Welcome to Marketing Monday, where I give you tips and tricks for being your own content marketer.
This advice is more for writing in general than content marketing specifically, but I certainly use it for all my blog posts.
My dad is a speed reader. I am not and I have always been intensely jealous of his ability to breeze through a book in a week that takes me a month. As an avid reader with a huge TBR list, I envy his ability to get through piles of books in a few short days.
And yet I refuse to learn how to speed read. Part of it is just laziness. I like the way I read and I don’t really want to change anything about it.
One time a psychologist who specializes in reading told me speed readers don’t really read, they just scan, and I felt vindicated in my slower reading speed. After talking about it with my dad, it turns out he doesn’t sound out the words in his head as he’s reading, whereas I do. It’s something I’m not willing to let go of as a reader and I refuse to let go of as a writer. Here’s why:
You don’t have to be a rapper to know that all language has a rhythm to it. Tones go up and down, some syllables get stressed while others don’t, and using the same or similar consonants repeatedly in a few lines of text can have a certain effect, while deliberately switching up the consonants has a different effect.
Scanning over the letters robs you of that auditory sensation that has always been an inherent part of storytelling, whether it’s done orally or through the written word. Even “hearing” it in your head is better than nothing, but actually saying the words out loud is an even better way to get a sense of the language that’s being used.
As a reader, there are few things more frustrating to me than seeing the same word repeated in small amounts of text, and I don’t mean little words like “the” or “but.” I mean verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. If you can’t think of more than one way to describe something, pull out a thesaurus. I always have one at the ready because it’s one of my most valuable assets as a writer.
I have also found that reading my writing out loud makes me more aware of repeated words. When you’re just scanning, you can absorb the meaning without realizing that the author got lazy with their vocabulary.
The same goes for syllables. I was recently writing something for a client and was about to use a particular word, when I realized it had a “b” and I had used a lot of “b’s” in the previous sentences. So I switched to another word. It’s not a critical change and it didn’t significantly alter the meaning of the post, but it did make it a little bit easier to read.
And easy reading is what content marketing should be all about. You’re clients likely don’t have a lot of time to spend struggling through long blog posts, so the faster you can make it for them, the better.
On Conversational Writing
Conversational-style content is really big right now. Most of my clients use it and some of those who don’t are starting to switch over. Using it makes you seem more relatable – like you’re a person telling a friend about something that can help them, rather than a company trying to sell something. Even though you clearly are a company trying to sell something and most of your readers know it, they still don’t want you to sound like it.
Ideally you should hire a professional editor to look over your work before publishing it, but I understand we can’t all afford such services and many of us are stuck editing our own work.
Because editing your own work is always hard, there are a few rules I follow. The first is to at least sleep on it before coming back to it so you can look it over with fresh eyes. The second is to change the font because that will make you see mistakes and typos you had previously missed because you knew what you meant, so you just scanned it over without looking closely at what you had written.
The final rule is to read it out loud. First of all, that will force you to slow down as you read, which will increase your chances of spotting any typos you may have missed when following the first two rules. It also provides another way of making the content fresh for you because it’s the first time you’re introducing it to an entirely different section of your brain. Finally, reading out loud is especially useful for making yourself aware of any repeated words or syllables you may have inadvertently used. You’ll hear the rhythm of the language, which will make you aware of your content in a completely new way.
Still have questions about content marketing? Let’s chat.