In this fast-paced world, you know what it’s like to be crunched for time. Whether you’re finishing an important project or grabbing a bite to eat, you’re always in a hurry.
Amid the chaos, one thing you can’t rush is content creation. Hurried writing will only lead to sloppy content that doesn’t connect with your readers or stand out in the saturated online environment. Rather than rising above the noise, you’ll only add to the cacophony.
The last thing you want to do is leave your readers feeling like you’ve wasted their time. To truly make an impact, you need to slow down and craft crisp, dynamic content. It starts with cutting unnecessary elements from your writing until you’ve whittled it down to the essentials and enhanced your main ideas. Here are five tricks that will help you cut the noise from your writing:
Don’t pepper needless words throughout your content in an attempt to sound sophisticated; it will only interrupt the reading process. In fact, the worst thing you can do is bury your main idea under a pile of abstract words or meaningless adverbs.
For example, “The editing process is absolutely necessary” is redundant because “necessary” implies absoluteness. The adverb “absolutely” only bogs down the sentence. In small doses, this doesn’t seem like a huge disruption, but imagine if your entire article was full of pointless or redundant words. Your original message would quickly become convoluted.
Your paragraphs should also serve a purpose — to break up your article into digestible pieces. Readers don’t want to sift through gigantic blocks of text, nor do they want to piece together several disjointed paragraphs. Try to find a middle ground to enhance the reading experience.
Nothing makes me check out faster than poor punctuation. I once tried to read “Ulysses,” and it was painful — mostly because the last 50 pages of the book weren’t punctuated. I had to constantly re-read entire pages because I couldn’t follow James Joyce’s narrative, and as a result, I never finished the book.
The point is that if your content is poorly punctuated, it will be hard for any reader to stay interested in what you have to say. What’s more, it will be hard for you to establish yourself as a reliable expert. Brush up on your comma rules, or enlist the help of a professional editor. Trust me: It’s worth it.
Your content needs to undergo its own version of the “test, measure, repeat” cycle. Any content worth reading has gone through at least one revision, and I’m not talking about a quick grammar sweep. You need to analyze every sentence to make sure it communicates exactly what you want it to.
After you compose your first draft, go for a walk. When you return, look at your content with fresh eyes, crack your knuckles, and start editing. One trick that I learned from William Zinsser’s book, “On Writing Well,” was to place brackets around long-winded prose as you edit. Then, go back and condense (or even delete) the bracketed material. You should do this multiple times until your content is impactful and concise.
Whether you’re using the Associated Press Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, or The Yahoo! Style Guide, you need to keep your style consistent. At Influence & Co., we use the AP Stylebook to guide our editorial decisions and clearly outline the areas where we stray from its guidelines. This way, everyone is on the same page.
Certain punctuation rules, such as the Oxford comma, are optional. But that doesn’t give you license to pick and choose when to use it. David Bowman put it best in his book, “Zen Comma”: “What we do sometimes for clarity, we do all the time for consistency.” If you choose to use the Oxford comma, make sure you continue to.
This also applies to your tone. Establishing a reliable tone is crucial to effective writing. The voice you take on can help humanize your brand, make your writing stand out from the crowd, and build trust among your readers. But you need to be consistent. You’ll confuse readers if you begin an article in a sarcastic, humorous tone and end it with grave, austere language.
Your writing should have one thread that ties everything together. Readers shouldn’t struggle to make a connection; it should be a natural process. That’s not to say you have to hold their hands throughout the discussion. Don’t underestimate your readers’ intelligence, but don’t expect them to read your mind, either.
If you’re writing blog content, adding a relevant call to action is a great way to maintain interest and create a seamless feel. It has to relate back to your blog post, though, or readers won’t see it as a natural next step. For example, after reading this post, you might want to download our free whitepaper on tackling content marketing like a pro (which is featured below).
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost interest in an article because I couldn’t sort through its complex language or poor structure, and I guarantee I’m not the only reader who’s suffered from clutter overload. The next time you’re cooking up a great piece of content, don’t bloat it with verbiage. Concise, consistent writing is the key to a compelling piece — period.