#ContentWritingChat Recap: Language in Content with Tara Clapper

Are you ready to step-up your writing skills? In this #ContentWritingChat, we got technical by talking about language in content. We discussed the use of formal language, changes to style guides, the role an editor plays, and much more.

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Language in Content with Tara Clapper

Our guest host this week was our very own Content Development Specialist, Tara Clapper. We were excited to have her join us and she shared some helpful advice you’ll be able to put to use when creating content of your very own. Let’s dive in!

Q1: When should you use colloquial vs. formal language in your content?

Colloquial vs. formal language. How do you know which one to use when creating content? Here are some tips from this week’s chat that will help you decide:

This is great advice from Tara. She recommends using language that is going to reach your audience. You can speak like they do and make them feel loved and appreciated. It’s just one way to help you better connect with them.

Not only do you want to consider your audience, but you also want to consider the type of content you’re creating. You might find that various content types require a different style of language in content.

Krystal knows that it largely depends on who your audience is. When you know what will resonate with your audience, the decision is much easier. She also suggests considering the goals you’re trying to reach as well because the language you use can impact that.

For Jason, he likes to stick to formal language when creating ads. However, he’s more informal, down to earth, and humanizing in his regular content. Many choose to switch up their language depending on the type of content they’re producing.

Sarah from ThinkSEM feels the same way. Marketing and sales content is more formal, but blogs and social media interactions are reflective of how you’d speak in real life.

This is a great reason to consider what your audience is going to resonate with. For Sara, she’s noticed that anything too formal in her industry goes over the heads of her readers. You don’t want this to happen, so make sure you choose your language style wisely.

Q2: Recently, AP formalized the use of the singular “they.” Should brand adopt trends before style guide changes?

By now, many of us are pretty familiar with the AP Stylebook. They’re known to make changes with every new edition, but does that mean brands should adopt changes before they’re made official in the AP Stylebook? Here’s some advice:

Tara said brands can absolutely adopt trends before style guide changes are made. As she said, those changes come about due to usage, which means people have already adopted them. It helps to be in tune with how your audience speaks.

She also suggests adopting changes quickly if you want your brand to be seen as progressive. If your brand is more traditional, Tara feels you can wait.

Sarah said brands should write however they want to write. Not everyone is going to adhere to the rules in a style guide, which is absolutely fine. You have to do what’s right for you.

As Jeremy said, language evolves quickly. You never know what language trends people will have adopted by the time style guides are updated.

When you adopt new changes, it shows that you’re staying updated on the trends. Your audience will likely appreciate that!

Being on social media is one way to pick up on trends early on. You’ll likely notice a shift in language just by seeing how others are talking.

Q3: What is a sensitivity edit? Should social media messages pass one?

Have you heard of a sensitivity edit before? Do you think social media messages need to pass one? We asked this question during the chat and here’s what a few people had to say:

Tara said a sensitivity edit checks for meanings in messages that could be blatantly or inadvertently offensive to groups. You want to be sure that the posts you make aren’t going to offend anyone, otherwise it could spell disaster for your brand. For this reason, she encourages all brands to conduct a sensitivity edit on their content.

As Zala said, words do matter. You have to consider cultural and sensitivity factors when creating content for social media and any other platforms. Things can easily be misunderstood and you don’t want to take a chance.

Take a cue from other brands who have messed up big time by posting things people wound up finding offensive. It’s always better to think twice before posting.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth is right about this one. People do take offense to a lot, so you might think something is okay to post, but people may dislike it.

Key things you’ll want to avoid include: anything that’s blatantly offensive, political posts, or religious posts. These are sensitive topics that could open your brand up to a world of backlash if you aren’t careful.

Q4: Does the level of formality differ based on the type of content?

Going back to our first question, we switched gears to talk about formality again. We asked our audience if they felt formality differed based on the type of content they were creating. Here’s what some participants had to say:

Tara says yes! She feels articles and authority pieces typically have a more formal tone than standard blog posts. However, she said podcasts can be more conversational.

Maureen also knows an adjustment in voice can be necessary. While she generally keeps it pretty informal, she makes changes for video content, white papers, and emails.

It helps to consider not just your audience, but the purpose of your content. The purpose behind why you’re writing could change your style as well.

Elizabeth said to consider the platform and content type when deciding on your voice. You want to consider how your readers are going to interpret what you’ve written.

On the flip side, Lex feels that a brand should always stick to the same tone instead of switching back and forth between formal and informal depending on the content.

As Jason knows, it ultimately goes back to your audience. If the way you write doesn’t resonate with your audience, they aren’t going to connect with it and they won’t engage with it.

Q5: When should customers be more forgiving of a brand’s errors in grammar or usage?

We all make mistakes, right? Does this mean customers need to be forgiving when their favorite brand posts something with a typo or grammatical error? Here are some responses from Tuesday’s chat:

Tara feels that people should be more forgiving of errors, especially during something that’s live like a Twitter chat.

We’re all human behind these social media accounts, so don’t be so quick to attack someone over a simple mistake.

Mistakes shouldn’t be a regular occurrence because it’s important to proofread. However, it’s no big deal if they happen once in a while because it’s just part of being human. If you notice an error, correct it as soon as possible.

Maureen says to forgive a brand when they own up to the mistake and are open to hearing the feedback of their audience.

Bre says we should forgive and forget! What’s important is that you learn from those mistakes and try your best to avoid them in the future.

Darcy is spot on with this answer. As she said, mistakes happen, but they shouldn’t happen a lot. When publishing content, you need to strive to be accurate, so always double-check first.

Think about it this way… We’ve all experienced the simple mistake Jeremy mentioned and we wouldn’t want someone being critical with us over it.

To help cut down on mistakes, Ray suggests using tools like Grammarly or the Hemingway App.

Q6: Are editors responsible for spelling and grammar only, or also tone and messaging?

Having an editor on hand to review your work is always helpful, but are they just there to check for spelling and grammar mistakes? Should your editor be reviewing mistakes in tone in messaging as well? Here’s what some of our chat participants had to say:

Tara said she includes edits to tone and messaging under developmental editing duties, as opposed to copy editing.

As Ray said, it really depends on what the writer is looking for. Does the writer want someone to just edit for grammar and spelling mistakes? Or do they also want you to look for errors in tone and messaging?

Elizabeth feels an editor should be responsible for reviewing everything in a piece of content. If that’s what you need an editor to do for you, make sure you’re clear about what you expect.

Debi feels it depends on the purpose of the editor. What did you hire the editor to do for you exactly?

Open communication is key. You should be appreciative and respectful of the feedback an editor gives you. Having a great working relationship will make a huge difference.

We like the way Maureen thinks!

Q7: What materials should a brand’s editor review in addition to standard copy?

Besides just standard copy, what other materials should your editor take a look at? Here are some suggestions from the chat:

Tara said an editor should review anything they’re tasked with. Here at Express Writers, this can include checking for trustworthy links and ensuring copy is unique.

Elizabeth said an editor should review copy, format, graphics, and the fluidity of a campaign.

You may want an editor to review any content that has writing on it. This can include captions on videos.

If it’s going public, have your editor review it first.

Mike agrees that you need to proofread and revise anything before your audience sees it.

You can even have your editor review photos before publishing them.

It’s important to review everything from social media content to press releases to ensure everything is free of errors.

With new forms of content out there, editors are sure to stay busy.

Q8: What existing linguistic trends are on the rise?

Which trends are on the rise that you might want to adopt? Check out these responses:

Tara said inclusive language is on the rise for millennials, as is personal language.

Acronyms and emojis are taking over and you want to be sure you’re using them in the right way.

GIFs and videos continue to rise in popularity as well.

There has also been an increase in hashtags, which is one reason to review a hashtag before using it.

Join us every Tuesday at 10 AM CST for #ContentWritingChat! Follow @ExpWriters and @writingchat to stay updated on our new topics and guests.


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