Have More Confidence Publishing Your Work With These 5 Simple Writing Tricks

Do you yawn when you read your writing? Do you ever finish a blog post, hover your mouse over the “Publish” button, and then hesitate thinking how embarrassing it’d be to share what you just wrote with the world? Do you cringe every time you think of a reader landing on your blog, wondering how quickly they’ll hit the “back” button?

Writing doesn’t have to make you cower into your corner on the web too afraid to publish anything new and get found. Next time you’re wincing while reading your words, try these five simple writing tips to spruce up your writing so it’s enjoyable for you and your reader.

1. Craft the reading experience first.

If your thought process doesn’t flow, your blog post won’t either.

Before writing, put together the structure of the page.

    • What experience do you want your reader to have while scrolling through your post?
    • How do you want the person to feel at each stage of the post?
    • What’s the one thing you want your reader to understand after spending a few minutes with your blog post?

Remember, emotional appeal is what hooks your reader. An outline lets you define the emotions you want your reader to feel, so your writing doesn’t get sidetracked, scattered, or… hey look, there’s a rabbit!

Keep your writing focused by crafting the nuts and bolts of the reading experience first with an outline.

2. Cut the “that” fat.

“That” is one of the most overused words in the English language. Sure, there’s a place for the word in some writing. But most of the time it’s added in more liberally than necessary.

Cut some of the fat in your writing and tighten up your prose by eliminating the word “that” wherever you can.

3. Enthrall (not bore) your reader with your verbs.

Verbs (your action words) are some of the most fun ones to tweak during the editing process. They add life, spice, and vigor to your writing.

Exchange weak verbs for strong action statements. For example:

  • Instead of writing, “Working in the office during the summer, sucks!”
    You could say, “Grinding away at my desk during the summer, sucks!”
  • Instead of writing, “Johnny was asked to put on a pot of coffee first thing in the morning.”
    You could say, “Johnny was asked to brew a fresh pot of coffee first thing each morning.”
  • Instead of writing, “Use extra spices in your pie.”
    You could say, “Sprinkle more spices in your pie.”

Color your writing with better verbs to stir emotion in your reader.

4. Ditch cliche’s.

Cliche’s are overused statements – not because they’re so descriptive, but because they describe such broad situations, sentiments, and solutions. Because these phrases are muttered so often by people, they’ve lost meaning. Readers gloss over them with eyes that look as enthusiastic as a child who just got served broccoli for dinner.

Turn ordinary on its head by banishing cliches from your writing and sprucing up your text with more descriptive phrasing.

Let’s take this cliche for example: “All that jazz.”

What’s jazz?

Jazz to me might mean whipped cream on my iced coffee – yes, please! It might mean guacamole and sour cream served alongside my tacos, instead of just a thimble of salsa. It might mean a strawberry in my glass of Pinot Grigio (try it, it’s good) instead of just the adult-style grape juice.

But what does it mean to you?

To you, it could mean page titles and meta descriptions provided in the blog post. It could mean social media graphics provided for major holidays. It could mean an air freshener in your car after you get an oil change.

“All that jazz” refers to the little things piled on top of a larger idea. Instead of leaving those little things to your reader’s imagination, describe them. Tell your reader exactly what you want her to hear about the topic at hand. She’ll just way more out of your writing.

5. Break the rules.

It’s so tempting to listen to your high school English teacher’s voice inside your head while you write. Don’t.

Grammar is important. Hell, grammar is sexy! I cry a little each time someone sends me a text message where “your” and “you’re” aren’t used correctly.

Still, breaking a few grammar rules now and then to make your post shine isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually smart.

Focus your writing on the story you’re telling. Focus on the experience you want your reader to have with your words. Then, bring that story and experience to life on the screen with emotion-filled, relatable content. Trying to follow all the grammar rules will leave you sounding robotic instead of human. Stop worrying about perfecting your grammar and start publishing words your readers will love sinking their eyes into.

Want more writing tips? Check out Ann Handley’s book, “Everybody Writes.” (Note: That’s NOT an affiliate link.) It is the BEST book I’ve read (and the one I wish I wrote) about writing.

And if writing makes you cringe, don’t worry. I’m here for you.

Elevate Your Writing With These 7 Content Marketing Tools

About two months ago, I moved into a new house. It’s my dream house – not because of the doggy door (that I’m constantly watching to make sure a snake doesn’t crawl in through) or the open kitchen and living room that lets me refill wine glasses without missing out on a minute of “The Bachelorette” (don’t judge, it’s a guilty pleasure… you know you have them too.)

It’s my dream house because of the built-in home office.

home office

We lucked out. The woman who built our new house was an architect who also worked out of her home. It has perfect lighting and a window with a view… A VIEW! Every day I see at least one of the animals in the desert zoo we bought, including coyotes, rabbits, hawks, and javelinas (look those guys up if you’ve never seen one – they’re nasty, plant-eating, smelly creatures).

But there’s just one “problem” with this perfect home office. The ceilings are high and the floors are stained cement. Doesn’t sound that bad, does it? Aesthetically, it’s not, but get me on the phone and it’ll sound like I’m talking to you in a tin can (or on the can, which is quite a bit worse)!

So, it’s time to hang some stuff on the walls. I keep putting it off because hanging stuff isn’t something I love to do. For years, I’ve used push pins to get those artwork and wall hangings to stay up. Most of the time it works! But for the type of wall hangings I’m putting up (the kind that’ll minimize the echo and make me sound a lot clearer on the phone), I need some power tools.

Confession time: Power tools scare me.

The thought of drilling the holes in the wrong places, hitting a stud, or ruining the dry wall is enough to make me do whatever I can to revert back to using the minimal damage causing push pins. And that’s the strange part. For somebody who hates using power tools, I must say – I use them every day in the online world… and I love them.

Content Marketing Tools

If you’re shying away from hanging something up on your blog or website because you’re afraid of making a giant eyesore of a mistake, here are a few tools to help you push past the fear and keep your content marketing efforts nice and tidy. [Read more…]

How to Send Better Emails (And Stop Annoying Your Customers)

My husband has taught me many things.

  • How to go grill on the Big Green Egg;
  • How to paint the roof with elastomeric;
  • And how to manage my email inbox.

The last point might sound surprising but hear me out.

As the saying goes, opposites attract. My marriage is proof of that – to a point. He loves the outdoors; I love toilets and showers. He loves action movies; I love reality tv. He loves beer; I drink wine. He never signs up for email newsletters; I’m marketing-minded and curious enough to sign up knowing I can always unsubscribe (which has a tendency to flood my inbox to the point of overwhelm if I’m not careful).

If you were to compare my inbox and my husband’s inbox right now, you’d see two vastly different landscapes.

Mine is crowded and stuffed with business stuff. There’s (way too much) information about sales, meetings, volunteer requests, blog posts – you name it, it’s probably there.

On the flip side, his is filled with only a handful of emails from family, friends, and a few of the companies he loves hearing from.

Case in point: I’ve turned off my email notifications because it’s just too much hearing a chirp every time a new email arrived. He has not and those chirps from his phone aren’t overwhelming either of us.

What does your email inbox look like?

[Read more…]

Does Your Content Marketing Smell of Arrogance?

It’s hard for me to admit sometimes, but I’m an only child.

I hate telling people that because too often their first reaction is, “oh, so you’re spoiled!” Thanks a lot. 

In my mind, spoiled means arrogant, demanding, whiny, and obnoxious. I’d like to think I’m none of those.

But that leads to another issue…Every family member has their own stereotypes to contend with.

The oldest child is supposedly the one who had it the hardest and is tasked with having the most responsibility

The middle child is often categorized as disgruntled. That’s probably because the parents were jaded by their first child so they didn’t do as much for their second child (supposedly).

The youngest child? She had it the best. Her parents had already worried enough about baby one and two that she didn’t have as many rules or restrictions.

What family cliche best matches your business?

Family cliches transfer to the business world too.

Big businesses, or the most experienced in the industry, often feel the most responsible for delivering a quality product. They started the trend, now they need to keep the momentum.

The middle businesses and younger businesses constantly compete with that experience. They want to show that even though they’re the new players on the block, they have what it takes to wow their customers. It’s this mentality that can shift their marketing message from customer-centric to arrogant.

Instead of marketing with value and uniqueness, they start marketing with overly promotional, ego-driven content – and therein lies the cringeworthy problem.

Your customer doesn’t care about your experience. She cares about her experience with your business.

Have you ever read a company’s sales copy that brags they have “a combined 75 years of experience?” Were you impressed? Probably not. What does “combined experience” really mean for you, the consumer?

Businesses put a lot of weight on demonstrating experience. Although your customer likes to know that your company has a strong foundation in your industry, her primary concern is how your years of experience will make her life a little bit easier.

Touting experience sounds more boastful than it does helpful. What did you learn in those 75 combined years that’ll make your customer want to work with you? That’s what she wants to know.

Harnessing the Power of Brand Journalism

It’s not a secret – storytelling sells. In today’s world, it’s called brand journalism.

Brand journalism happens when a business tells their story directly to their consumer. Instead of distributing press release after press release with a hope that some journalist out there will want to write something new and promote it to their audience, smart brands are taking matters into their own hands. Smart brands aren’t waiting for others to tell their story – they’re doing it themselves.

This happens on their blog. It happens through their podcast. Sometimes, it happens on video.  No matter the media format, brands have taken charge and created their own storytelling corner online and offline.

It’s a smart approach when it’s done right.

Are you telling the right story?

I was honored to have been interviewed on The Brand Journalism Advantage Podcast.

NOTE: It was my first time trying my hand at podcasting, so forgive the “um’s.” 

Nervous ticks aside, the show (and all her shows) had a wealth of insight offered in the amount of time it takes for you to drive to the grocery store and back again. One of her segments is “think like a journalist.” I LOVE that concept.

To tell the right story in your business, you have to think like a journalist because you are the journalist. What does your audience want to read? What will get your readers buying next month’s copy of your magazine? Or in your case, what will make your reader want to sign up for your newsletter to keep reading your stories?

If you’re boastful, arrogant, and boring, no one will listen. But, if you tell a story that your audience relates to, you’re suddenly impactful and compelling. It’s the latter option that sells your brand and builds your business.

On the surface that seems easy enough. But in practice, many brands revert back to arrogant tactics. Here’s how you can avoid making that same mistake:

Tell your story from your heart.

You have to start somewhere, so start by creating content that gets you excited.

Write each post with passion. Create each podcast with excitement about the subject you’re discussing. Your audience will feel that excitement and in turn, they’ll get excited.

Edit your work with a critical eye.

Once you’ve created your content, edit your work. Go back and review your work through the eyes of your audience. Using a critical lens to view your content will help you fine tune your message so that it’s less about you and more about the reader.

Listen to the unspoken feedback.

There’s a lot to learn from silence, analytics, and social engagement. Don’t aim for everyone to love you. Instead, aim for people to react to what you’re saying. You’ll have some naysayers and that’s okay. You’ll have some people who disagree with you, and that’s okay too. The goal is to spark conversation so that your reader walks away feeling like he gained something from your content…

… And in the end, you’ll look less arrogant and more helpful.