When it comes to publishing content, ensuring your style is consistent and your content is well presented is just as important as its quality and relevance. With these content writing tips, find out how you can avoid the most common stylistic pitfalls and produce content that appeals to, and respects, your readers.
The maxim “Content is King” has existed since Bill Gates declared it so two decades ago—and for good reason. Compelling and original content has a way of organically finding its way to the right eyeballs on the internet. On the contrary, if you write stale and boring content, it’s unlikely that even the best SEO and marketing hacks can take your content to the wide readership that needs to see it.
For this reason, most savvy content marketers and brands put a lot of energy into the ideas behind their content. But what many appear to ignore is the style of what they’re publishing. It may seem like things like punctuation, headlines, formatting, and consistency don’t matter, but to use another time-honoured maxim: the devil is in the detail. Would you hire a promising job candidate who showed up to an interview looking sloppy and unkempt? Probably not. So why should someone spend their time reading content that, while substantive, isn’t well-presented or consistent?
As we’ve discussed before on this blog, we live in the era of permission marketing. You don’t succeed by foisting your content in front of your target audience without a care or regard for whether or not they might want to consume it. Paying attention to the style, consistency, and small details of the content you put out is a way of respecting your reader’s (or customer’s) attention and makes it more likely that they’ll grant you permission to market to them again in the future.
Beyond a basic failure to copy-edit and spell-check published content (and c’mon, you’re better than that—right?), here are some of the most common pitfalls in terms of style when it comes to web content - and some content writing tips on how you can avoid them!
How many of them are you guilty of?
So, let’s say you have a point that you really, really want to make. Do you highlight it, put it in all caps, underline it, put it in bold, and add seven exclamation points? Don’t. There are better ways to make your point than putting bells and whistles on it. Use better writing and shorter paragraphs, rather than emphasis in formatting, to underline what you want to say. Don’t overuse exclamation marks, because then they won’t mean anything when they’re actually necessary. Think of using ALL CAPS as the equivalent of shouting on the internet. Once you see it that way, you’ll keep it to a minimum.
- Click-baity headlines
Do you add a catchy and often misleading headline to your blogs in the hope that more people will click on it? If you do, it’s likely you’re losing readers with each click-through. Overpromising in your headline (i.e. “This one SEO hack will increase your internet traffic 50% in hours”) not only makes your content look spammy, but also dis-incentivises readers from clicking again. Be honest and earnest in your headlines. You can still be catchy while being truthful.
- Cutesy Copy
Emojis, LOLs, and gifs all have their place online, but overuse of them can start to feel like you’re covering up a lack of substantial ideas. Using internet slang and visuals can often work best on social media when promoting a piece, but allowing it to seep too much into the meat of your copy is dangerous. If you’re unsure if it works, err on the side of leaving it out—and keep your gif game confined to Twitter.
- Failure to pick a style guide
Does your company capitalise Internet? How about write out percent or leave it as a %? Is startup one word, or hyphenated? If you have multiple people in your company writing copy, you should have a style guide you’re all expected to adhere to. There are plenty you can use: such as the Oxford Guide to Usage, the Guardian Style Guide, or the Times Style Guide. It doesn’t matter which one you pick—but it does matter that you pick one and stick to it. Remember, consistency is key.
- Abusing email shortcuts
Email marketing is a great way to reach your prospects, but adding subject line tricks like “FWD” “RE” or “URGENT” to make it appear as though the email is something your prospect needs to act on is disingenuous. Remember, under the ethos of permission marketing, you are not the one who gets to decide if your email is “urgent”—your recipient is. So don’t abuse their attention and let them decide.
Tip #11: By all means, make your content engaging and interesting—but don’t forget to make it consistent, error-free and respectful of your reader’s time, as well.
If you want to learn more about content creation, how you can get your audience to create your content, and how it can help you to drive interested parties to your website, please see these links below:
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