So, you call yourself a content writer? First of all, the operative word is writer. A great writer will naturally write great content. The thing is, having “a way with words” is a gift. Not everyone has said gift. There’s no way around that. It doesn’t matter how many “writing tools” you use. Sure, anyone can improve their writing skills, but not everyone will be a good writer or a successful content writer.
True communicators can express their life experience and/or knowledge in a way that connects with and moves their fellow humans. Some folks are born with exceptional talent; others put in the work to turn their average ability into an exceptional voice.
Good writing requires a respect for—and skill in—language, flow, rhythm, and clarity. Based on some of the junk I’ve read online, a lot of self-proclaimed “content writers” are fakin’ the funk. (If you don’t know what that means, google it.)
I grew up in a different world. Years ago, writing required intelligence and critical thinking. There was no spell-check. So, if you weren’t sure how to spell a word, you grabbed the dictionary off the shelf. You looked up how you thought it might be spelled and then tried other possible ways. In the end, the correct spelling was ingrained, you learned the origin of the word, and probably discovered a few other interesting words that started with the same three letters. These actions bolstered your comprehension skills, expanded your mind, and added to your writing arsenal.
Before the interwebs, if you wanted to research a topic, you had to read actual books or talk to informed individuals. There was no search engine. No easy way to hijack someone else’s narrative, copy/paste their bullet points, and pretend to be an authority on a subject. I’m not saying plagiarism didn’t exist back then, but it required a lot more effort.
You, My Dear, Are No Expert
Today, there are too many young people calling themselves “experts” and “expert content creators.” By young people, I mean under 35. They grew up in the virtual world and seem to have very little respect for those with bona fide knowledge and experience; obvious prerequisites for “expert” status. These folks also tend to have a skewed perspective and see the most mediocre things as “amazing!” I blame the public school system for that.
Some of these same people are afraid to have a conversation with you on the phone or in person, preferring to hide behind emails and texts. That way, if you ask them about something they have no knowledge of, they can google it, see what somebody else said, and reply with their “expert” answer.
I’m sorry. I’m rambling. I do that sometimes. Nonetheless, there is probably somebody reading this right now who needs a reality check. Anyway, let’s get back to content writing…
What Makes a Good Content Writer?
Maybe you’re already a pretty good writer and you want to know how to create better content. Well, at the risk of sounding like an expert, here’s my two cents:
- Good content is interesting and informative. The most engaging copy is based on your authentic experience and it’s written in a way that gets the reader involved in your story or challenges a point of view they hold. Informative means you are giving the reader information they don’t already have. You are not writing interesting or informative content if you’re copying something anyone else can find in a quick keyword search.
- Don’t pretend to be an expert. You will never know everything about anything. All you have is your own perception; which is based on your experiences, the lessons you’ve learned, and the knowledge you’ve acquired over the years. You are not an expert if you scroll search results, reword other people’s opinions, and give “advice” on how to do things you’ve never actually done.
- Be original. It’s your unique story that a reader will connect with, find comfort in, and be inspired by. Do your research and don’t be lazy. If you have nothing valuable to say, what’s the point? You should never think, “Hey, that guy in Bangladesh has a list article that ranks #1 in searches, so I’m going to copy that list, change a few words, and post my own list. People will click my link and order my e-book!” That’s just lame-ass bullshit.
- If you’re writing for a client, learn to write in their voice. That means you have to get to know them, understand their business model, and have a clear picture of their audience. Depending on the target market, you may have to either simplify or level-up your language. It’s a process, and when it comes to increasing site traffic and improving your client’s online reputation, what’s madly successful for one can be a total failure for another.
Don’t Be a Fool for Tools
As for the popular “writing tools” that promise to make you a better writer, remember, these are simply software programs. They’ll only give you what’s been coded in. Becoming a better writer can only be accomplished with hard work, practice, discipline, and a true respect for the language.
If you don’t have the motivation within yourself to master the correct usage of there, their, and they’re, content writing is probably not an ideal career choice.
Perhaps you’re only focused on creating SEO copy that gets you or your client better search results. Maybe you feel no shame in using every app you can get your hands on to churn out content. Without the previously-mentioned skills, your copy will read like bot text. Lifeless and uninspired. With all of your tracking and trying to outsmart the algorithms, you’ll only be adding more boring, useless junk to the interwebs. But, hey, if you’re ok with that, who am I to judge?
If you’re a legitimate content writer looking for some new ideas for your content calendar, check out this article.
If your current content provider is fakin’ the funk, contact me. I deliver high-quality original content. I have years of writing/editing experience and know a lot about a whole lot of shit. Some folks even think I’m an expert.
Photo by Hannah Grace on Unsplash
The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt
Dumbing Down America: The Decline of Education in the US as Seen From Down Under by Niall McLaren, Truthout