When it comes to writing, whether it’s for a blog, website or brochure, there are always two sides involved — the reader and writer. As a reader, you want to be entertained or learn something new — perhaps about a new product, a new way of doing something or a different way of looking at the world.
As a writer, it’s your opportunity to captivate, inspire or persuade. Whether your words will hit the glossy pages of a magazine or the vivid screen of an iPad, they are all you have to articulate your message. So before facing that blank page, be sure you have everything you need to write a piece that’s sure to be read, shared, liked or tweeted.
- Choose Your Topic
This may sound pretty basic, but choosing a topic has as much to do with your audience as it does with you. You need to know what your readers are interested in and what challenges or struggles they face that may benefit from information you have. Spend time talking to industry professionals and pick their brains about issues, concerns or trends. Review publications, blogs, forums and websites to see what topics are of interest in the market and what kind of misconceptions might exist. There’s an entire universe of information out there that’s sure to spark an idea.
- Know Your Readers
Consider your audience when coming up with topics. What do they already know and what do they want to know? For example, if there are tons of articles about how to properly maintain your boat, then much of your audience probably read about it at some point and is unlikely to read through another. But take a different approach, such as highlighting a unique process or new product that makes maintenance easier, and you’ve got something that’s going to grab their attention.
- Choose Your Tone
Regardless of what type of content you are writing, you need to know your readers and speak their language. For example, you wouldn’t write an article about engine maintenance with the same tone or vocabulary as a story about choosing the best running shoes. Readers will quickly identify your understanding of their level of expertise and their interests or concerns. Getting to know them is key to gaining credibility. They look to you for an expert’s view on subjects, so it’s important to sound like one.
- Do Your Homework
Unless you are writing an autobiography, you need to do your research. Oftentimes this will take longer than simply writing the piece, but it’s a necessary step if you’re not an expert on the topic. Once again, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips, but hands down, the best way to learn is from the industry experts themselves. They live and breathe their business, making them a wellspring of information. Talk to them. Learn about their business. Do your best to understand. Most people love to talk about their business and their interests so a few questions and a sincere interest will yield a lot of information. Not only is it critical to have a thorough understanding of the topic, familiarization with the right terminology also is imperative.
- KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
I originally heard this phrase used in a completely different context, but it stuck with me and couldn’t be more applicable for writers. As a writer, it’s your job to take complex ideas and turn them into a clear and concise, easy-to-read piece. In fact, you can lose your readers fast if your sentences are wordy, confusing and don’t get to the point quickly. Some topics might naturally be complicated and require a lot of explanation, but in those cases it’s even more critical to keep your sentences as simple as possible.
- Get to Thinking
While it might be easy to get lost in keeping an article clear and concise, don’t forget to incorporate your creativity. Putting your own spin on a subject is what breathes life into a story and is one of the greatest opportunities with writing. If you ever find yourself stuck and unable to really get the creative juices flowing, get up and move — go for a walk or run some errands. Putting yourself in a different environment is a great way to wake up your subconscious and get the ideas going.
- Proofread. Proofread.
No matter how many times you’ve looked over a story you always should hand it off to a fresh set of eyes. It’s so easy to look at words like “and” and see “an” or “form” and see “from.” Your good ole buddy spellcheck isn’t going to have your back on those. Spellcheck also can’t make sure you’re using plural or singular phrases consistently or that the story simply flows well. So proofreading is a must.
Everything with content, whether it’s an application story, blog, brochure or website has two-sides — the reader and the writer. The pieces that are liked, shared and tweeted are those that inspire, teach and persuade. They are the ones that require deep digging and display the perfect blend of preparation, creativity and authenticity.