It’s not just your chakras that need realigning. Perhaps your commitment to writing good copy does too.
You’ve already drunk your two liters of water. You’ve cleansed your timeline. You’ve taken all the Christmas presents you hate to the charity shop (such a good person). What about resolving to stop making the same old mistakes with your content?
Re-evaluate your writing and apply some self-help guru guidance.
Stop being so passive
“You are responsible for what you say and do. You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it,” says Jen Sincero in her book You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.
Anyone would think people escape life sentences by covering their backs with ‘may’ and ‘have.’ So often passive voice is the go-to out of fear, helping the author (or the brand) to avoid responsibility and blame.
Passive voice makes readers uneasy. What is the writer trying to hide? Rewriting passive copy calls for courage and conviction. Sure, it might demand more research to substantiate, but this is for the better as it allows you to cut all the ‘can’ and ‘could’ clogging up your copy.
How do you know if you’re writing in a passive voice? Apply Josh Bernoff’s Zombie Test: if you can add ‘by zombies’ after the verb and it still make grammatical sense, then it’s passive voice (e.g. ‘Attention must be paid by zombies’).
Commit to scrutinizing stats
“Now that you have a clear new intention, say it aloud throughout the day. When you awake in the morning, set your intention with conviction. As you stay committed to your positive intentions, you’ll begin to experience the energy of the universe supporting you,” says Gabrielle Bernstein in her book, The Universe Has Your Back: How to Feel Safe and Trust Your Life No Matter What.
It’s so easy to whack a stat into an infographic or a report when it handily supports the story we’re telling. But do the numbers really add up?
Content marketing loves stats. Yet it’s important to scrutinize the methodology behind them. What is the source? Is the study sound? What’s the sample size? Is it up to date? 50 opinions from workers pre-Covid do not speak for Britain’s workforce today.
If we’re going to use data to back up our arguments, then it demands integrity.
Clean up your act
“Are you polluting the world or cleaning up the mess? You are responsible for your inner space; nobody else is, just as you are responsible for the planet,” writes Eckhart Tolle in his book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.
How much of your copy could be cut? If what you’re saying is important, then keep it short.
Front-load your writing and grab your reader’s attention. You can fill in the gaps later; fail to be interesting and you won’t get the chance.
Say what you mean, and say it boldly. And consider if you really need to say it in prose; bullets, tables or graphics could be the vehicle to best land the point.
“Authentic communication is the first step to transforming special relationships into holy relationships,” adds Alan Cohen in his book, A Course in Miracles Made Easy: Mastering the Journey from Fear to Love.
Any half-decent content writer knows they need to think of their customer and try to understand how they tick in order to write persuasively. But what do you want your customer to think of you?
The lasting impression is the residue that sticks. Our writing might change the reader (they know something they didn’t before) and it might make them do something (download a report), but how will our writing serve an ongoing relationship? For example, perhaps the lasting impression is one that makes them think of us as credible and trustworthy, so they’ll come back to our content the next time they’re in a bit of bother.
By determining the kind of relationship we want to have with our reader from the outset, we can write in a style far more likely to be effective in getting there.
Let 2022 be the year your content marketing shines. Sure, love yourself, but love your writing too – for all our sakes. Namaste.
Colin Gentry, head of content at Earnest.