Writing 101: The Beginner's Guide to Great Content
Welcome! My name is Nadya, and I will be your guide on today's fun-filled look at writing great content!
Okay, so it's not like you're going on a tour in the Artic Circle or something, but hey, great content is important, too!
We live in a pretty technological age, don’t we? Videos, vlogs, YouTube, lives, blogs, web pages…the list could go on.
While that might make you think there’s very little that’s actually written, the truth is, all of them require some form of written content to start. (Well, if you want it to be any good.) While blogs, web pages, and the like are far more obvious, even a good video should be planned out in advance.
But how do you write great content? Stuff that flows smoothly, is informative, educational, or just plain entertaining?
Sure, a lot of it is down to the writer, but there are hints, tips, and tricks to make sure you’re turning out the best content you can.
So, in no particular order...
Write a Solid Headline
You want a headline that not only catches the eye, but also tells readers what to expect from your post. We’ve all run across clickbait headlines, and if you’re like me, you’re none too pleased about it. So please, for the love of words! Be honest with your readers and be accurate.
Another thing to be aware of is that your headline is where your SEO starts. If you’re not sure what SEO is, drop me a line and I’ll point you in a good direction while I work on writing a post for that. In this case, you want your keyword in the title. It’s not always easy, but it helps people find your posts.
Create Original Content
Do NOT, by all that’s holy, copy and paste your content. Or do that bot made stuff. It will kill your content faster than you can hit Publish.
Google hates that kind of shit and will blacklist you.
Readers hate that shit and will blacklist you.
Go ahead and pick a topic that’s been done before. There’s no idea under the sun that hasn’t been done before, but what’s different is…YOU. Your voice, your take, your understanding, are what will make this post different from the rest.
Don’t use the Same Word too Often
Okay, I’m not talking about things like ‘the’ and ‘and.’ I’m talking about words like ‘advice’ used 2-3 times within a couple paragraphs, or a phrase like ‘going to.’
Repeating words or phrases too often interferes with the flow of the piece. A big thing is to ensure you carefully check over the manuscript before publishing. You can even use Ctrl+F to find words and see how often they appear.
Read it Out Loud
I know, I know, it’s a pain in the ass. Especially if you’ve written something with several hundred words, but if you want to impress someone and you have the time, reading it out loud helps you find a LOT of mistakes. Do I do this all the time? No. But if I want to make sure I’ve gotten the majority of mistakes, I’ll read it out.
I can usually find what’s wrong and figure out how to fix it by using this method. Generally, I’ll read it out loud once I’m on my final round of editing. In the earlier edits, I try to catch all the major mistakes: spelling, grammar, syntax.
Use a Thesaurus
This one isn’t as easy as you might think. If you find yourself breaking Rule #1 a lot, you can pull out the old thesaurus to find another word, but beware!
Just because a word is down as a synonym doesn’t mean it’s a good substitute. All those lovely little words have their own meanings, and they don’t always translate perfectly in their new setting.
Take the word ‘setting’ for example. Go to the thesaurus and you’ll get the words ‘ambience,’ ‘context,’ and ‘framework,’ among others. Do you think they can be substituted for each other without an issue? I don’t think so!
Mix up the Words used to Begin a Sentence
Okay, this one might not seem too bad, but bear with me. Let’s say you’re writing something about yourself, a connection piece. You shouldn’t start too many sentences with the word ‘I.’
It’s boring and repetitive. Instead, If you want to say ‘I love helping people achieve their dreams’ but you’ve started the last two sentences with ‘I,’ it’s time to mix it up! Try saying something more like ‘Helping people achieve their dreams has always been a passion of mine.’
(On the flip side, you can absolutely break this rule at times. It creates emphasis. Yep. Just like the English language, we’re making rules and breaking them. Look at me rebelling. I’m such a badass :P)
This applies to videos and lives as well. Seriously, take a pause and think about what you’re saying. I’ve heard a few people who, when they’re trying to think, constantly say ‘and’ and ‘so’ ALL the time. Just...pause what you’re saying and think. You don’t have to be speaking nonstop. A moment of silence is perfectly fine and vastly preferable to a long, drawn out ‘Sooooo,’ or ‘Um,’ or ‘And.’
Get Another Set of Eyes
That’s right! One of the best things you can do is to get someone else to read your work. After a while, you’re so familiar with the piece that you can’t see the mistakes anymore. A fresh set of eyes can spot things you just can’t see.
This is why authors hire editors. Do you know how often I’ve read my own book? And every time I look at it, I find more mistakes, even though it’s a bit I’ve already gone over a million times.
Seriously. Find a friend. If you can’t do that, hire an editor.
Do Your Homework
While you may be an authority on your subject, there’s always a few little things that can slip through the cracks. Maybe it’s something new you didn’t know about, or something you don’t use but it is relevant. Either way, a little reconnaissance is always in order.
Just don’t forget to put in links. It adds authenticity, helps Google know what the article is about, and it creates trust between you and your audience.
After all, it’s only the petty-minded people who try to hold onto every little thing and pretend it’s all theirs. Be the bigger person and give credit where credit is due.
You’re probably familiar with this one. After all, for small business owners and entrepreneurs, our main selling point is...us.
How can people get to know us unless we’re authentic in everything we do?
I have to admit, it takes a lot of guts to bare yourself like that the first time. You worry that no one will like who you are, or that no one will relate to you.
I’m here to tell you: It doesn’t matter.
There will always be people who don’t like who you are, but there are tons more who will see you and be inspired.
Along the way, you may even find true freedom.
Photos not only break up the monotony of text, but they can be really eye-catching. People tend to be very visual and photos can be just the thing to keep them reading.
Here’s the thing – you want those photos to be relevant to the topic at hand.
One more thing to keep in mind: the best photos are the ones you took yourself. Stock photos are okay, but often too bland, and if your readers see the exact same photo on another site they checked out, well…I’ll leave that to your imagination.
What is considered great can vary from one person to the next. While writing is a skill, it’s also an art. So practice, practice, practice!
Or don’t, and hire someone to do it for you. Whatever.
Now, get out there and make great content!