The article was written by: Jenn Hemmingsen - Writers’ Karaoke
Have you ever published a blog post, only to find it was riddled with errors?
Sent an email and later learned that it was missing key information?
Put off launching a newsletter because you’re scared you’ll look like a fool?
You’re not alone.
Writing your own business content can save you lots of time and money, but mistakes send the wrong message to your potential clients and customers. You want to be sure your written communication inspires confidence, not confusion. Luckily there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your written business communication is clear, engaging, and error-free.
- Write too much
- Find the narrative line
- Cut the fat
- Add some sparkle
- Eliminate errors
I’m going to show you how to apply these steps to a blog post, but they can be useful for any style of writing, whether its website copy that perfectly captures the spirit of your new business, a magnetic sales funnel, product descriptions that sparkle, email campaigns that motivate potential customers, or newsletters, or guides and ebooks that inspire.
Let's get started!
Step one: Write too much
The first step to writing good business content is making sure you’ve got plenty of raw material. This is where a lot of new writers tend to get stuck – they agonize over every word before they’re even exactly sure where they’re going. There’s a much easier way to do this.
Don’t worry at first about writing a few perfect sentences – we’ll get to those later. For now, just focus on the ideas you want to be sure to cover. You can do this by writing a formal outline and going back and filling it in, or by just writing down every related thing that comes to mind. The key here is speed. If you get stuck on a certain section, just move on and come back to it later. You’ll find that even those difficult parts flow more easily once you’ve gotten into a groove.
Step Two: Find the narrative line
Now that you’ve got plenty of raw material, it’s time to start sorting and refining. During this step, we’ll go paragraph by paragraph to make sure you’re making your point clearly, avoiding repetition, and adding details that help readers really see what you mean.
If you’ve worked from an outline, your paragraphs are probably already in fairly logical order. But if you’ve written a big stream-of-consciousness blob, now’s the time to go back and highlight the main ideas. Cut and paste so that each of these topic sentences starts a new paragraph and is followed by 2-3 sentences that explain and support that main idea without just repeating what you’ve already said.
Now, check to be sure those paragraphs take your reader through a logical progression – two common structures are time (chronological) or subject (large to small). Once your paragraphs are in order, look to see if anything is missing. Are there gaps in your explanation or places where you stray too far from the main idea? Add and subtract until you’ve got a simple, logical narrative line.
Step Three: Cut the fat
Readers are busy, so take it easy on them by making sure each sentence in your blog post is clear and concise. If you’ve written over your target word count, this step also helps you streamline sentences. Use a scalpel, not an ax.
Look at a single sentence and ask yourself:
- Is it active? Subject, Verb, Object. (ie: “I wrote the blog post”, not “The blog post was written by me.”)
- Am I using precise, clear language, instead of talking around the point?
- Are there words or phrases I can cut without changing the meaning?
Look for words or phrases that take up space without adding valuable information. Cutting even a word or two makes a big difference in readability: Concise sentences drive the reader forward. Clunky, jumbled sentences drag them down.
Step Four: Add some sparkle
Now that you’ve got strong, clear, lean sentences lined up in logical paragraphs, it’s time to add a bit of pizzazz. If you’re writing sales copy or worried about SEO, this is where you’ll layer your keywords and calls to action, too.
Look for opportunities to surprise and delight your reader by using colorful and unusual language. Choose strong verbs over dull, overused verbs (ie: try replacing “go” with something more lively, like sprint, jog, trot, fly, creep, slink, shimmy – or another verb that captures the spirit you’re trying to convey).
Where it fits, add sensory details to help readers visualize your writing. Add colors, textures, sights, sounds or smells.
Use bullet lists, graphics, images and white space (short paragraphs) to give readers a little break.
Read it out loud to be sure sentences flow.
Shoot for especially strong beginnings and endings – of the piece, of each section and each paragraph. End paragraphs and sections on keywords you want to linger in the reader’s attention to take advantage of the natural pause.
Step Five: Proofread
Whew. By now, you should have a blog post you can be proud of. But before you hit publish, there’s one final, critical step.
Set the piece aside for at least a few minutes and come back with fresh eyes to double check your grammar, usage and mechanics. Your credibility is enhanced when you get these details right – and it’s diminished if you don’t.
Does every sentence have correct punctuation? Have you spelled everything correctly? Used the right form of the word (especially tricky ones like your/you’re and there/their/they’re)?
To be sure you’ve covered all the bases, use a proofreading checklist (here’s ours).
About The AuthorJenn Hemmingsen is a writing coach at Writers' Karaoke who helps new entrepreneurs develop confidence and writing skills in a collaborative, supportive environment.