Reading through a heap of blogs each morning, one thing that stands out is the quality of the writing. Don’t get me wrong, many of them are excellent, but there are some that are well-researched and written by a professional who clearly knows his/her field, yet their writing is flat. It’s like reading an academic paper – very informative and valuable, but a slog, and most of the time I just move on, there’s other content to get through. Some of these posts would be significantly improved if the author noted a few simple changes, language economics, if you will, that can greatly improve the fluidity of your content.
Next time you write a blog post, try applying some of these to your work, test whether they might improve the flow of your piece. These are minor, simple changes that can make a significant difference to your content, and, by extension, it’s reach.
1. Remove all mentions of the word ‘just’. There are, of course, some places where ‘just’ is still necessary, but more often than not, ‘just’ just holds up the sentence flow. When writing a blog post you want to be authoritative, state what you believe. ‘It just won’t work’. ‘It just doesn’t add up’. Anytime you write the word ‘just’, go back and review the sentence and see if it might read better, stronger, without it. If you can say the same thing in fewer words, you should, always. And quite often ‘just’ ends up being just unnecessary.
2. Remove weakening ‘I’ statements. ‘I think…’, ‘I doubt…’ You’re the author of the piece, anything you say is your opinion. There’s really no need to state this again in your article.
‘I think a better way to do things is…’
You have to stand by your words and state them as fact. If you don’t believe they are fact, don’t say them, but if you’ve done your research and you’re making a point, that statement will be more powerful if you take out the self attribution.
‘A better way to do things is…’
Much stronger, that’s a voice readers will pay attention to. ‘I’ statements can be very strong in some contexts, so you shouldn’t remove them wholesale, but it is worth reviewing each to test if the sentence reads stronger without it.
3. Use definitive language. This somewhat reinforces the first two points, but it’s crucial that your statements be definitive when necessary. In my previous job, I remember seeing an e-mail where a salesperson had asked someone from my team whether a job could be done by a certain time. The response the salesperson got was ‘Should be fine.’ ‘Should be fine’ is not good enough – the sales team are dealing with clients, they need to know whether this will or won’t happen, and they shouldn’t have to waste time sending a clarifying e-mail because of this person’s weak response. ‘I think that’s right’ bears significantly different meaning to ‘That’s right’ – the second one gives you the answer, that’s how it is. That person knows what they’re talking about and you can have faith in what they say (so long as they are, in fact, right). You need to be definitive in your language and give clear, authoritative answers. If you’re reviewing your work and you find uncertain statements, clarify them or cut them out.
4. Be mindful of the over-use of adverbs like quickly, rapidly, slowly, etc. Sometimes these are already implied by the surrounding context and only serve to slow up your sentences. ‘He ran quickly’ – well, yeah, he ran, I’d assume he’d do so ‘quickly’. ‘It fell rapidly’. Yeah, gravity’ll do that. Sometimes that secondary adverb is not adding anything to the sentence and can be taken out to better suit the flow of the piece.
5. Try to frame things in the form of questions. This is one that will become more relevant in future, but worth considering now to try and get your head around how it’s going to work. In their most recent algorithm changes, Google made note of the move towards ‘conversational search’ – people speaking their search terms instead of typing them, then using follow-on questions based on the preceding search. When people do this, they won’t phrase things as formally as they would when writing. The functionality of speech based search relies on the text being conversational, how you would speak normally. You should be able to say ‘Where are the best beaches near me?’ and Google should come back with the relevant listings. In future, you’re going to get better search results for your content if you ensure questions like this are built into your blog posts. If you can match likely user questions, you improve your chances of showing up as a relevant item. It can be difficult to do, putting questions in doesn’t always gel with story flow (and the quality of the content should always come first), but keep it in mind. Can you build relevant questions into the piece that will work for both the flow of the content and for future search requirements?
And one other last note – where possible, always let your posts sit for at least twenty-four hours before publishing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something that I thought was brilliant, only to re-read it the next day and be totally deflated. You’ll always find errors and things you want to change if you give yourself some distance from it and clear your head.
These rules are not prescriptive, there are, of course, places where they won’t apply, but it’s worth keeping them in mind as you go, testing your sentence structures and statements and looking for ways to make your work stronger, more bold. Using definitive language will help establish your authority on a topic and make it a more compelling reader experience, improving your content quality and performance overall.
Now read this alternate last sentence and see if you agree:
These rules are not prescriptive, there are, of course, places where they don’t apply, but I think it’s worth keeping them in mind as you go, testing your sentence structures and statements and looking for ways to make your work stronger, more bold. I believe using definitive language can help establish your authority on a topic and make it a more compelling reader experience, improving your content quality and performance overall.
Makes a difference, right?
I’ve had an overwhelming response to some recent articles on Social Media Today looking at SEO and social media best practice and the future of Facebook. There’s been quite a few more visitors to this page because of it (alot more than I’d expected), and I’ve generally kept this page confined to my fiction writing work, but I’m looking to add more social media insights here as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading, will have more info on the ‘Social Media Content and Strategy’ page soon.