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  • Should you use AI to write blog posts?

    Writer at desk about to use ai to write blog posts.

    Should you use AI to write blog posts?

    * by Sharon Lapkin

    You’ve probably heard a lot about artificial intelligence (AI) writing since it hit our screens in late 2022. The speedy birth of this emerging technology took a lot of us by surprise. But, as writers, should we be concerned?

    The answer is yes, and no. It depends on the quality of the AI tool you choose and how you use it. Not all AI tools are equal.

    AI-assisted writing can reduce the time you spend creating a blog post by more than 60%. When it’s done, Google will index it and then you can watch it rank!

    Not sure? See my AI-assisted blog post below ranking at #3 in less than a week.

    Girl pointing at screen grab
    Screenshot of Textshop blog post ranking number 3 in Google.

    What is AI writing and how does it work?

    AI writing is the use of artificial intelligence to create written content. These are powerful tools that can help you write draft content quickly and efficiently, without sacrificing quality.

    AI writing tools are designed to understand language, identify patterns in text and generate original content based on your input.

    The process begins with an AI-powered algorithm analysing large amounts of data to learn how humans communicate in natural language. 

    Once it has learned enough about the structure of human speech, it can then be used to generate new sentences from scratch or edit existing ones for improved clarity and accuracy.

    But AI can’t create personalised high-ranking content by itself. What it can do is provide you with a great first draft to refine and optimise.

    For further insight on this read my blog post on how to Unlock the potential of AI blog writing.

    Why all AI writing should be treated as a first draft

    AI writing is still in its infancy and it does make mistakes. This is why the content delivered by AI should always be considered a first draft, and should never be published without a human edit. For this reason, we call it AI-assisted writing.

    Let’s look first at what a quality AI writing tool can do for your business:


    Generate interesting long-form content in minutes.


    Do extensive research.


    Ideation: help you develop ideas and concepts.


    Deliver a good first draft to build on.


    Place keywords throughout the blog post.


    Help your business rank on Google.


    Save both time and money.

    Now let’s look at some of the errors AI is known to make and the problems that can arise if a human isn’t editing, personalising and optimising your draft AI content:


    Sentences can be too long. 


    Repetition – sometimes you find words and phrases repeated over and over.


    Plagiarism – some AI tools copy text from other sources instead of synthesising and rewriting content.


    Text is inappropriately placed.


    Keywords are inserted in text too many times or too few.


    The AI tool misunderstands the brief you prepared for it.


    Your text reads like a robot wrote it and lacks a human touch.

    Should AI be your new writing partner?

    When it comes to creating great blog posts, AI writing tools can be a powerful ally.

    An AI writer can quickly generate a first draft that you can then polish into content that’s engaging and informative.

    By partnering with an AI tool, you can save time and effort while producing quality results.

    The first step in using an AI writing tool is to choose the right one for your needs. There are many different types of AIs available on the market today, so take time to do your research before making a decision.

    Once you’ve chosen the best option for your project, it’s time to get started.

    To get the most out of your AI collaboration, set clear goals about the type of content you want to create.

    Think about who will be reading your post and what topics they would find interesting or useful. This will help guide the direction of your post, as well as give you ideas for keywords and phrases to optimise SEO performance.

    Research your own longtail keyword

    Research your keyword before you brief the AI tool. I enjoy doing my own SEO research and finding a high search, low-density keyword that I know will rank high on Google!

    TIP: Mangools KWFinder is my keyword tool of choice. It’s simple to use, economical and tracks your keyword progress.

    The role of SEO in AI blog writing.

    AI is good for business

    By leveraging machine learning algorithms, AI can generate dozens of articles in a fraction of the time it would take a human writer working alone.

    This makes AI ideal for businesses looking to expand their reach through content marketing campaigns, or anyone who requires written material on a short deadline.

    AI writing tools offer greater flexibility than traditional methods because they allow users to customise their output according to specific needs or preferences. These include target demographics and the desired tone of voice for that audience. Specific style guidelines can also provide guidance and this translates to more tailored results each time.

    Overall, AI writing offers many advantages over manual approaches when it comes to creating written content efficiently. When you use AI to write blog posts, you combine its enormous capacity with your own skills to produce superior content that ends up on Google’s top pages.

    Should you use AI to write blog posts? A huge yes!  

    Let’s learn more about the best AI writing tool on the market, but first we’ll take a look at what Google has said about AI writing .

    Does Google penalise AI writing?

    The appropriate use of AI writing is not against Google Guidelines.

    According to Google, ‘AI can assist with and generate useful content in exciting new ways.’

    So, if you create AI content that’s useful, original and of a high standard, it will be indexed and ranked by Google in the same way as quality content created by human writers.

    AI content won’t give you a head start in the rankings. From Google’s perspective it’s ‘just content’ that will rank if it’s good and sink if it’s not.

    The criteria Google Search uses to assess any content published online is E-E-A-T, which translates to expertise, experience, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

    How to find the best AI writing tool

    Like most people interested in AI writing, I looked around and tested a few different AI tools. Then I found Content at Scale, a subscription-based paid platform.

    Within days, I’d subscribed and was bowled over by the quality of its output. Finding an AI writing tool that focuses on content marketing will help me immeasurably in my own business, Textshop. 

    Content at Scale’s features include a natural language processing engine that can generate text from scratch, and an intuitive user-interface that makes it easy to write great copy.

    It also has advanced editing capabilities, allowing you to fine-tune your post with just a few clicks. You can add images or videos directly into your post, as well as formatting options like bolding or italicising words.

    Plus, Content at Scale offers real-time feedback on grammar and spelling mistakes, so you don’t have to worry about making errors when publishing your work online.

    If you need help finding the right keywords, this SEO-savy AI writer also makes suggestions for ideal keywords.

    Social media bonuses

    Content at Scale integrates seamlessly with popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This makes it easier than ever to share content.

    Simply copy interesting pieces of text from your blog posts and recycle them for social media posts. The tables and infographics you create for your blog posts can also be reused in social media.

    It’s a bonus when you use AI to write blog posts because it leaves you with more time and extra content for other platforms in your content marketing campaigns.

    Infographic on Tips for preparing your AI blog post for publishing
    Blog posts currently generated by AI will need editing and refining by a human writer or editor.

    How to manage AI in the blog-writing process

    Use headings and subheadings throughout your post so readers know where they are in terms of topic progression. Break up long paragraphs into shorter ones, add images or videos when appropriate and include relevant links within text.

    These steps will ensure readers have a pleasant experience while consuming your content – which should always be top priority.

    Most importantly, edit and fact check the content that AI delivers. Rewrite any text that isn’t up to scratch. If your AI tool writes in US English and you’re writing for Australians, then you’ll need to change analyze to analyse, behavior to behaviour and many other US spellings. 

    When you use AI to write blog posts, you should run the first draft through a plagiarism detector. Some AIs will have this service included. If they don’t, Copyscape is always a good idea.

    Make sure everything looks good before hitting ‘publish’ so no one has any reason not to read through all of your hard work.

    By taking advantage of all these tips – plus whatever else works best for you personally – collaborating with an AI writing tool can result in amazing blog posts every single time.

    So why wait? Start leveraging artificial intelligence today and watch how much faster (and better) blogging becomes from here on out.

    By leveraging AI technology to write great blog posts, you can ensure that your content marketing efforts are efficient and effective.

    With the help of AI writing, you can take your content marketing strategy to the next level.

    Boost your content marketing with AI writing

    AI writing tools will revolutionise the way content marketers create and publish blog posts.

    If you use AI to write blog posts and then polish and perfect the content it delivers, you’ll be a long way ahead on both your time and your budget.

    Using an AI writer will also help you rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). It does this by analysing data from past successful articles, then using that information to craft content with relevant text. This ensures your post is more likely to appear at the top of SERP rankings when someone searches for a topic related to yours. 

    Meeting industry standards

    An AI writing tool makes sure all your blog posts meet industry standards in terms of grammar and punctuation, while keeping them interesting enough for readers not to get bored halfway through reading them.

    It achieves this by scanning every sentence written against a set of rules based on best practices used by professional writers around the world. This gives you peace of mind knowing that everything published under your name is accurate and error free.

    Do a plagiarism check on all AI content

    I mentioned plagiarism already, but it deserves a closer look because copying is a problem with a number of AI writers.

    Plagiarism occurs because AI writers scan the internet looking for text that matches the brief supplied to them. Then they condense the text they find, amalgamate it, paraphrase, summarise and repurpose it.

    This process should produce original text, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. AI makes mistakes, sometimes big blunders.

    So, when you run the AI-generated copy through a plagiarism detector, such as Copyscape, you’ll likely find phrases and sentences that need to be rewritten because they’ve been copied 100% from another source by the AI writer.

    Over time AI will fix this fault. But for now, human intervention is required.

    Rank higher in Google with help from AI

    Optimise your content with SEO

    When it comes to ranking higher in Google, optimising your content for search engine optimisation (SEO) is key.

    AI writing tools can help you do this by analysing the keywords and phrases that are most likely to be used when people search for topics related to your blog post.

    Additionally, these tools can suggest alternative words or phrases that could make your content even more relevant and engaging.

    If you prefer to do your own keyword research, simply type your keyword into the AI tool and it will place your keyword throughout the blog post in appropriate places.

    Reach a wider audience with AI

    In addition to optimising your content for SEO purposes, using an AI writing tool can also help you reach a wider audience online.

    The AI tool uses algorithms to analyse data from social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, allowing them to identify trends in user behaviour and determine which topics are currently popular among users.

    They then recommend topics based on this information so that you can create content that appeals directly to the interests of potential readers. This ensures more people see and engage with your blog posts, increasing their visibility online.

    Watch Julia McCoy write a blog post using three different AI tools

    Content at Scale, 10 February 2023. YouTube. Step-by-step: Write a long-form blog post with AI (ChatGPT, Jasper and Content at Scale).


    AI is already playing an active role in our lives.

    In 2021, Whole Foods Market launched Amazon’s  ‘Just Walk Out’ technology in two of its stores.

    So you shop like normal and then skip the checkout and Just Walk Out. All it takes is a simple scan of your credit card when you enter.

    And, of course, we all know about Tesla, Siri and Alexa. AI is integrated more into our lives every day. And, yes, we’ll use AI to write blog posts!

    AI writing is here to stay and it can be a great tool for content marketers, small business owners and large businesses alike.

    With the help of AI writing tools, such as Content at Scale, you can partner with AI to write great blog posts together that will boost your content marketing efforts and help you rank higher in Google.

    So if you’re looking for ways to improve your SEO blog posts, why not give AI-assisted writing a try? It’s time to use AI to write blog posts!

    • Note: I haven’t been paid to promote Content at Scale. It’s simply my favourite AI writing tool right now. But that could change next week!

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

  • Content marketing theory: the secrets of success

    Content marketing theory banner

    Content marketing theory: the secrets of success

    ∞ By Sharon Lapkin

    Content marketing theory is the foundation of any successful digital presence.

    That’s a big claim, isn’t it? But read on and you’ll see why this is so.

    From small businesses to large corporations, content marketing can help create brand awareness, and drive traffic to your website and social media platforms.

    But what exactly does this type of marketing involve? And how do you measure success?

    In this blog post, we’ll explore these topics as well as delve into the benefits, types and challenges associated with content marketing theory.

    We’ll also take a look at where content marketing is heading in the future so you can make sure your business stays ahead of the curve.

    What is content marketing?

    Let’s start by examining  content marketing theory.

    At its core, content marketing is a form of online marketing that focuses on creating and publishing purposeful, related content to engage and retain a specific audience. Businesses use it to build relationships with their customers, increase brand awareness, generate leads and drive sales.

    Content marketing theory with computer on desk that read blog posts videos ebooks webinars.

    Content marketing can include blog posts, videos, podcasts, ebooks and webinars. Essentially, any type of media that helps your target audience learn more about your business is a content marketing tool.

    It’s all about providing helpful information to your readers in order to educate them about the products or services you offer.

    By doing this,  you create trust between yourself and potential customers.

     This makes it easier for them to make informed and confident decisions about purchasing from you.

    When done correctly, content marketing can be super-effective at driving traffic to your website, as well as increasing conversions.

    It also has the added benefit of improving  search engine optimisation (SEO) rankings, since search engines favour websites with high-quality content that’s regularly updated.

    Measuring success

    Successful content marketers calculate their success using metrics. They measure things like page views, podcast episodes and video views, and how much time spent on a page.

    The click through rate (CTR), bounce rate, cost per lead (CPL), and cost per acquisition (CPA) are also measured by serious content marketers.

    These metrics help track how a particular piece of content is performing, including whether it generates leads or boosts engagement. This allows marketers to adjust their strategy for future campaigns, if needed.

    Challenges and opportunities

    Content creation isn’t always easy. Coming up with new ideas that will engage readers while staying true to your brand’s message can be challenging.

    There are also many different types of platforms where businesses need to create quality original material such as blog posts, infographics, videos and podcasts. This can make it difficult for smaller businesses that don’t have the budget to employ a writer who’ll produce original content. 

    Line of people

    On the other hand, larger companies may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data available online. This makes it difficult for them to decide what type of material they should focus on producing first.

    Despite these challenges, there are still plenty of opportunities to create good content marketing. For example, creating educational pieces around topics related to product offerings could result in increased customer loyalty, higher conversion rates and better return on investment (ROI).

    Leveraging social media networks like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube also helps brands to reach wider audiences. It gives them the opportunity to spread the word further and faster than traditional methods would allow.

    Content marketing is a powerful tool. It helps businesses reach their target audience, increase brand awareness and build customer loyalty.

    To maximise the benefits, it’s important to understand content marketing theory and how it can be used effectively.

    Key takeaway

    Market stall demonstrating content marketing theory

    Content marketing can be an effective way to drive traffic and conversions while building relationships with customers.

    It requires a well-thought-out strategy that involves measuring success, overcoming challenges, and leveraging opportunities.

    Benefits of content marketing

    As we’ve seen, content marketing is a powerful tool  that can help to boost visibility, engage customers and improve SEO rankings.

    Increased visibility

    Content marketing will increase the visibility of your business by providing valuable information that potential customers are looking for.

    By creating content that’s relevant and engaging, you’ll attract more visitors to your website. This increased exposure will lead to more leads and conversions over time.

    Better customer engagement

    Content marketing also helps build relationships with existing customers by providing them with helpful resources such as blog posts, white papers, ebooks and other materials.

    This type of engagement allows you to connect with your audience on a deeper level. It will increase loyalty and trust in your brand.

    Improved SEO rankings

    Quality content plays an important role in improving SEO.

    Search engines look for websites that provide useful information about topics related to what people are searching for online.

    By producing quality and relevant content regularly, you’ll be able to rank higher in search results. This will result in more organic traffic coming to your website from Google.

    Measurable results

    With the right tools at hand, it’s possible to measure the success of any given piece of content through analytical data.

    This data can be generated from sources such as page views or clicks per post or page. Then marketers make informed decisions about optimising their campaigns, based on actual performance rather than guesswork alone.

    Challenges and opportunities

    Despite its advantages, there are still some challenges associated with content marketing.

    These include finding enough time and resources for content creation, as well as staying up-to-date with trends in specific industries so your message remains relevant.

    On the flip side, this opens up opportunities. You can partner with influencers who already have established audiences or use automation software solutions like Hootsuite, which allow users schedule posts ahead of time.

    The future of content marketing is exciting. Technological advances increase our capacity to create high-quality content faster than ever before.

    Automation tools, AI-powered voice recognition systems and virtual reality applications are all presenting new possibilities. This makes it easier to reach target audiences that may have previously been inaccessible.

    Understanding content marketing theory, along with the different types can help you maximise these benefits.

    Key takeaway

    Market stall demonstrating content marketing theory

    Content marketing is a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes, helping to increase visibility, engage customers and improve SEO rankings.

    Challenges include finding enough time and resources for content creation and staying up-to-date on trends. Opportunities such as influencer partnerships or automation tools can help.

    Types of content marketing

    Content marketing is an effective way to reach your target audience and build relationships with them. It involves creating content that provides value to the reader, such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, and more.

    Blog posts

    Blogging is one of the most popular forms of content marketing. Blogs can be used to share industry news or provide helpful tips for readers.

    Blogs are also great for building relationships with customers by providing valuable information about a company’s products or services.


    Videos are becoming increasingly popular in content marketing strategies due to their ability to engage viewers quickly and effectively. They can be used to explain complex topics in a simple way or showcase new products or services in exciting ways.


    Podcasts are another great way to connect with your audience on a deeper level than traditional text-based content.

    They allow you to discuss topics related to your business while engaging listeners through storytelling techniques and interactive conversations.


    Infographics have become incredibly popular over the past few years due to their ability to convey complex information quickly and easily through visuals including charts, graphs, tables and illustrations.

    They can also help break up long blocks of text, which makes them ideal for sharing on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

    Ebooks and white papers

    Ebooks and white papers offer readers comprehensive guides on specific topics. They can relate directly (or indirectly) to your product or service offerings.

    These types of pieces typically require more research, but they often result in higher engagement rates from readers who find them useful. Readers are likely to use them when making decisions about what products or services they should purchase from you (or not).

    Social media content

    Social media has become one of the most powerful tools available to create awareness around any given topic – including your business.

    Creating custom graphics specifically designed for each platform will help ensure people remember your business when they need something related to your services or products.

    Live streaming video content has been gaining traction recently. This is due largely to its potential for increasing engagement levels between brands and consumers. With interactions happening in real time during live events and broadcasts, they’re a powerful marketing tool.

    Social media tends to work best when combined with other elements such as influencer collaborations and giveaways, so make sure to keep those things in mind if you’re looking to get maximum impact out of this type of material.

    Content marketing comes in many forms and shapes, from creating visual content to writing blog posts.

    To ensure your success, it’s important to understand the different types of content marketing available and create a strategy that works for you.

    Let’s look at how to create an effective content strategy in the next section.

    Key takeaway

    Market stall demonstrating content marketing theory

    Content marketing is an effective way to reach and build relationships with your target audience.

    It involves creating valuable content such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, ebooks, white papers and social media content. Live streaming video can also help increase engagement between brands and consumers.

    Creating a content strategy

    Content strategy is at the heart of content marketing theory. It’s essential for any business that wants to get the most out of their marketing efforts.

    Have an overarching plan in place to ensure your content will be effective in reaching your audience. Here are some tips on how to create an effective content strategy.

    1. Identify goals and objectives

    Before creating a content strategy, it’s important to identify what you want to achieve with your content. Are you looking to increase brand awareness? Generate leads? Drive more sales? Knowing this ahead of time will help guide the rest of your planning process.

    2. Understand your audience

    Once you’ve defined your goals, take some time to research who exactly it is that you’re trying to reach with your message.

    Who are they? What are their pain points? What do they want to achieve?

    Answering these questions will help you decide what type of content and channels to use to best reach your target audience.

    3. Choose content types and channels

    Now comes the fun part of content marketing theory. Now that you know your audience better, you need to decide what types of content and channels will work best to reach them.

    Consider everything from blog posts, videos, podcasts, case studies, white papers and more. Determine which type will achieve the result you’re after, and which will align with your goals and objectives.

    4. Develop content ideas and a calendar

    Now that all the elements have been identified (goals + target audience + types), start brainstorming ideas around topics. Relate these directly to the areas mentioned above. But don’t forget to consider industry trends  and newsworthy items in your content choices.

    Last but not least – measure success. Set up tracking mechanisms such as Google Analytics or social media insights dashboards. This will enable you to gauge progress against the benchmarks you’ve set.

    Having a well-thought-out content strategy is essential to achieving success in content marketing. Remember that by measuring the success of your content, you can further refine and optimise your approach.

    Key takeaway

    Market stall demonstrating content marketing theory

    Creating an effective content strategy requires understanding your goals, audience and the types of content that work best for reaching them.

    Plan ahead with ideas, channels and tracking mechanisms to maximise ROI and achieve your business goals.

    Measuring success

    Measuring success in content marketing is essential for any business. Knowing what’s working and what isn’t can help you adjust your strategy for bigger wins.

    Here are some of the key metrics to track when measuring the outcomes of your content marketing efforts.

    Website traffic

    Website traffic is one of the most important metrics to track when it comes to content marketing.

    It gives you an indication of how many people are engaging with your content, and this helps determine whether it’s resonating with your target audience.

    You can measure website traffic by tracking page views, unique visitors, time spent on a page and bounce rate.


    Conversions refer to any action taken by a user that leads them further down the sales funnel.

    This could be anything from signing up for an email list, downloading a white paper or committing to a product trial through your website.

    Tracking conversions will give you insight into how effective your content is at driving sales and generating revenue for your business.

    Social media engagement

    Woman at her computer with coffee.

    Social media engagement refers to likes, shares, comments and other interactions that users have with your posts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    Tracking these metrics will give you an idea of how much reach each post has had, and whether users like it enough to share it with their own networks.

    Lead generation and quality leads

    Lead generation refers to attracting potential customers to become interested in learning more about what you offer. This is done through contact forms or surveys filled out on landing pages. 

    Quality leads refer to those who have shown genuine interest in becoming customers. They’ve interacted with specific pieces of content related directly to your product or service.

    Measuring both lead generation and quality leads will help ensure that all generated leads are qualified prospects who may eventually become paying customers.

    SEO improves the chances of content appearing higher in Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs). This drives organic traffic to your website and can be measured by Google Analytics.

    Measuring success is an essential part of content marketing theory. Understanding the metrics associated with it informs decision-making and promotes business growth.

    Now let’s look at some of the challenges and opportunities that come with content marketing.

    Key takeaway

    Market stall demonstrating content marketing theory

    Measuring success in content marketing requires tracking key metrics such as website traffic, conversions, social media engagement, lead generation and quality leads, and SEO.

    Challenges and opportunities

    One of the biggest challenges faced by businesses when it comes to content marketing is creating good content.

    Quality content should be engaging, informative and relevant to your target audience. It’s important to know who you’re writing for and what kind of topics they find interesting or useful.

    To create high-quality content, you must have a good understanding of your target audience, their needs and interests. 

    Another content marketing challenge faced by businesses is finding the time and resources to create high quality content consistently.

    Content creation requires research, planning, writing (or outsourcing), as well as editing and publishing processes that can take a lot of time.

    Fortunately, there are tools available to streamline these processes. Project management software and automated workflow systems can reduce the time spent on these tasks.

    Artificial intelligence (AI), such as Copy at Scale, can generate a 2,500-word blog post in less than 10 minutes. And while it will require editing and optimising before it can be published, the total time required to produce a blog post is easily cut in half.


    Measuring success accurately is also a challenge that businesses often face with content marketing. 

    This involves tracking metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement levels and conversions from different channels over time. It’s important to make certain that all metrics are accurate.

    Look for the most reliable tools to measure your content marking efforts. 

    Man running with laptop and pencil.

    Don’t rely on spreadsheets and manual comparisons when technology can provide more immediate and accurate ways to measure your marketing efforts.

    Remember, facing challenges and capitalising on opportunities are key components of a successful content marketing strategy.

    As we look to the future of content marketing theory, it’s fundamental to consider how these dynamics will continue to shape our approach.

    Key takeaway

    Market stall demonstrating content marketing theory

    Content marketing requires quality content, time and resources to create it consistently and provide an accurate measurement of success.

    Key elements are: research, planning, writing outsourcing, editing, publishing processes, project management software, automated workflow systems, tracking metrics and analytics tools.

    The future of content marketing

    AI and automation

    Content marketing is increasingly being automated, due to the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

    With AI-powered tools like chatbots, marketers can now automate customer service tasks such as answering FAQs and providing product information.

    AI also helps with content creation by automating the generation of personalised content for customers based on their preferences.

    This allows marketers to create more targeted campaigns that reach the right people at the right time.

    As we already discussed, AI is now generating text-based content for blogs. This will make content marketing more accessible and affordable to individual traders and small businesses.


    Personalisation has become a key trend in content marketing, allowing brands to tailor their messages to individual customers or segments of customers.

    By leveraging data about each customer’s interests and behaviours, brands can create highly customised experiences that make them feel valued and connected to the brand.

    For example, a clothing retailer might send out emails featuring items tailored specifically to each customer’s style preferences or past purchases.

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    Visual content

    Visual content is an increasingly important part of content marketing strategies.

    From videos and infographics to GIFs and images, visual elements help capture attention quickly while conveying complex ideas in an easy-to-understand format.

     It’s essential that businesses incorporate visuals into their marketing. Consumers want more than pages of dense text; they want to be entertained with infographics, images, videos and more.

    Influencer marketing

    Influencer marketing has become one of the most popular strategies for reaching target audiences online in recent years This stems largely from its ability to tap into large networks of engaged followers who trust what influencers have to say about products or services they promote.

    Brands can leverage these relationships by partnering with influencers who share similar values or aesthetics, as well as those whose audience aligns with their own target market.

    This type of partnership often results in higher engagement rates compared to traditional advertising methods since it feels less intrusive and more authentic.

    Key takeaway

    Market stall demonstrating content marketing theory

    Content marketing is becoming increasingly automated and personalised through AI technology, visual content and influencer partnerships.

    As a result, content marketing theory has evolved and certain types, such as blog writing, are more affordable and accessible through AI.

    FAQs in relation to content marketing theory

    1. Quality content

    Creating content that is informative, engaging and relevant to your target audience. This should be done with a clear purpose in mind such as driving conversions or building brand awareness.

    2. Strategic distribution

    Knowing where and how to distribute your content so it reaches the right people at the right time. This could include social media, email campaigns and  SEO optimisation.

    3. Analytical measurement

    Measuring success by tracking website traffic, leads generated and sales made from content efforts.

    4. Consistency and frequency

    Developing a consistent schedule for creating new content and distributing it regularly across all channels. The aim is to keep users engaged over time and build trust with them through familiarity with your brand’s voice.

    5. Focus on quality

    Content should be well-written, informative and engaging to readers.

    6. Understand your audience

    Know who you are writing for and tailor your content accordingly.

    7. Be consistent

    Post regularly and consistently to keep readers engaged with your brand or message.

    8. Promote your content

    Utilise social media platforms, email campaigns, SEO tactics and other methods of promotion to get your content seen by the right people at the right time.

    9. Measure results

    Track key performance indicators such as website traffic, leads generated and conversions in order to measure the success of your content marketing efforts over time.

    10. Define your target audience

    Identify who you want to reach with your content and tailor it accordingly.

    11. Research your topics

    Gather data, insights and ideas that will help inform the content you create.

    12. Create engaging content

    Develop high-quality content that’s interesting, informative and relevant to your target audience.

    Watch this video to see how you can work across all your channels in 2023

    Exposure Ninja 2023. How content marketing works in 2023.

    13. Measure performance and optimise

    Track key metrics such as page views, time on site and bounce rate, in order to identify areas for improvement in future content pieces or campaigns.

    14. Repurpose and reuse content

    Maximise the value of each piece of content by repurposing it into different formats or reusing existing material in new ways. For example, use an infographic from a blog post on social media.

    15. Analyse results and refine strategy

    Review performance metrics regularly and adjust strategy based on what works best for achieving desired results.

    16. The AIDA Model

    This model focuses on the customer journey from awareness to interest, desire and action. It emphasises creating an emotional connection with customers through persuasive content that will lead them to take action.

    17. The 4Ps of marketing

    Product, Price, Place and Promotion are the four Ps of marketing. They help marketers create effective strategies for their products or services by focusing on each element separately.

    18. Customer segmentation

    This theory involves dividing customers into different groups based on demographics, interests and behaviours in order to target specific audiences more effectively with tailored messages and offers.

    19. Brand positioning

    This strategy helps businesses differentiate themselves from competitors by communicating a unique value proposition that resonates with their target audience’s needs and wants.

    20. Relationship marketing

    This theory focuses on building strong relationships with customers by providing them with a personalised experience and creating an emotional connection through content, customer service and loyalty programs.


    Content marketing theory is an ever-evolving field, and the opportunities for success are endless. With a clear strategy, the right tools and a bit of creativity you can create content that engages your audience and helps you reach your goals.

    It isn’t just about creating content; it’s about understanding how to use content effectively in order to get results. As technology continues to evolve, so too does the potential for content marketing success. This is an exciting time for marketers everywhere.

    Do you want to create content that will drive engagement and generate leads? Textshop Content is here to help!

    We specialise in crafting blog posts that inform, educate and entertain your target audience. Our experienced writers are ready to craft compelling content tailored specifically for your business needs.

    Contact us today and let’s start creating your success.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

    Everybody's talking about content marketing

    ✩ Head for the expert ✩
  • How to write in a conversational tone

    Woman at table working on her writing

    How to write in a conversational tone

    ✼ By Sharon Lapkin

    With so much content flooding the internet, it can be difficult to stand out. The last thing you want is for the lovely blog post you put your heart and soul into to end up on the 1,567th page in a Google search.

    Not only that, but as writers, we want to feel good about creating original and engaging content.

    One of the biggest problems with most business content out there is that it sounds like it was written by a robot.

    Content that looks like it’s been churned out by a machine over and over again is a huge turn off to readers.

    Woman at desk yearning for a conversational tone of writing

    Achieving the human touch

    Do you know what you have as a writer? It’s the human touch, and that’s what people want to read!

    Using a conversational tone in your writing is a great way to have a creative edge over your competitors. It allows you to build an authentic connection with your readers because they feel like they’re reading something you’ve written directly to them.

    Research shows that 31% of advertisements are emotion-based, and Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman found through his research that 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious.

    Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be because this research isn’t new. Scientists have been telling us for years that emotions play an important role in decision-making. Despite this, we continue to write stiff formal business content. White papers, annual reports and blog posts that put readers to sleep.

    People want to read genuine content that engages them on multiple levels. 

    So, if you’re looking to improve your content writing game and take your readers on a journey, it’s time to perfect your conversational tone.

    Let’s go over what tone of voice is and how to use it.

    What is tone of voice?

    To start, we need to understand what tone of voice is when it comes to writing. According to Merriam-Webster, the formal definition for tone of voice is ‘the way a person is speaking to someone’.

    Pretty simple definition, right? Well, not exactly. While this definition is helpful, tone of voice is a different beast when it comes to writing. When it comes to marketing or business writing, it’s the way you express to your audience how you feel about your brand and how they should feel. It’s how you establish a connection and the tone you choose is going to stick with your brand.

    Essentially, tone of voice is the theme you’ve chosen for the content you’re writing. Choosing the appropriate tone for your audience will help you build a strong relationship with them. It will also show them there is a living, breathing human behind the writing, which is what the people want to see!

    Tone of voice examples

    Now that we know what tone of voice is, let’s look at some examples. We’re going to focus on a conversational tone, but before we dive in a crash course on the various types of tone can help you decide which is right for you.

    Infographic of woman considering different tones of voice in writing

    Formal tone

    A formal tone is what you’ll find in a research paper or scholarly article. It’s authoritative, but can come across as complex and dry.

    Think about your textbooks in school. This tone emphasises facts and avoids any contractions, making it very wordy.

    When it comes to marketing, it’s wise to avoid a formal tone as people tend to scroll right past it looking for something more palatable.

    Here are examples of formal tone phrases:

    ●  According to the data, a formal tone is not the best option for writing marketing     content.  

    ●  They will not be attending the concert this evening.

    Informal tone

    As you may have guessed, an informal tone is going to be the exact opposite of a formal tone. When you’re writing in this tone, it should be expressive and sound like you’re talking to a friend. You can use contractions and short sentences, instead of long drawn-out factual paragraphs. It’s short, sweet and to the point. Here are two examples of informal tone:

    ●  Hi! How are you?

    ●  We’ve got A LOT of work to do!

    We’ve been taught throughout our education that this type of writing is a no-no, but in marketing and business writing, it can be your best friend.

    Optimistic tone

    You can combine an optimistic tone with formal or informal writing to convey a positive outlook. In marketing, you are typically looking for positivity. It’s not often you want gloom and doom surrounding your brand! When you’re trying to be optimistic try to use phrases such as:

    ●  We’re hopeful for the future of our business!

    ●  Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

    Assertive tone

    Using an assertive tone conveys confidence and authority without being aggressive. It’s best used when you’re trying to persuade your customers to invest in your brand. No funny business here! Some examples of an assertive tone are:

    ●  You don’t want to miss this stellar offer, buy now to save!

    ●  Be the success you were meant to be.

    Conversational tone

    Now, to go over what we all came here for. A conversational tone is an incredible skill in writing. It’s not writing how you speak, but writing in a way that makes your readers feel as if the content is personalised for them.

    Don’t be afraid to have fun with it, and break out of the mould of traditional writing. It’s a relaxed and direct way of writing that will help to build your brand.

    Man at desk writing in a conversational tone

    Before we show you the ropes, here are some examples:

    ●  Hey, how’s it going?

    ●  We have LOTS of new products for you!

    Benefits of using a conversational tone

    When you write in a formal tone, it can sound stuffy and uninviting to your readers.

    Nobody wants to buy products or services from the formally dressed person with the corner office anymore. They want realness and to know they’re supporting a real person.

    It also allows you to be creative and establish your brand. Writing conversationally will make your message stronger and more memorable. It will also:

    ●  help you connect with your audience

    ●  show your personality

    ●  humanise your brand

    ●  give your audience a human character to relate to.

    How many times have you been shopping for something online, and you resonate with a brand because you can put a face and/or name to the product?

    This is exactly what a conversational tone will do for you.

    Customers and clients want to feel like they’re supporting a friend or family member when they engage with content, and that could be you!

    Here are some of the big benefits to using a conversational tone.

    You'll earn their trust

    Did you know there is a psychology behind copywriting? Everything is intentional! The easier something is to read, the more likely they are to believe it. This happens totally subconsciously, so the reader doesn’t realise it’s happening.

    Think about a time you’ve been researching something online and an article was filled with industry-specific jargon or big long words. Did you retain any of the information or continue reading the article? Probably not.

    It's inclusive

    A crucial element of conversational tone is writing in simple language. We don’t mean ‘dumbing it down’, but writing in simple words you’d use while going out for coffee. Nobody wants to be trying to decode a university thesis when they’re just trying to buy a pair of shoes online. When you write in a complex manner, it can make people who don’t understand the words feel alienated.

    A conversational tone helps with SEO

    This is a big one.

    A conversational tone is going to use words and phrases that your audience uses. When it comes to SEO, these are keywords.

    The more your content uses popular keywords among your audience, the more likely it is that your content will show up in search results.

    Tips for writing in conversational tone

    Alright, now we know how important using a conversational tone is, so it’s time to get started! We have some tips for you that should pave the way to you being a conversational tone expert before you know it.

    Conversational tone infographic

    Use active voice

    When you’re writing in a conversational tone, using active voice is key. Active voice is when the subject is performing the action. You should be able to clearly identify the subject in the sentence. Using passive voice can make your content sound vague and confusing when you want to sound confident in your product! Here is a simple example of active vs. passive voice:

    Active voice – The cat is eating its food.

    Passive voice – The food was eaten by the cat.

    Now, this is a very simple example, but you get the idea. When you’re writing, you can take this and make it more complex. If you have a sentence that’s written in passive voice, you can always change it to active voice.

    Understanding the difference will help you identify passive voice and save you time in the long run.

    Use sensory language

    Using sensory language is a crucial part of writing in a conversational tone. Simply put, sensory language uses the five senses to enhance your writing and make it more engaging. Combine this with a conversational tone and you’ve got the perfect recipe for writing that will draw your readers in!

    The types of sensory words you might use to help achieve a conversational tone might include freckled (sight), abrasive (touch), splash (hearing), citrus (smell) or tangy (taste).

    We’re big believers in the use of sensory language to create the right conversational tone for your business. We even wrote a comprehensive blog post about it.

    Check it out here!

    Utilise short and choppy sentences

    A well-thought-out long sentence can be a beautiful thing in writing. But! When we’re writing conversationally, short and simple ones win the race. You don’t want your readers getting bored while you envision yourself as the next great novelist. They’re probably reading your content on their phone trying to get a quick answer, so help them out!

    Contractions and interactions are your BFF

    You were probably taught to avoid contractions, but embrace them in a conversational tone. Try to use contractions such as you’ll, don’t and aren’t. Contractions also spice up your writing. Write Yay! Woohoo, or oh no! and help your readers feel at ease.

    Address your reader

    Hey, you! Yeah, I’m talking to you! Let your reader know you are acknowledging their existence by addressing them directly. Ask them questions and write as if it’s a personal letter. This draws people in and will keep them reading.

    Want to know more about conversational tone? Watch this video.

    Source: Dr Claire Lynch, 20 June 2019. The factors that affect tone of voice. YouTube.

    Final thoughts

    And there you have it. You’re going to be a pro at conversational tone in no time. It’s an invaluable skill to have a as a writer, and your readers are surely going to appreciate it.

    Here’s more if you’d like to keep reading. To find out more about conversational writing, wander over to Our complete guide to conversational writing.

    Want to put some punch into your writing? Check out How to make your writing stronger.

    If you’re after some good hints on writing blog posts, you might enjoy How to write a smashing blog post.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

  • The power of sensory language in business writing

    The power of sensory language in business writing

    ✻ by sharon lapkin

    Is there really a place for sensory language in business writing? The answer is a super-spicy, king-size yes and here are seven reasons you should be using it. 


    Sensory language provides vivid detailed imagery.


    Research shows that the brain processes sensory language faster.


    Readers can touch, feel, taste, hear and smell your words.


    It injects personality and animation into your writing.


    Your writing is stronger and more powerful.


    Sensory language helps you captivate your audience.


    It taps into readers’ emotions and engages them on multiple levels.

    What is sensory language?

    Sensory language uses the five senses – touch, sight, sound, smell and taste – to describe objects and experiences. The information collected by your five senses helps your nervous system interpret what’s happening around you.

    Sensory words are usually descriptive (adjectives) and they’re related to emotions and feelings. 

    When you read sensory words, you feel as if you’re in the scenario being described by the writer. Walking through fresh green grass, for example, might evoke feelings of positivity and emotions such as joy and happiness. Whereas, sitting alone in an empty railway station evokes feelings of negativity and emotions like sadness.

    On the other hand, when you read about ‘walking through the grass’ or ‘sitting in a railway station,’ the bland language doesn’t evoke any feelings or emotions. It’s lifeless.

    Why does fresh language engage you more? How come you feel as if you’ve been transported into the photo on the right when you read about walking through fresh green grass? Let me explain.

    Walking through the grass and thinking of sensory language to describe it.

    What your brain does when you read sensory language

    When you read sensory words and phrases your brain processes them differently to non-sensory words. Your nervous system sends messages to your brain, which creates mental images that engage you on multiple emotional levels.

    Let’s say you read a book that’s so engaging you can’t put it down, or a magazine article that makes you angry. Chances are these stories are sprinkled with sensory language that’s making you respond emotionally.

    What we know for sure is that instead of processing the text for meaning, readers actually experience sensory language on one or more emotional levels.

    Infographic - 4 ways to improve your sensory writing

    How to use sensory language in business writing

    Including sensory language in business writing is a skill that comes with practice. Usually, it’s a combination of conversational or semiformal writing plus sensory writing that engages your readers.

    For example, on a web page where you’re writing about a new process, you might begin the discussion with a semiformal tone, then employ sensory language to describe a specific action. Perhaps you’ll even add in a sensory metaphor for variety and detail. Finally, when you summarise the topic you switch back to a semiformal business tone. Ultimately, you end up with a captivated audience because you brought the writing to life for your readers, instead of just ‘telling’ them about it.

    Narration, which uses commentary to convey a story or a concept, can be enriched by sensory language.

    You can transform a case study, a sequence of events, a descriptive narrative, as well as copywriting. Persuasive and informational writing are also more powerful when sensory words are included in the writing.

    Man up ladder writing sensory language on noticeboard

    Following is a brief list of sensory words to use in your business writing. For a more extensive list check out my Complete guide to conversational writing or click on the button below the list here for a complete PDF copy.

    Examples of sensory words














































    Get your complete list of sensory words here

    Start schmoozing with your clients today.

    The golden rule: show not tell

    ‘Show not tell,’ is a rule in fiction writing that new authors often struggle with. When you ‘tell’ your readers what’s happening, it doesn’t engage them. But when you ‘show’ them, the story comes to life.

    Anton Chekhov was inadvertently describing the show not tell rule when he wrote ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

    But let’s be realistic. While you can’t use the show not tell technique all the time in business writing, it’s great for adding depth and flair. And even better if you can achieve a sassy balance between showing and telling.

    To sum up, sensory language is an essential component of ‘showing’ and it makes your writing realistic, immediate and engaging. But you’ll still need to do some ‘telling’ to communicate key messages, instructional copy and more formal types of business writing.


    Tell: Sally was afraid to apply for the role when she saw the queue of applicants.

    Show: Sally trembled and put her job application back in her sachet when she saw the long queue of well-dressed people.

    Tell: With our new online platform, you can go straight to the page and type your comment.

    Show: We’ve created a bright and colourful online platform and we’d love to see you log in and leave a comment about our updated system.

    Watch this video to learn more about the show not tell technique

    Diane Callahan – Quotidian Writer (2020). How to show, not tell: The complete writing guide.

    Use strong verbs

    Are you wondering what a strong verb is? It’s when we use a stronger, more powerful, version of a basic verb. So instead of writing ‘run’, you’d write charge, race, dash or hurtle.

    Instead of ‘write’ you would record, jot, note, scrawl or take notes. And you’d write scrutinise, examine, peruse or scan instead of ‘read’.

    Once you get into the habit of using strong verbs, it’s easy – or, should I say, straightforward and breezy.

    Use a synonym finder to find powerful replacements for basic verbs. My favourite is WordHippo. It never fails to present me with interesting alternatives.


    Basic: He ran towards the door.

    Strong: He dashed towards the door.

    Basic: I’d wanted to visit the building since I read about it in a magazine.

    Strong: I’d longed to visit the building since I read about it in a magazine.

    Squash those adverbs

    Not all adverbs need to be squashed – only the pesky ones ending in ‘ly’. Okay, that’s most of them. The truth is adverbs such as beautifully, lightly, wearily and firmly weaken your writing.

    For example, look at the sentence ‘He lightly wiped his desk.’ Take the adverb out and your sentence is stronger and clearer.

    Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, detested adverbs. In fact, he used only 80 ly words per 10,000 words in his novels. Look at the masterful sentences below from The Old Man and the Sea.

    ‘Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.’

    EXAMPLES: ADVERBS for the scrapheap

    The CEO angrily described the problem.

    I’m certainly going to get one of those.

    The applicant was waiting anxiously by the door.

    Use metaphors to create vivid images

    Sensory language is perfect for writing metaphors and you may not notice how often you already do it.

    Hands typing on a laptop

    Having a heated debate and the sweet smell of success are both sensory metaphors. 

    Avoid metaphors that are so overused they’ve turned into cliches. The words were music to his ears, is a good example of a copypasta keyword. Instead, put your brain to work and create original metaphors. Your readers will thank you.


    She worked until every sentence felt like silk.

    Let’s write fresh tight copy that’s effortless to read.

    Talk about a super-spicy, sassy blog post!

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    When not to use sensory language in your writing

    Be careful where you write sensory language in serious, formal content. In these contexts, it can come across as out of tune and inappropriate. 

    Also make sure you use realistic sensory language. Using descriptive phrases that depict aliens or ancient history are probably a bad idea. Keep it familiar and inside your readers’ comfort zones, and analyse their likely reactions to what you’re writing, not your own feelings.

    Use sensory language in business writing when you want your readers to imagine a scene, description, image or action. It’s a sure way to captivate them. Take care to use positive words when you want to create a bright, happy scenario. You might be surprised by the negative emotions triggered by hurried words. 

    For example, nervous can also mean excited. Break can mean both unexpected good luck and taking a rest. Clean, light and clear are ambiguous words that can undo good writing.

    The takeaway? Keep an eye on the words you use and the emotional reactions they can generate.

    What the research says about sensory writing

    In 2019, Leonie Rocek wrote her thesis around the question: Are customers  influenced by sensory descriptions on food menus in restaurants?

    It turned out that customers are influenced in a positive way by sensory descriptions of the food on offer. But it doesn’t stop there. Emotions also play a significant role.

    Man in cafe reading sensory language in menu

    Customers enjoyed the whole restaurant experience more, and they expressed a desire to return in the future. In addition, they perceived the food to be more valuable and of a higher quality.

    What we can garner from this research is that readers trust information more when it engages their senses.

    the brain lights up when processing sensory words

    In another study, researchers found that sensory words are processed faster than non-sensory words. And a year later, more research published in the Brain and Language journal suggested that ‘conceptual processing is grounded in sensory systems.’ That a specific part of the brain lights up when processing sentences that include sensory metaphors.

    *A metaphor likens one thing to another, and describes it in a way that isn’t literally true. For example, ‘drowning in a sea of grief,’ and Shakespeare’s ‘All the world’s a stage, and men and women merely players.’ We discuss the power of metaphors  in sensory writing earlier in this post.

    The takeaway

    I hope you’ll include sensory language in your business writing. When it appears on the page at the right moment, it can impact your readers and clients in powerful ways.

    The most important takeaway here is to publish original and authentic writing. Nobody wants to read fluffernutter sentences they’ve read a zillion times before. But they do want to grab a coffee, snuggle up and read inspiring original content. And you’ve got that. Right?

     Publish exceptional content and it will win you new readers and clients all day long.

    One more thing ...

    Did you know that 2.5x more people use search engines than any other platform? 

     Unlike social media, your website is real estate you own. So if you’re ranking high enough in Google, you have tremendous opportunities to get in front of masses of people. 

    I built the Textshop brand with high-ranking blog posts, and you can do it too.

    Gold stars in a pattern

    Take this blog post, for example: Does my business need a blog? It’s ranking #6 – so not quite #1, but way up there on page one for the keyword I used. 

    How to write a smashing blog post is ranking #1. That’s right, the top of Google!

    I even had a featured snippet on this post for several months (prime Google real estate).

    Now for a blog post I loved writing: How to make your writing more powerful. It’s ranking #4 on Google – so I might update this post to give it a better chance of reaching #1. (Yes, you can update blog posts and not be penalised.)

    Clearly, you don’t need to be a big company to rank highly in Google.

    If I could get Textshop there, you can get your brand up there too!

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

    You might also enjoy

  • A complete guide to conversational writing

    Girl using laptop to do conversational writing.

    A complete guide to conversational writing

    ✻ By Sharon Lapkin

    How many times have you opened a marketing email or started to read a blog post and glazed over?

    Dense, over-complicated writing is a turn-off. And when you have to wade through it for work, what do you do? Yawn? Run? Put it aside for later?

    Dreary, tepid content that reads like it was written by a robot will damage the longevity of your brand. 

    On the other hand, you could deliver bright, warm, on-brand content that makes your readers want to hang around and schmooze.

    Let me show you how!

    What is conversational writing style?

    Conversational writing is a unique style of writing that breaks those grammar rules you learnt at high school. Sentences might commence with ‘And’ or ‘But’ and you’ll collide midway through a paragraph with ‘ouch’ or ‘drat’.

    It’s fun and friendly. It’s also powerful. You can use conversational writing to connect with people on a deeply personal level. 

    Dry or overly complicated content is a one-way ticket to be scrolled past and forgotten forever. But smooth effortless-to-read writing will keep your readers reading.

    Conversational writing is the way of the future for marketing materials such as email, newsletters, websites and blogs. This is the type of content businesses are using to generate leads and create loyal customers.

    Row of people standing with arms in the air

    The point is to make every single person feel like you’re giving them special attention so they keep coming back. You want your readers to feel like you know them – and, if you’ve researched your niche brand, you do know them. 

    Plus, if you’re generating well-researched, informative content, they’re likely to share it with others.

    One of the best parts of conversational writing is that once you get the hang of it, it can be a really easy style to generate original content every time. It is, however, difficult to master at first. You’ve got to shake the thought of your high school teachers drilling into you that you need to write like the next great novelist.

    What isn't conversational writing

    It can be easy to presume a conversational writing style would be as easy as typing how you’d text your friends.

    That is NOT what we’re going for. Developing a conversational tone in your writing means creating simple, easy-to-understand content.

    Couple on laptop and mobile phone doing conversational writing

    If you were to write the way you speak, though, it could be confusing for readers who don’t know you.

    The idea is to create a style of writing that makes the reader feel like you’re addressing them directly. Think of it as getting a virtual cup of coffee with them, not addressing a crowd at a sold-out concert.

    Another thing to note is that a conversational writing style is not a one-size-fits-all.

    There’s a time and a place.

    For example, you wouldn’t put liver puns in an article about fatty liver disease. But you would put puns in a newsletter about cat sweaters. This is why conversational writing is such a valuable skill to have.

    Tips for conversational writing

    If you’re ready to develop your own conversational writing style, follow these tips and experiment and practise until you feel ready to share your work. 

    Infographic on tips for conversational writing

    Use simple words

    Conversational writing should be simple. There’s no need to whip out your thesaurus and find unique words for your content. It’s not that you’re ‘dumbing down’ the writing – you’re making it palatable for every reader.

    If you’re writing about a complex topic, such as software, think about the readers. They are likely not going to be experts on the subject, which is why they’ve come to you for answers.

    Using data to back up your facts is important, but simplify the wording for everyone to be able to understand. Adding graphs, tables and illustrations to support your writing on more complex concepts is always a good idea.

    Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re writing about microgreens and you find this definition:

    Microgreens are vegetable greens harvested just after the cotyledon leaves have developed.

     You could rewrite this conversationally as:

    Microgreens are the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs.

     It may not look like much of a difference, but the reader will likely not know what a cotyledon is. You may go on to explain it later, but this is a good place to start to simplify the wording.

    Sunshine fresh

    Smooth, warm conversational writing

    Keep it concise

    Employ user-friendly words and keep sentences and paragraphs short. Nobody hopped online to read lengthy paragraphs to get to the bottom of why their left foot is itchy. Here are two rules to keep in mind:

    1. Sentences should be a maximum of 28 words long.

    2. Paragraphs should be a maximum of 90 words.

    When you look at the numbers, 51% of low-scoring texts have paragraphs that are way too long. The second that readers see a solid block of text, they’ve likely decided to move on. While you’re writing, you can check your word counts to make sure you’re staying in your lane. If you’re having trouble being too wordy, practise writing sentences and removing unnecessary words. This paragraph is about 75 words long; getting bored yet? They should be shorter.

    As for sentences, chop ‘em up! Forget what you learned about proper sentence structure in high school. Keep. It. Simple!

    Use contractions and interjections

    Another great way to work on your conversational writing style is to use contractions. So write isn’t instead of ‘is not’ and didn’t instead of ‘did not’.

    This makes writing sound more casual as if you’re talking directly to your readers.

    When you start using contractions in your writing, you’ll see how it it relaxes the conversational  tone.

    Man pointing to emphasise doing conversational writing correctly

     Interjections are part of natural speech (oops, yikes, bravo) and they’re used to convey emotion and breathe a sense of humanness into writing. Used well they can elevate writing and add interest, but take care to use them sparingly to avoid overkill.

    Ask your readers questions

    One of the best ways to engage your reader is to ask them questions.

    When you’re reading something and the writer asks you a question, it makes you think doesn’t it?

    A question is a great way to get your readers to engage and remember the information from your content.

    It’s also an excellent way to get engagement on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

    Use the right conversational pitch

    When creating a conversational writing style, you should develop your own conversational pitch. That’s part of the fun! It’s also going to make your content memorable and stand out among competitors. It will, of course, depend on your circumstances, but being able to add in tidbits about your personal experience can create a lively connection with your audience.

    If your business needs to appeal to more than one type of client, you may need to wear multiple hats when it comes to tone. But persevere because working out the conversational pitch that a particular group of clients is most comfortable with is a must-do task.

    While creating your personality in conversational writing, don’t be afraid to add in some pizazz. You can throw in interjections like yay! or ouch! to make your content come alive. Feel free to also get WILD and start sentences with those conjunctions and and but that we discussed earlier. You won’t get an F on your English paper for that here.

    Sprinkle sensory language

    Sensory language uses words related to our five senses to add emotion to writing. While sensory words may not sound like a good fit for business writing, the payoffs can be huge.

    Decades ago, American Nobel Laureate Scientist Herbet Simon observed that “In order to have anything like a complete theory of rationality, we have to understand what role emotion plays in it.” The role of emotion in business decision-making remains a much-discussed topic today.

    The Harvard Business Review, for example, has been publishing articles on emotional intelligence for years. And while there’s no formula yet that determines how human decision-making happens, we can garner enough from the science to know that sensory language will influence the way people feel about your products or services.

    Now that we’ve got the science out of the way, let’s look at the categories of sensory language we can use to influence customers and generate leads.

    We can use visual, tactile and auditory words, as well as words that describe taste and smell. We can also put words that depict motion to good use. Sensory words shouldn’t be over-sprinkled, however. Use them strategically for the greatest impact.


    * Click on the categories below to see examples of sensory words.

    Dazzling, shiny, bright, sparkly, sparkling, tight, gloomy, grin-worthy, glint, glimmer, glow, shine, glossy, vibrant, glitter, knotty, murky, polished, wildly, animated, bulky, delicate, frail, wrinkled, grassy, gloomy, feeble, beefy, crinkled

    Razor-sharp, tight, smouldering, faded,  hollow, knife-like, watery, tangle, briny, damp, oily, squelch, slimy, fluffy, rough, smooth, hairy, sticky, chilled, gritty, velvety, soft, creamy, rounded, lukewarm, spiky, boiling, tender, sizzling, tepid

    Thundering, softly, gently, thumping, crashing, tingling, squeaky, piercing, whoosh, squeal, clump, boom, sploosh, crunchy, ear-splitting, roaring, faint, muted, buzz, whine, unspoken, tinkle, deafening, gurgle, squawk, hum, crackle

    Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, super-spicy, juicy, cucumber cool, crisp, stinky, bite-sized, piece of cake, garden fresh, freshly baked, overpowering, biting, tangy, lemony, minty, sharp, zesty, gooey, deliciously, wildly, intense, fruity, pungent

    Pungent, bitter, perfumed, scented, aroma, aromatic, sniff, odour, billowy, biting, faint, wispy, rich, misty, fishy, lemony, tangy, tart, citrusy, earthy, smoky, pine, flowery, lilac, mouldy, musty, rancid, stagnant, stench, gaseous, sharp, briny

    Stirring, dart, progress, flow, rapid, gradual, steady, slowly, gradual, slight, sudden, stubbornly, vibrating, mind-boggling, bumpy, stamp out, twirl, swirl, whirl, wriggle, soaring, paralysed, eye-popping, motionless, fleeting, zipping

    Sensory words are power words! 

    They engage your reader on deep levels and create a strong emotional connection. Take this example from chocolate maker Green & Black. Sensory words such as crunchy and soft don’t refer to taste, but to touch and sound. Now that’s powerful!

    A creative way to include sensory language in your writing is to insert it into metaphors. This can be evocative and moving, but must be used sparingly to have real impact.

    Metaphors compare two things that are different to suggest an image, likeness or analogy between them. 

    Simple examples of business metaphors are:

    Taking it to a new level and Growing a business.

    Literary metaphors can have an emotional impact on readers, such as:

    ‘My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.’ – John Green, Fault in our Stars.

    ‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.’ – Pablo Picasso

    If you’re interested in using metaphors in your conversational writing, be original and quirky. They have much greater impact when they haven’t been read before.

    Use active voice

    Try to use active voice in conversational writing whenever you can. So, instead of writing ‘The house was sold by the real estate agent,’ write ‘The real estate agent sold the house.’

    In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action on the action’s target. The passive voice is usually clunky and indirect. Avoid using passive constructions and enliven your sentences with active voice. It’s bright, lively and more direct.

    Active voice also enlightens your conversational pitch.

     Google prefers active voice and, if you’re looking to rank, and it’s more aligned with the way people speak. If you’re new at writing in an active voice, just practise until it feels natural.

    Use informal SEO keywords

    When researching keywords to optimise content for search engines, we analyse ‘reader intent’. So we put ourselves into readers’ shoes and try to predict what they’re going to type into the search engine. 

    This is great news for conversational writers because the best ranking keywords are often informal, casual and even slang. People favour a conversational voice when they type queries into Google.

    As I write this (and remember SEO is constantly evolving) 900 people each month are typing the longtail keyword ‘How to do SEO,’ into Google. But only 10 of them are typing in ‘How to understand SEO.’ It tells us everything, doesn’t it? Conversational language is how readers actually think, themselves.

    Check: Are you telling a good story?

    We use stories to understand and find meaning throughout our lives. If the story isn’t complete, we often ponder the ending in our heads.

    There are tremendous benefits in having a story to tell in business writing. Prospective clients are known to make decisions based on the emotional impact they’re experiencing while listening to, or reading, a story. 

    Cassie Gillette, writing for Semrush’s 2022 Global Report, predicts that storytelling in content marketing will be key in 2022–23. ‘If you’re going to work on one skill this year,’ she wrote, ‘work on being a better storyteller’.

    You can use a storytelling structure for any type of business writing, providing the format works with the three components that make a good story – characters, conflict and resolution.

    Hubspot discusses how to elevate your brand and connect with your audience through storytelling in this free download.

    Dazzling conversational copy

    Finely crafted and delivered to your inbox

    Read it out loud

    Wondering if your writing actually sounds conversational, or  if you’ve got the tone right? 

    Have an open mic for yourself and read it out loud! 

    Try reading your content aloud and recording it. Listen to see if it has a conversational flow to it, and if you enjoy hearing it. Another tip for reading out loud is to see where you pause to take a breath.

    A good rule of thumb is that if there is a pause, you should break it into two sentences. This is going to do wonders if you struggle with being super-wordy when you write.

    Watch this video from Kaleigh Moore on how to write conversationally.

    The bottom line

    To sum up, conversational writing is a necessary skill if you want to break through the tsunami of mediocre content on the internet.

    It’s a powerful tool in marketing that will help you stand out among competitors.

    People want personality to shine through when they’re reading content online. They appreciate shiny original text that hasn’t been seen a zillion times before. Sensory language will also add pizzazz, but don’t overdo it.

    Warm, human words they trust because you know them already, as well as what they’re looking for. Be a creative conversational writer, an original thinker with a warm-hearted tone and aim to both educate and entertain your audience.

    Before you leave

    Want to put some punch in your writing? Check out How to make your writing stronger.

    Looking to improve your content marketing writing? You’ll enjoy How to be a good content writer.

    For tips on writing awesome blog posts, see How to write a smashing blog post.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

  • Does my business need a blog?

    Smiling man with laptop asking 'Does my business need a blog?'

    Does my business need a blog?

    ✻ By Sharon Lapkin

    It’s almost impossible to run a business in 2022 without an online presence of some kind. Currently, there are about 12–24 million ecommerce sites around the world.

    With those numbers, businesses can expect a hefty amount of competition no matter their market. So, what’s a business owner got to do to stick out? One way to stand out is to start a blog.

    If you’re asking yourself, ‘Does my business need a blog?’ the answer is almost always yes.

    No, we’re not talking about a website resembling the online journal you kept as a teenager. Those days of blogging are long gone, and a blog now is defined as a regularly updated web page that fulfils personal or business needs.

    Blogging is one of the most powerful tools a business owner today can utilise to generate organic website traffic, which you can turn into sales.

    Still on the fence? Let’s look at some of the top benefits of a blog and continue to answer that question: Does my business need a blog? 

    You'll stand out among your competitors

    To start, you’ve probably researched your competition already.

    No matter your line of business, there are at least a few other websites selling a similar product.

    Companies that have a blog will get 55% more visitors to their page than a business without one. It should be a no-brainer that this type of traffic can ultimately lead to more sales.

    Customers searching online are more likely to choose a brand with more information on their website, than one with only a simple product description.

    A blog will also keep them reading and on your page for a longer amount of time.

    Blogging connects you to your customers

    The term ‘customer experience’ has replaced ‘customer service’ in the world of online business.

    If you’re unfamiliar with it, the term customer experience is all-encompassing of every single step in the process of a sale.

    It starts the second they find your website in a search engine and carries on until well after they have the product. Blogging is an essential part of the customer experience, and we’ll tell you why.

    If you answered the question ‘Does my business need a blog’ with a yes, then you’re opening a dialogue with customers. Including a comment section at the bottom allows people to engage with your post and you can directly reply to them.

    Pairing this tactic with other forms of social media creates a personal connection that is likely to create a loyal customer base.

    Does your blog post have all the right ingredients?

    That's where we can help

    Blogs improve SEO rankings

    Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is crucial for online marketing.

    SEO is the practice of optimising your website pages to make them rank in high positions in search results.

    Businesses do this in a blog by incorporating high-ranking keywords. Search engines pick up on the keywords of an optimised blog and will show them in results.

    For example, if your website is selling probiotic drinks, you may want to have blogs that have keywords such as ‘best probiotic drinks’ throughout the content so Google picks it up.

    Think about any time you’ve searched for something online. You most likely typed in a high-ranking keyword without even realising it!

    Another way to rank higher in searches is inbound links. Inbound links are links on other blogs and websites that bring traffic to your page.

    Laptop and magnifying glass reflecting the question: Does my business need a blog?

    Companies that blog will have around 97% more inbound links. That link right there is an inbound link to another website. You’re welcome!

    When your blog shows up as a resource link on another web page, it shows credibility. Search engines will pick up on that and know your website has what it takes to be shown in search results.

    Having a blog is a great way to increase your credibility with informative, well-researched content for others to use.

    Not only will this be useful for SEO, but it also shows your customer base that you’ve taken the time to research relevant content for your product.

    Knowing they can visit your website for related information will keep them coming back.

    Having a blog contributes to the longevity of your brand

    A blog is a valuable marketing tool, especially if you combine it with a content marketing strategy.

    To create a long-life business blog with its own community of readers, you need to do the following:

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Develop a content marketing strategy and make sure you use it.

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Always optimise each blog post for Google. Without SEO, Google will assign your post to the backwaters and only the very determined will find it.

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Remember this. Your blog posts need more than text. Think bullet lists, tables, videos, infographics and photos.

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Update your blog posts every so often. Add updated statistics, images and links. When you’re done, submit the blog post for indexing through your Google Search Console.

    How I updated my blog post and ranked #1 in a week

    Let me share something with you.

    My blog post ‘How to write an awesome blog post’ wasn’t ranking on Google.

    I’d put a lot of work into this post and knew it was good. So how could I get more people to read it? How could I get it to rank more highly in the search engine pages?

    It’s never a good idea to change the title of a blog post when you update it because it will cause broken links wherever it’s been posted. But this post wasn’t an oldie, and I was confident I could update the title in the places I’d posted it.

    I did a new keyword research for a niche longtail keyword. I wanted a keyword with a density under 40. Above 40 is notoriously difficult to rank for. I needed a narrowly focused longtail keyword that I could work with.

    I found the keyword I was looking for and this is what I did next:


    Changed the blog post title to How to write a smashing blog post, to include my longtail keyword.


    Update the numbered list of headings that runs throughout blog post. Why? Because Google has a preference for bullet lists when selecting featured snippets.


    Worked through the blog inserting my new keyword into paragraphs, headings and alt text on my images. 


    Proofread the blog post and submitted it to Google Search Console for indexing.

    Guess what happened next? My blog post shot straight into Google’s stratosphere! 

    Within one week, my updated blog post was ranking #1 on Google for my new keyword, AND  it was the new featured snippet!

    And here it is! How to write a smashing blog post on prime Google real estate.

    You can’t buy this authoritative space at the top of page one. All paid advertising and top ranked articles are pushed down the page.

    Example featured snippet for 'Does my business need a blog?'

    Blogs create content for other social media platforms

    When you have a new blog, what better place to promote it than your social media accounts?

    If you’ve hired a social media manager, they can create content around the blog post to encourage viewers to read it.

    Other content, such as videos to accompany the blog, can be created including interviews, instructional videos or whatever will relate to your blog content.

    The blog itself is something your followers can share on their own social media platforms, which will increase your visibility organically.

    Blogging will generate new leads

    How many times have you been searching for something, ended up on an informative blog that resulted in you signing up for their email list or free trial?

    If you liked the free trial, you most likely went back and purchased the product, right? This strategy totally works, and it’s referred to as lead generation.

    Lead generation is the process of generating consumer interest for a product or service with the goal of turning that interest into a sale.

    That free trial will most likely turn into a permanent subscription if enough interest was gained from your blog, just like that free trial you bought months ago.

    Once your blog is gaining a substantial amount of traffic, it’s a powerful marketing tool.

    Your posts should consistently have a call to action, which will generate all of those precious leads.

    The call to action should, of course, be related to your products and get them to sign up for a trial, or other freebies to get email addresses and other contact information.

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    Yes, yes, your business needs a blog

    To sum up our question: Does my business need a blog? Yes, yes it does.

    The benefits of generating SEO blog content are endless. Even if your website isn’t flooded with traffic overnight, consistently producing high-ranking blog content is never going to hurt your business.

    You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write a compelling blog. Well-researched information in simple language will work.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

  • How to edit an annual report

    One hand on a calculator and the other on a keyboard

    How to edit an annual report

    ✻ By Sharon Lapkin

    Will you edit an annual report this year?

    If the answer is yes, hold on because I’m about to share some guidelines and pointers that will help you do a great job.

    After copyediting and proofreading annual reports for years, I developed a simple checklist process that picks up often-missed errors.

    I can’t wait to tell you about it.

    Annual reports should be easy to read

    If you’ve worked on an annual report, you’ll know that multiple writers are involved in creating content.

    These writers can be subject matter experts, content writers and in-house staff, and each one of them has a distinct writing style and tone of voice.

    As an editor, one of your jobs is to pull all of these different styles and voices into one writing style with a single voice.

    If done well, this uniformity helps increase clarity, consistency and ease of reading.

    It's raining acronyms and abbreviations

    Woman flying through letters of the alphabet trying to work out how to edit an annual report.

    One of the challenges when you edit an annual report is managing acronyms and abbreviations.

    When multiple  writers are working on a report, they can insert the same acronyms and

    abbreviations that have already been added by their colleagues. This creates problems because there’s no one writer managing the long and short versions of the same acronym or abbreviation.

    Readers then stumble upon the short forms (e.g. PHN) and don’t  know what they mean.

    If there’s no glossary, they have to search back through the pages to locate the first time the acronym was expanded. 

    Frustrating right?

    Let me show you how I manage this problem when I edit an annual report.

    I keep a notepad on hand and, as I edit, I list every abbreviation and acronym in the report.

    After I’ve completed the edit, I use the ‘Search’ function in Word (or PDF) to locate and check that every acronym and abbreviation is written out in full in the first instance.

    Then I do the reverse, and search for the written-out forms and convert these to abbreviations and acronyms.

    Remember that the acronym or abbreviation following the written-out form should be enclosed in brackets on the first instance only.

    For example: Sustainable Responsible Investment (SRI). From that point on use the acronym or abbreviation only.

    TIP: When searching for a group of words in the search function bar, place double quotation marks around the entire group of words. For example: “Key Performance Indicators”.

    The all-important question

    How often should I write out the acronym or abbreviation (e.g. Investment Committee (IC)) so readers know what it means?

    There are two ways to approach this question.

    First, if there’s a glossary in the annual report add all the acronyms and abbreviations to it. Then write the acronym or abbreviation out in full the first time only.

    For example: The new Chair of the Investment Committee (IC) was previously a member of the IC. 

    Second, if there’s no glossary – and I strongly advise you to suggest one be included for reading ease – write out the acronym or abbreviation when it first appears in every section. If the sections are short, you can get away with refreshing readers’ memories every couple of sections.

    Invest in a copyeditor and make your annual report shine


    Why a glossary is essential

    Readers can get lost in the text if they’re reading an annual report that doesn’t include a glossary.

    Every time readers forget what an acronym or abbreviation stands for, they have to flick back through the pages and search for the first or last time it was written out.

    Annoying right? 

    Now ask yourself how readers feel after decoding a report full of acronyms and abbreviations. It’s likely they’re frustrated by all the interruptions to their reading.

    A good editor thinks constantly about the reader’s perspective. After all, the purpose of editing and proofreading is to eliminate errors and improve readability.

    This includes asking why and how people read annual reports. We know readers are often looking for specific information and don’t read reports from front to back.

    So, it’s not difficult to see that annual reports benefit from having a glossary.

    If a glossary is out of the question, introduce the written-out form with the acronym or abbreviation in brackets after it (i.e. Investment Committee (IC)). Then ensure it’s written out again when it first appears in a new section.

    Did you know the first modern corporate annual report was published almost 120 years ago?

    In 1903, American company United States Steel Corporation published an annual report that included financial pages certified by Price, Waterhouse & Co.

    If you’d like to take a look at this historic document, you can download it here.

    US Steel Annual Report example of how to proofread an annual report

    How to edit legislation

    Almost every annual report mentions or discusses some form of legislation. 

    There’s a correct way to introduce legislation and here’s what to look out for when you edit an annual report.

    You’ll see phrases such as ‘to the extent permitted under the Corporations Act 2001‘ and ‘as required by the Corporations Act’.

    From an editorial perspective both of these are incorrect if they’re introduced into the report in this way.

    Use the formal name of the Act, including the jurisdiction, when writing legislation for the first time. 

    So it would be ‘to the extent permitted under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)’, and note the jurisdiction (Cth) isn’t italicised.

    After writing the legislation out in full on its first mention, shorten it to ‘Corporations Act’ from that point on, but don’t italicise it unless it’s written in full.

    The Australian Government Style Manual has been revised recently, and if you’re writing or editing a report for a government department you’ll want to check it out.

    You’ll see that it differs from what I’ve recommended here, and that’s because I prefer a more precise editorial convention.

     As the editor, your first preference for editorial style should be the company’s own style guide.

    What about the financials?

    Accountants prepare the section of the annual report known as ‘the financials’.

    Edit this section with a light touch and don’t edit the columns or rows of numbers. If something looks wrong, flag it for the in-house accountant or a subject matter expert to check. 

    Check table, figure and graph headings. Then edit the text in tables, bullet lists and footnotes.

    Lastly, take a wide-angle look at the financials. A correctly formatted financial report will have symmetry.

    Rows and columns will align and footnotes and table notes will run sequentially.

    Don’t be afraid to flag anything for the accountant that looks incorrect or out of place. 

    Capitalisation doesn't need to be a headache

    Will I use upper case or lower case? Believe me you’ll ask this question a hundred times if you don’t have a process in place.

    Most companies have a style guide explaining their capitalisation preferences. You can also refer to the company’s most recent annual report on their website.

    As you work through your proofread, you’ll see that writers use capitalisation differently. For example, one writer might write ‘risk management framework’ and another will write ‘Risk Management Framework’. 

    Making capitalisation consistent is a tricky job when there are dozens of industry-specific words that are both upper case and lower case throughout the report.

    This is where I use my  checklist process again.

    Get out your trusty notepad and write down every capitalised word you see as you proofread. When you spot a lower-case word that looks wrong, write that down too. 

    After you’re done, it’s time to make decisions. Make an informed call on capitalisations using the resources already discussed. 

    Now repeat the process you used for acronyms and abbreviations. Search the entire report in either Word or PDF for the word or term, and ensure each one is consistently lower case or capitalised.

    This type of search function enables you to do a perfect edit on capitalised terms.

    Man with headache when he's going to proofread an annual report

    Capitalisation in director bios

    A common mistake when editing annual reports is the capitalisation of former titles in directors’ biographies.

    Use this rule to ensure you never get it wrong:

    Capitalise current titles and lower case former titles. 


    Read carefully to ensure you’re identifying former and current roles in the bios. Following is an example.

    Jane Smith joined the Board as a Non-executive Director in 2020. Her past roles include director of XYZ, chairperson of the PQR Foundation and partner in X&M.

    Eliminate these words from the report

    Two words are red flags when you edit an annual report. They are ‘above’ and ‘below’.

    Writers will often refer to a table, or a point they’ve made previously, with directives such as ‘see the table below’ or ‘as explained above’.

    You’re probably wondering why this is a problem.

    After the designer lays out the report, these words or the item they’re referring to can end up on another page.  Neither the writer nor the editor knows where the page breaks will fall when they’re writing or proofing the report. 

    The ‘table below’ may not be below any longer – but at the top the next page. 

    So when you eliminate these words you’re avoiding  potential errors.

    You’ve likely seen this yourself in published material. It’s a common error in publications with tight deadlines.

    There’s a simple fix for this. Substitute above and below for words such as ‘following’ and ‘previous’. Even ‘here’ can work.

    For example: ‘See the following table,’ and ‘where mentioned previously’ work because it doesn’t matter whether content has flowed onto the next page.

    Textshop Content
    sets the standard

    Check out these websites for more information on annual reports

    Read CPA [Chartered Practising Accountants] Australia on Understanding Annual Reports.

    See the Australian Government’s Annual reports for Commonwealth companies for guidelines on writing and publishing annual reports, plus templates to help.

    Check out the design experts at  Twelve Creative for all your annual report needs.

    Want to know more?

    Are you after more information on writing or editing annual reports? Great! Check out my blog post: 6 annual report writing tips from a professional editor.

    If you want to read about blogs for business Does my business need a blog is a great place to start.

    Or, if you’ve been thinking about implementing an SEO strategy, read Is SEO really needed first.

    If your annual report needs work or a thorough edit, I’m here for you! Just press the black button below.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

  • 6 annual report writing tips from a professional editor

    6 common errors in annual reports

    6 annual report writing tips from a professional editor

    By Sharon Lapkin

    A company’s annual report is an important and ongoing component of its corporate financial reporting. It provides information to shareholders and other stakeholders about the company’s financial performance over the past year.

    Following are my six most important annual report writing tips. They include common errors that I’ve seen over the past 14 years as an editor, and my advice on how to avoid them.

    Annual reports are publicly available, so they’re the public face of the company.

    They provide transparency about the activities of the company over the previous 12 months, and are an opportunity to showcase the company’s success, community work and global conscience.

    Prospective investors, creditors, analysts, employees, and any other interested parties, can study and analyse the company’s growth. They can read about its ability to pay its suppliers, whether it makes a profit and what proportion of its earnings is retained to develop the company. 

    Now (after a little quote from Warren Buffet) let’s take a look at my annual report writing tips.

    When I take a look at a company’s annual report,

    if I don’t understand it, they don’t want me to understand it.

    – Warren Buffett

    Smooth out the inconsistencies

    Figure number one above a highrise building showing first tip in annual report writing tips.

    Annual reports are usually multi-authored, and this can create consistency issues.

    Each section writer has a different writing style, and these contributing writers are often not aware of what others are writing.

    Readers suffer the consequences of this disconnect. They grow tired of the inconsistencies and instead of reading on, they flick through the pages to check they’re not missing vital information then close the report.

    The annual report isn’t the place to tell stories – or the place to take three pages to say something you could say in one. It’s a dynamic publication – one that presents information in clear unambiguous terms, without rambling or repetition. 

    A good annual report addresses all stakeholders, and presents precise information in informative and interesting ways.

    Minimise jargon and acronyms

    Figure number 2 above a highrise building showing second tip in annual report writing tips.

    Using industry-specific jargon and acronyms is the easiest way to communicate if you work in-house.

    Your work colleagues all understand this codified way of communicating. But when it comes to the company annual report, please don’t do it. It’s a sure-fire way to alienate and lose readers.

    If you need to use industry-specific terms, acronyms and abbreviations, spell out the short form in the first instance and then use that short form thereafter. See this practice in the following example.

    A new LMS (learning management system) was installed in July this year, and by early August the LMS was fully functional.

    If you haven’t repeated the short form (LMS) for a few pages and are not sure readers will remember its meaning do the following:

    The LMS [learning management system] was an expensive investment.

    The conventional use of square brackets is for editorial comment. In this case you’re reminding the reader what LMS stands for. Don’t do it too often; however, it’s a good save to help your readers.

    Also create a glossary in your annual report that includes explanations and definitions of these terms for your readers. But don’t forget to tell them where it is. Add ‘See Glossary’ in round brackets after terms that need clarifying, and ensure the Glossary is in the report’s Table of Contents with a page number.

    Finding these annual report writing tips useful? Great! Keep reading.

    Be forthright

    Figure number 3 above a highrise building showing third tip in annual report writing tips

    Transparency is your keyword.

    Don’t leave out meaningful analysis in your annual report.

    If your company’s performance has been poor, or there’s been an unfortunate work accident, be upfront and address it.

    A good writer, together with a good editor, is a great support here.

    Work with them and rely on their expertise to communicate this type of information in the most appropriate way. 

    Don't leave it all to the designer

    Figure number 4 above a highrise building

    Don’t hire a graphic designer and think you’ve got the project covered.

    Designers aren’t responsible for grammar or punctuation, or for the factual accuracy of the content you give them. Remember, a designer is an intrinsic part of the team, but you also need an editor.

    A professional editor will work with your writer/s or project manager and they will know when and how to raise queries.

    Good editors know how a designer works. They know how text and graphics should sit on a page, and they work with the designer to fit your content perfectly. Page fitting is a tricky skill and a vital part of an editor’s toolkit.

    The designer and editor work collaboratively to make your annual report a professional publication. Every page is perfectly pitched and error-free, and you can trust that your annual report writing is being treated with respect.

    Leave the numbers to the accountants

    Figure number 5 above a highrise building showing fifth tip in annual report writing tips.

    But what about the numbers?

    An accountant prepares the financial information in an annual report. If it’s a large company, it may be a team of accountants.

    A lawyer may also be involved in preparing the financial and legislative content. A professionally trained editor knows how to work with subject-matter experts, such as lawyers and accountants.

    Editors won’t edit the financials in an annual report. Instead, they’ll leave queries for the accountant and/or lawyer if something doesn’t look correct or appears to be missing.

    This is the most important annual report writing tip because meddling with accountant’s numbers will get you into a world of mess.

    Pulling it all together without errors

    Figure number 6 above a highrise building.

    With so many people contributing to an annual report, it’s possible that a single company employee will struggle to pull it all together at the end of the writing process.

    A company employee can overlook, for example, the text on the spine of their company’s annual report. They might even send it to the printer unchecked. Yes! Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen.

    More than 1,000 copies were printed with the wrong date on the spine because the designer hadn’t updated the template from the previous year.

    Spine errors are one of the commonest mistakes in publishing, and the consequences are always embarrassing and expensive.

    This is why a professional editor is invaluable. Their checklists cover every aspect of the publishing process and they perform an extensive prepress check for you.

    When they sign off your annual report, you’ll be confident it’s error-free and ready to publish. That last-minute check of the spine has been done too!

    Before you go

    I hope you’ve found these annual report writing tips useful.

    For more information on the requirements of an annual report go to the CPA [Chartered Practising Accountants] website.

    If you’d like to read more great tips on editing reports check out How to edit an annual report.

    You might also want to read about the unique method I use when editing reports in How to copyedit like an expert.

    Invest in a copyeditor and make your annual report shine

  • How to be a good content writer

    New plant emerging from a forest floor with a human hand dripping water onto it.

    How to be a good content writer

    ✻ By Sharon Lapkin

    Content marketing is a marketing approach that focuses on creating high-quality, original content for specific online audiences. A good content writer is essential for this task.

    The content is distributed as blogs, podcasts, webinars and videos via social media platforms.

    The aim is to build a community of followers who understand you to be an expert in the area you are writing or talking about.

    Good content marketing practice includes optimising all content for search engines, such as Google.

    The quality and precision of the optimisation is what drives traffic to your website.

    The higher you rank in search engine results, the more visitors you get and the more likely they’ll love what they see on your website.

    Then, when members of your community are ready to purchase, they come to you because they trust and value your expertise. 

    Content marketing is not a short-term strategy. It takes time to build a community; time to demonstrate your expertise and time for your potential customers to invest in your offerings.

    Blog content is valuable

    A blog is the cornerstone of any content marketing strategy. 

    A whopping 71% of the world’s website traffic comes from an internet search.

    More than three quarters of the internet is reading blogs.

    Elderly man in a straw hat on a laptop asking is SEO really needed.

    Companies with blogs produce an average of 67% more leads monthly than companies that don’t blog.

    Around 60% of people seek out a product after reading content about it.

    Blog posts with high emotional value have a 1000 times greater chance of being shared.

    Do I need keywords?

    The days of keyword stuffing are over. We also don’t need short-tail keywords in our toolkit anymore.

    A good content writer inserts a single long-tail keyword strategically throughout their content.

    The long-tail keyword should be placed (in moderation) in headings, alt text, image titles and captions.

    People no longer search the internet by typing single words into Google. They type entire questions into their search engine. 

    To find your ideal long-tail keyword use a reputable paid keyword finder such as KWFinder, SEMrush or  Moz.

    In addition, make use of Google’s generosity and read the extra information provided with your search engine results.

    Type in the question your reader is likely to ask.

    For example, in this blog post, I could have used ‘What is content marketing?’

    Man in a dark suit holding a computer tablet. Keywords is written in a banner across the image. Demonstrating how to do content marketing.

    You need now to look at page one of your search engine results. At the top, you’ll see ‘People also ask’.

    This is Google telling you what other types of questions people type in to search for ‘What is content marketing?’

    Go to the bottom of page one now, and you’ll find Google again being helpful. ‘Searches related to what is content marketing?’ will provide an array of variants on your keyword search.

    From the information you’ve gathered from Google, plus your formal keyword search, you are equipped to create the best long-tail keyword for your blog post.

    There’s just one decision left to make.

    Do you want your keyword to compete with the thousands of popular long-tail keywords on the web, or do you want to find a less popular keyword that is more likely to deliver unique readers to your website looking for exactly what you offer?

    It’s a no-brainer isn’t it?

    The latter is the less common keyword, the one that’s out of the square. It is less popular but more powerful.

    Also place your long-tail keyword in your alt text, and one or two of the headings and captions.

    Know your audience

    Create content that matters to your audience. Talk to them and find out what their pain points are.

    A good content writer connects emotionally with their readers. Aim for impact, and try to write something that changes their lives.

    In order to connect emotionally with your readers, you need to tap into your own authenticity.

    Make sure you’ve done your research and have a deep insight into the topic you’re writing about. Also ensure you use credible and reputable sources.

    Everybody's talking about content marketing

    ✩ Head for the expert ✩

    Pitch to your buyer persona

    Let’s look at what a buyer persona is and why it is relevant to your content writing.

    Buyer personas are fictional representations of your client’s ideal customers.

    They’re based on market research and real data, and include demographics, behaviour patterns, similarities and trends. 

    Buyer personas inform a good content writer about their readers’ needs and helps them deliver personalised content.

    A buyer persona is a framework that provides an in-depth understanding of what type of content your readers value.

    Hubspot provides a good range of  buyer persona templates, along with a guide on how to create a buyer persona. 

    Don’t underestimate the value of a buyer persona. It’s an integral part of a good content writer’s toolkit.

    The buyer's journey

    Now that we’ve checked out the buyer persona, let’s move onto the buyer’s journey.

    Think of the process you go through when you’re making a decision about purchasing something.

    It’s a three-step process – awareness, consideration and decision.

    1. Awareness

    The first stage of the buyer’s journey is when they realise they have a problem.

    2. Consideration

    In this second stage, the buyer clarifies and defines the problem and researches ways to resolve it.

    3. Decision

    In the final stage of the buyer’s journey the buyer selects the solution they want.

    Remember the buyers we’re talking about are your readers.

    And those readers will be at different stages of the buyer’s journey.

    This means that you, as the writer, will need to create content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.

    See some suggestions below that will give you an idea of what works.

    1. Awareness

    The buyer is likely to do a number of generic searches at this stage, so make sure your content promotes brand awareness and has emotional appeal. 

    2. Consideration

    Write content that positions you as an expert in your industry. Use videos, case studies, blogs, guides, infographics and FAQs to build trust.

    3. Decision

    Provide free trials, consultations, articles that educate about your services, promotions and fast-action bonuses. Also make sure your Testimonials are accessible.

    The Golden Circle

    A story-writing model that works well for content marketing is Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model.

    Remember that conflict is an essential part of storytelling, so recognise it, work on it and resolve it. Also make sure your story aligns with the reader’s problem.

    Simon Sinek's Golden Circle drawing. What is content marketing.

    WHY are you writing this story?

    Tap into your emotion and look for the conflict your readers are facing.

    HOW will writing this story help your audience resolve this conflict?

    WHAT exactly are you offering your audience?

    Watch this to learn more about content marketing

    Source: Hubspot, 10 October 2021. What everyone must know about content marketing.

    Content marketing is always evolving

    Content marketing has been around for hundreds of years in the form of storytelling.

    Today, however, it’s based on market research and strongly influenced by digital media.

    For example – every time Google introduces a new algorithm we analyse it and decide whether we need to change the way we do things.

    We can only maintain our currency as good content writers if we stay up-to-date with changes and continually assess the way we work. 

    I use content marketing to market my own business, Textshop. I believe it’s the most authentic and transparent way to market my services to potential clients.

    You might also enjoy reading How to make your writing more powerful.

    For editing and proofreading tips read How to copyedit like an expert.

    To read more about my content marketing services check this page.

    If you’d like to chat to me about content marketing, send me an email via the button below.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.