Three easy ways to improve your writing today (yes, even for government!)
For those of us working in communications and marketing, writing takes up a significant chunk of our day. Whether it’s a blog, website content, printed collateral, a media release (I could go on!) we need to our content to be clear and engaging to our audience.
The exciting (although at times frustrating) thing about writing is that there’s always something new to learn and always something you can improve on.
At a time when content is being created at a rapid rate and attention spans are shorter than ever, writing remains a core skill for all content marketers. Finding ways to take your writing up a notch without taking up valuable time is critical. Here are a few steps you can take today to improve your content.
Write better headlines
Easy to say, difficult to put into practice for those of us who don’t have a natural knack for writing headlines.
In the first instance, your headline should clearly say what your content is about. But of course headlines also need to draw your reader in so they read your content. You can do this by using power words and using your headline to clearly state the problem you’re solving for your reader.
Power words help to add emotion and punch to your copy. My headline above contains three power words: easy, improve, and yes.
If you get stuck on a headline, or want to check how effective it is, use a digital tool like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to test your headlines and generate new ideas. If you need some power word inspiration, there are lots of articles on the web with lists of power words to use.
Keep it simple
This doesn’t mean dumbing down the language or the message you’re trying to communicate. It means using short sentences and not using unnecessarily long words and jargon in your writing.
You can easily check the level of your writing in Microsoft Word using the readabilty tools. The first score to look at is the Flesch Reading Ease, which measures the length of your words and the length of your sentences. You’ll get a score out of 100, and you generally want to aim for somewhere between 60-70 if your writing is aimed at a fairly general audience.
The second score, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test, is based on the school year level that could understand your content. You want to aim for a score of around 8 for a general audience.
If you prefer to check online, Hemingway App is a great tool that will highlight sections of your work that are difficult to read, and suggest how you can improve your copy.
Always keep your audience top of mind
The first question to ask yourself is are you providing content that your audience wants or needs? There’s no point creating content that doesn’t create value for your audience. It’s even worth considering whether your content is the right length. Recent research has shown that the most consumed length of content is around 300 words. If you find your blogs are getting up to thousands of words, breaking this up into smaller chunks of content, for example multiple blog posts, could be a good idea.
Secondly, speak directly to your audience. Working in government it can be easy to fall into the trap of referring to your department as “the department” in an abstract way. But remember people don’t want to speak to an organisation, they want to speak to a human. So make your content human too. Simple changes like using “you” and “we” and active rather than passive language in your communication go a long way to achieving this goal.
While writing is still a core skill for content marketers, don’t forget the other feathers in the content marketing bow – graphics, audio, video and stills. They might suits your audience’s needs better.
Want more tips on writing? Check out Sophie’s blog on 5 tips for writing an effective piece of content
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