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Content writing

  • A complete guide to conversational writing

    Girl using laptop to do conversational writing.

    A complete guide to conversational writing

    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 tone

    When creating a conversational writing style, you should develop your own conversational tone. 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 tone 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 them into metaphors. They 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 passive voice, the subject of the action (the house) is the object of the sentence. 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 tone.

     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 tone 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 conversational 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.
    textshop

    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.

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  • 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.

    Man drawing a circle around an illustration of a group of people on a glass wall.

    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.

    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?

    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.

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  • How to write a smashing blog post

    Woman working in florist shop on her laptop writing an awesome blog post.

    How to write a smashing blog post

    By Sharon Lapkin

    Wouldn’t you love a community of readers.

    Thousands of people who bookmark your blog and come back regularly to read your posts.

    Who click straight through to your website from every email you send because they can’t wait to read your latest blog post.

    They swoon over your products and services and, yes, they buy them too.

    To help you reach that goal, here are five well-researched ways to write a smashing blog post and build your online community.

    1. Write like a person not a business

    The most important thing you can do to build a community of readers is to be a person first and a business second. 

    Write from your heart. Be joyful and enthusiastic. Open up about your life to the extent that you’re comfortable. 

    You may never meet the majority of people who follow your business online, but you can still have an authentic and meaningful relationship with them. 

    If you base your business on transactions, that’s all you’ll give and all you’ll get.

    Write as if you’re having a conversation with your readers, and don’t make it all about you. Listen to what they say and make their needs your focus.

    Relax your tone of voice, loosen up and write as if you’re sitting on the sofa chatting.

    Study the column on the right below and you’ll be writing a smashing blog post in no time.

    Formal

    Formal writing is serious, business-like and it doesn’t address the reader directly.

    Generally written in a passive voice, formal writing is at arm’s length, using pronouns like he/she and they.

    Long form writing is common in formal writing. It avoids contractions and uses ‘I will’, ‘we will’, ‘do not’ and so on.

    Don’t get me wrong. There’s a place in the world for formal writing. But it’s not your blog, or mine.

    Informal

    Informal writing is more relaxed, conversational and addresses the reader directly.

    More laid-back and even tugging at your readers’ emotions, it speaks directly to people with pronouns like you and we.

    We use lots of contractions in informal writing. They’re carefree and breezy words that spell RELAX loud and clear.

    Bypass slang and don’t be too cheeky in your writing. Always be respectful, transparent and genuine.

    2. Address your readers' needs, not your own

    Who is your reader and what do they need from your writing?

    Do you know your typical reader, or are you assuming they’re just like you?

    It’s comfortable writing about what you know, and to assume your readers have the same questions, needs and goals as you.

    But this is where you can make mistakes. It’s like tailoring a suit without taking measurements, or like buying a house without inspecting it. 

    If you want your readers to become your clients, then you’ve got to know what they need from your blog posts.

    Are you digging deep enough and pushing sideways as well? Do you provide unique perspectives on the content your readers care about? Have you done enough market research to write a smashing blog post?

    During March 2019, over 4.4 million blogs were published every day. Two important ways to make your blog stand out are by your unique contribution to the subject matter and how well you’ve optimised that subject matter expertise for Google. 

    Another way to write a smashing blog post is to identify your readers’ needs through ‘the buyer’s journey’, which is the process buyers go through to reach a final decision to purchase a service or product.

    Woman thinking about the buyer's journey and how to write a smashing blog post.

    The buyer's journey

    The buyer’s journey is composed of three steps.

    One – the ‘Awareness stage’, where the buyer realises they have a problem.

    Two – the ‘Consideration stage’ where the buyer understands there’s a problem and researches ways to resolve it.

    Three – the ‘Decision stage’ where the buyer selects a solution.

    To understand your buyers and identify what part of the buyers’ journey they’re on, you need to communicate with them.

    When writing your blog post, make sure you align your content with the current stage of your reader’s buyer’s journey.

    Some marketing experts suggest addressing all stages of the buyer’s journey in every blog post you write.

    Download this free buyer’s journey template from Hubspot and learn to map the buyers’ journey of your readers.

    3. SEO – the keys to the Google kingdom

    If you’re not optimising your blog posts for search engines you should re-examine your online strategy.

    Search engine optimisation (SEO) has undergone a significant evolution, and we now need only one long-tail keyword (‘keyword phrase’) in our content to properly optimise it. 

    Avoid the keyword phrases at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). There’s no way most of us will be able to compete against the big companies for these spots.

    Instead, be clever and use a keyword phrase that is niche, narrow and even a little quirky. Research has shown that narrowly focused keyword phrases result in higher rates of conversion.

    The truth is, people who narrow their online searches are near the end of their buyer’s journey and are looking for specific products and services.

    Don’t forget that SEO includes optimising your title, headings and alt text (image tag) with your keyword phrase or synonyms. Google rates these too.

    There’s a strong correlation between writing to address our readers’ needs and another important skill, which is identifying ‘searcher intent’.

    Julia McCoy at Content Hacker addresses both keyword research and searcher intent in this great blog post.

    Learning how to research winning keyword phrases is worth the time and effort it takes. Seriously, jump in and embrace the challenges, and aim to get near the top of those SERPS. 

    4. Ditch the cliches and be original

    Don’t do it!

    Whenever you reach for a cliche, stop and find your own words. 

    Cliches indicate a lack of imagination and a disregard for independent thinking. They’re plain lazy and your readers know it.

    Something else happens when you serve up a cliche. Your readers skip over it because they’ve likely read those words thousands of  times. They’re desensitised to them. Internally, a voice is telling them that you’re a boring writer.

    Enough said?

    Here’s a list of cliches to avoid in your writing. Use them and you’ll lose readers. Guaranteed.

    Read between the lines

    Better late than never

    Kiss and make up

    Only time will tell

    Lasted an eternity

    A bee in your bonnet

    Cat got your tongue?

    A blast from the past

    All that glitters is not gold

    A bed of roses

    5. Choose clarity over cleverness

    Do your blog posts align with the reading level of your website visitors, or are you writing above their heads?

    Sounds bewildering doesn’t it, but achieving harmony between your writing level and your reader’s reading level really is a deal-breaker.

    In 2015, a Deakin University study found that Australian health websites were too difficult for the average person to read.

    This was doubly concerning because it meant that websites weren’t delivering important health information that people needed. Information on dementia was the most difficult to read, while the topic ‘obesity’ proved the trickiest to read on government websites.

    An average person comfortably reads information online at grade 8 level, which is 13–14 years of age.

    But before you decide that writing at grade 8 level is not your thing, let me introduce you to the Flesch reading ease test.

    Man staring at screen trying to work out how to write a smashing blog post.

    The Flesch reading ease test will help you write a smashing blog post

    This tool evaluates your sentences on factors such as sentence length and the average number of syllables per word.

    Writing at grade 8 level isn’t about dumbing down your writing, but about composing sentences that have outstanding clarity.

    Your subject matter expertise stays intact.

    Yoast has an excellent free plugin that uses the Flesch reading ease test to measure the level of your blog writing.

    It provides you with a score and feedback that enables you to adjust your writing so that you meet the criteria for grade 8 level.

    Brown gingham strip of fabric

    Want to write a smashing blog post?

    Remember this. You can’t write a smashing blog post without optimising your content correctly.  

    But SEO isn’t enough. You also need to write an authoritative well-written post that people want to read. 

    We don’t just write blog posts for our clients at Textshop Content Writing Services. It’s how we built our own business!

    Our own blog posts rank highly on Google and we’ve achieved featured snippets for several of our popular posts.

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  • 9 common errors every writer should know about

    Woman reacting with shock to common errors every writer should know about

    9 common errors every writer should know about

    By Sharon Lakin

    Hitting the wrong key can explain away a typo, but using the wrong word can damage your credibility as a writer.

    Here are nine common errors every writer should know about.

    Unfortunately, I come across them regularly in my work as a professional editor.

    You’ll find explanations and examples to help you use the correct words from here forth!

    1. Do I use 'I' or 'me'?

    This is one of the most common errors in English usage.

    TIP – A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun. For example – using she instead of the name, Louise.

    RULE – If the pronoun is the object of the sentence, then use I – otherwise, use me.

    EXAMPLE – Could you join Louise and me for dinner?

    TEST  How do I tell if the example above is correct? Simple. Take Louise out of the sentence and it reads – Could you join me for dinner? It wouldn’t have worked as ‘Could you join I for dinner would it? That’s because I is never the object of a sentence.

    2. Who or that

    Another common mistake is using who when that should be used – and vice versa. It’s an easy error to make, but once I demonstrate why it’s wrong you won’t do it again.

    If we’re writing about a person such as your sister, a teacher or any other human, then you would not use that.

    We use who when we’re writing about a human.

    Remember who = human.

    EXAMPLE  The actor, who was my sister’s friend, said he would help raise money.

    TEST  Ask yourself: Is the actor a human or an object?

    If we’re writing about an object, such as a car, tree or office building, then who is not the word you should be using. 

    We use that when we’re talking about an object.

    Remember that = object.

    EXAMPLE – The car was a bright colour that I loved.

    TEST  Ask yourself: Is the car a human or an object?

    Ready for more common errors every writer should know about? Great! Keep going.

    3. Between or among

    The general rule is that between is used when comparing two distinct items, people or events.

    EXAMPLE – Two days elapsed between his arrival and his departure.

    TEST – How many days elapsed? Two? Good.

    The rule is that among is used when there are more than two people,  items or events.

    EXAMPLE – The choice was made from among four qualified candidates.

    TEST – Were there more than two candidates?

    4. Affect or effect

    These two words function both as nouns and as verbs. They’re also commonly confused because they’re so similar.

    To simplify matters there’s a simple rule of thumb that can be used to avoid most errors.

    Affect as a verb has two meanings.

    The more common use of affect is to exert an influence, have impact or bring about change through an action.

    EXAMPLE – Rising interest rates affected the company’s bottom line.

    In other words, the rise in interest rates had an impact on the financial position of the company.

    The second meaning of affect is to simulate or fake an attitude or behaviour.

    EXAMPLE – For this particular role, the actor affected an Oxbridge accent.

    By contrast, you should generally use effect with an e as a noun to signify the thing that was impacted, influenced or changed.

    Returning to our example we used above, we would say ‘the company’s lower profits are the effect of increased interest rates.’

    5. Practice or practise

    Don’t let the US  spellings confuse you. Americans use practice as both a noun and a verb.

    U.S. EXAMPLE – Doctor James practices medicine at his medical practice in New York.

    In Australia and the UK there are different spellings for the noun and the verb.

    AUSTRALIAN EXAMPLE – Doctor James practises medicine at his medical practice on Phillip Island.

    Practice is a noun and practise is a verb.

    6. Using i.e. and e.g.

    Both i.e. and e.g. are Latin abbreviations that are often confused.

    We write i.e. to mean that is.

    EXAMPLE – I am a vegetarian, i.e. I do not eat meat.

    By contrast e.g. means for example.

    EXAMPLE – Citrus comes in many forms, e.g. oranges, lemons and limes.

    Note: These two abbreviations are not generally used in sentences, but are used in tables, captions and brackets.

    7. Insure, assure or ensure

    These three words have one thing in common, but they’re not interchangeable.

    What is it that they all share? It’s ‘making an outcome sure’.

    To insure means to guarantee against harm or loss.

    EXAMPLE – My partner and I will insure our house.

    To assure means to earnestly declare or promise something.

    EXAMPLE – I assure you she’s going to arrive on time.

    To ensure means to make sure or certain something will come.

    EXAMPLEEnsure the papers are posted please.

    8. Compliment or complement

     It’s surprising how often you see these two words written incorrectly.

    It’s probably more accurate to say that some people use compliment to mean both compliment and complement. 

    Let me explain the difference between the two.

    Compliment is a commonly used word that is used as both a noun and a verb. It can be used as an expression of praise, and also to praise or express admiration for somebody.

    EXAMPLE (Noun) – Penny paid me a compliment when she said my hair looked nice.

    EXAMPLE (Verb) – Nick complimented the chef on the meal.

    On the other hand, complement means something else that completes something, or makes it perfect.

    EXAMPLE (Noun) – My mother used complementary medicine for her allergy.

    EXAMPLE (Verb) – The two colours complement each other.

    9. En dash or hyphen

    This is one of my bugbears.

    If you want your writing to look truly professional, learn the difference between a hyphen and an en dash.

    There are three types of strokes and dashes – hyphens (-), en dashes (–) and em dashes (––). Let’s forget the em dash because it’s rarely used these days.

    A hyphen is a short stroke that’s used within words that are divided.

    EXAMPLE – My ex-husband was wearing a suit.

    A hyphen is also used between words that make up compounds.

    EXAMPLE – Her manager asked for a one-on-one chat.

    Note: Over time hyphenated words become established and the hyphen can disappear.

    EXAMPLE – We used to write co-ordinate, but now we write coordinate.

    En dashes are the length of an N and are also versatile punctuation marks. They’re used in the following examples in text.

    En dashes are used in number spans in numerals, time and distance.

    EXAMPLES: 

    The date was 13–15 May this year.

    Kate arrived at 5–5.30 pm.

    The road was about 20–25 kilometres long.

    En dashes are also used to demonstrate an association between words that retain their separate entities.

    EXAMPLES:

    They performed a cost–benefit analysis.

    He was holidaying in the Asia–Pacific.

    You can use a set of en dashes in sentences to replace the commas around non-essential clauses.

    EXAMPLE: 

    The street was closed – which seemed strange – so I took a shortcut through the park.

    That’s it, all nine of them! It wasn’t a conclusive list of common errors every writer should know about, but it was a good start!

    Where to go for extra help

    Dictionaries offer great guidance on grammar and sentence structure.

    The Macquarie Dictionary is used by publishers, newspapers, magazines and journals  across Australia. They also have a great blog.

    The Australian Government Style Manual has the most recent styles and usages, as well as comprehensive explanations.

    If you’re after an American style guide, you can’t go past the Chicago Manual of Style.

    Are you done with common errors every writer should know about?

    We hope this list will be useful in your writing.

    You might also enjoy reading Which is that pronoun.

    Have an annual report coming up? Read our 6 annual report writing tips from a professional editor.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me if Textshop Content Writing Services can help you with your writing or editing.