," but don't follow a predetermined formula for every piece of content that you write. 

How to avoid it

Vary your sentence structure. Allow me to introduce you to a good friend of mine: a thesaurus (I'm kind of a walking one, though). You might want to check out this post, too.

+ Write in the correct person.

Typically, blog posts and copy are written in both first and second person. You're writing to a specific group of people, and you want to connect with those people, so that makes sense. You'll want to adjust your perspective depending on the nature of the content you're writing, but first/second person is a good rule of thumb for blog posts and copy.

How to avoid it

In your head, read a paragraph or two that you've written. Does it do what you want it to do? If your goal is to have readers relate to your post, is writing in second person your best option? If you want your post to read more like a manual or guide, does first person work?

See? Six simple steps to more professional content. If you enjoyed this post, or if you like me (get to know me over here), you can subscribe to receive a newsletter on Sunday night and access to my resource library. 

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