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#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Tips to Take Your Content to the Next Level with Michelle Garrett

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Tips to Take Your Content to the Next Level with Michelle Garrett

Has your writing been feeling a little lackluster lately?

Wondering how you can take it to the next level to create online content your readers will truly love?

Well, you’re in the right place!

This #ContentWritingChat recap is packed with helpful writing tips that help you improve your skills and create the best content possible.

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Tips to Take Your Content to the Next Level with Michelle Garrett

Our guest host for this month’s chat was Michelle Garrett. She’s a writer, blogger, and PR consultant. Michelle has guest hosted #ContentWritingChat previously, so we were thrilled to have her with us again!

Q1: When building a brand, why is great writing so important?

Let’s face it… Some people just don’t see the value in high-quality content! Luckily for this Twitter chat community, we know just how powerful our content truly is. Here’s why:

The content you publish online communicates your brand’s voice. And as Michelle pointed out, you want to make sure it’s consistent across all the channels you’re using. Having guidelines for you and your team to follow can ensure everything is up to your standards and resonates with your target audience.

Jason also feels your writing sets the voice of your brand. It also plays a role in how people find you and whether or not they decide to do business with you.

Tamara knows great writing makes a difference. She said it can help influence your audience, persuade them to take action, educate them on a topic, boost visibility in search engines, and position you as an authority in your field.

Quality writing not only define your voice, but it’s essential to sharing your message, conveying your values, telling your story, and so much more!

As Lexie mentioned, your writing is likely going to be the first impression someone has of your brand. If your content is of poor quality, that’s going to be a major turn-off.

You want to make sure your writing is always top-notch. Make sure you’re effectively communicating your message and correcting any errors before publication. Don’t risk pushing your readers away due to mistakes that could be easily fixed.

Q2: What makes a piece of online content so captivating that it grabs attention and keeps people reading?

We know the content we publish is important. But how do we make sure that things like our blog posts are truly captivating to our readers? Keep these writing tips in mind if you need some help crafting appealing content:

Michelle knows that a strong lede is key to grabbing attention early on and drawing people into your content. You need to hook them from the start if you want them to keep reading.

A great headline is always crucial. Since it’s the first thing someone will see from your content, you want to make sure it strikes a cord with your target audience. Just make sure you always deliver on what your headline promises. No clickbait!

And of course, one key to captivating content is to always create with your audience in mind. Make sure the topics you write about are relevant to your brand and appealing to those who will be reading your content. Otherwise, they won’t bother!

This is a great example that Julia shared, which is worth saving to refer to later! From a specific headline to stats and great storytelling… This has it all.

As Rebecca said, having a unique voice, knowledge to share, great visuals, and something that can’t be easily replicated will really help your content stand out from the crowd.

Tamara feels captivating content needs to have an enticing title and headers, engaging content, visuals, and you need to address a pain point from your audience right off the bat.

Alexa agrees that visuals make all the difference! Don’t just publish one gigantic block of text. Incorporate visuals to help your readers better understand the topic you’re discussing.

Don’t forget to take the time to proofread. It’s one thing to make a mistake here and there, but error after error will likely send your readers running.

One of Jason’s best writing tips is to create content that emotionally connects with your audience. Get them invested in what you have to say. This really pulls them in and helps them form a stronger connection with your brand.

And finally, ditch the fluff! Captivating content is easy to read. But if you’re just stuffing blog posts with unnecessary information, you’ll wind up with exactly the opposite effect. Cut what isn’t necessary to your overall point.

Q3: When it comes to writing tips, what are the basics everyone should know?

If you’re looking to improve your writing skills, it helps to have the basics covered, right? Well, here’s what you should know:

It’s no secret that proofreading your work is an essential step before hitting publish. However, it’s still something that many people neglect. Like Michelle said, you shouldn’t rely solely on your spellcheck or tools like Grammarly. You want to read through it yourself. And if you can, walk away for a bit and come back later to review it with a fresh perspective.

Mara knows that having an editor can really help shape your content. If you don’t have someone on your team to help you with this, you can always ask a friend or family member to read through your work.

As Bill pointed out, it’s crucial that your content is addressing the questions, pain points, and struggles of your target audience. You want to create content with them in mind so it’ll resonate with them and provide value to their lives.

Carla encourages you to ask yourself: What are my readers interested in? What are the current trends that would appeal to my target audience? And what outcomes do I want to achieve from this content? Setting goals for your content is important!

One thing you should definitely ditch? Industry terms that your reader won’t understand. It’s going to put them off because they won’t comprehend what you’re saying. And they certainly don’t want to bust out the dictionary every time they read your posts!

Caitlin agrees that you need to use language your audience will understand. Put yourself in their shoes and consider the level they’re at.

Lexie shared one of the most important writing tips we should all remember: practice! It’s the best way to continually improve your skills over time.

Psst! Julia covers all the basic writing tips in her book that she published in 2016. It has tons of relevant information for all online content creators and is worth checking out.

Q4: Are there any writing tips you learned in school that you completely ignore now? If so, what are they?

The reality is, the world of online content is certainly different from the writing we were doing back in our school days. So, which tips have we ditched completely?

While Michelle still relies on a lot of teachings she learned when studying journalism, she knows that sometimes inverted pyramid style just doesn’t work. It really depends on the particular piece of content you’re creating.

Julia’s advice is to ditch the essay-style language you were taught. It just doesn’t work for online writing. Luckily, she shared a few resources that can help us create better content for the web.

Tamara was taught that it was better to write using more advanced language. Now, she knows that it doesn’t always work that way. You have to write in a way that’s understandable for your target audience, otherwise they won’t be able to read your content.

While we were once taught not to end a sentence with a preposition, we don’t have to worry that someone is going to mark up our online content with red pen. This means you’re free to write in the way you’d naturally speak to someone!

Alexa doesn’t care what anyone else thinks… She’s sticking with her beloved Oxford comma!

Gone are the days where we have to put two spaces after a period. And let’s be real… Online, no one really cares if you start a sentence with words like “And” or “But.” So, go for it!

And Lauren has learned that hitting a specific length for your content just isn’t necessary these days. It’s better to keep your writing clear and concise and only use as many words as needed to get your point across.

These days, you’re free to get creative and inject your personality into the work you create. It doesn’t need to be bland. You don’t have to follow rules you disagree with. Just do your thing!

Q5: What are some signs of both good and bad writing that we should be aware of?

These writing tips will help you improve your skills so you don’t drift over to the dark side:

Errors can really send your readers running, so always take the time to proofread! While sometimes smart, creative writing can save you… It’s still better to take those extra few minutes to make final edits before hitting publish.

Bill feels that good writing answers the questions your audience has and quickly delivers value. Don’t beat around the bush here. Get to the point!

Sarah says good writing is easy to read and understand and showcases your credibility. Bad writing, however, is hard to read and disorganized. And of course, typos and grammatical errors are major no-nos.

Mara isn’t a fan of writing errors either. She says it’s obvious when someone didn’t take the time to proofread their work. Even though it’s not a fun task, it makes a huge difference in the long run.

Your writing also needs to flow from one sentence to the next and one paragraph to the next. If it’s choppy, readers might not make it all the way through your content.

Julia said bad writing is: boring, doesn’t have clear points, lacks practical advice, and is filled with fluff. Good writing is clear and concise, offers practical takeaways, features expert insights, and is fun, readable, and engaging for the reader.

And just take a look at these examples that Julia shared! Which one is easier to read? The second one, of course. Formatting makes a huge difference when it comes to online content and big blocks of texts can push readers away.

Q6: What are some fun ways we can work to improve our writing daily?

We all strive to be better writers, don’t we? Well, the thing is… We can’t just scour the web reading writing tips. We actually have to put what we’ve learned into practice. And here’s some advice to help you make that happen:

Michelle shared tons of great tips with us! First and foremost, she encourages all of us to write every single day. After all, the best way to improve your skills is to practice. She also said you can write about topics that matter to you. It doesn’t need to be related to your work. Allow yourself to have fun and get creative here!

If you aren’t sure what to write about, take Eric’s advice. Use writing prompts to get those creative juices flowing. You can find plenty for free online to get you started.

Kathryn shared some fun ideas, such as rewriting the headlines you see on major news sites. It’s great practice for crafting headlines that grab attention, which is something that even experienced writers can struggle with. She said you can even try writing a story backwards, which is sure to be an interesting challenge!

Coffee haikus and taglines that never were sure sounds fun to us! Plus, it’s even better when you get your whole team involved.

Even something as simple as what you’re writing you’re grateful for counts!

And why not keep a journal on hand to inspire your daily writing habit?

Gaby suggests reading content from others, practicing writing often, reading through your pieces aloud, and reading a friend’s content and providing feedback while they do the same for you.

Consume content from other writers you admire and even ones you don’t. You can learn a lot about what you like and dislike this way.

Carla finds it helpful to review her own writing. You can read content you created in the past and see where improvements can be made.

And of course, don’t be afraid to take risks! Sometimes stepping outside of your comfort zone is the best thing you can do for your writing.

Q7: Are there any resources we can turn to for writing tips? Any writers we can learn from?

If you’re looking for some great sources to help strengthen your writing, make sure you check out these recommendations:

These are all fantastic resources that Michelle shared with the chat!

One great option is to involve yourself in local writing groups. It’s a great way to learn, but also to make friendships with local writers. If there aren’t any nearby, there are online communities you can join too.

Gaby’s favorites include Grammarly, the Hemingway App, Merriam Webster for looking up new words, Copyblogger, and Coursera.

For Jennifer, Grammarly is a go-to tool to improve her writing.

Jake loves Grammarly as well, but he also likes to read content from Copyblogger and SmartBlogger.

And a great tip from Terry! If you really want to take it to the next level, learn more about psychology because it can help you better understand why readers react to content the way they do.

Q8: Open Q&A for Michelle!

At the end of the chat, we wanted to give everyone one last chance to learn some great writing tips from Michelle. So, we opened it up for questions! Here are a few:

Try to write more like a person would sound if they were talking.

Whether you’re B2C or B2B, remember that you’re still writing for humans at the end of the day.

And if you’re looking to find more freelance writing jobs, Jen Gregory is someone Michelle recommends checking out!

Want to join our next #ContentWritingChat? It happens on the first Tuesday of every month at 10 AM Central! Just follow @ExpWriters and @writingchat for all the latest!

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#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Tips for Freelancers

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Tips for Freelancers

This week, we had our second community edition of #ContentWritingChat! In case you aren’t familiar, that basically means we allowed our participants to be the guest hosts for the hour. After all, they’re a pretty smart bunch with some amazing advice to share! Our latest chat on Writing Tips for Freelancers was no exception!

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Tips for Freelancers

We asked our audience to vote on the topic for this week’s chat and Writing Tips for Freelancers won by just a few votes! Considering we have so many writers in our community, it’s no wonder this topic was chosen. Everyone who participated shared some helpful tips, which we’re sharing in this recap! Let’s dive in!

Q1: What are the first steps to creating high-quality content?

To kick things off, we asked everyone to share the first steps they take when it comes to creating high-quality content. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Sarah has three steps she follows when it comes to content creation. Knowing your audience is the first step. Then, you plan it out by determining what, when, and where. And finally, it’s time to execute by writing and publishing your content.

Maureen knows it’s so important to understand your target market when creating content. You also need to have top-notch writers and designers that understand your brand. These are all essential elements to creating amazing content!

As mentioned, it’s crucial to know who your audience is and what they want. You should always create content with them in mind.

Not only do you want to know what your audience is interested in, but you should also determine how they prefer to receive content. What format resonates with them the most?

Susan offered some great advice for this question. She suggests conducting research to see what’s already been written and figure out what the gaps are. What can be added to the conversation that you are capable of writing?

As Sarah mentioned, it’s important to know your purpose. Why are you producing this piece of content? What is your end goal? When you’re creating, keep that purpose in mind.

Kristin suggests knowing your audience, what you want to say, how you want readers to feels and what you want them to do next.

For Lex, she starts with conducting SEO keyword and user intent research. This helps her figure out what her audience wants so she can create content for them.

Q2: How do you know when a piece is good enough to be published?

Too many people hold themselves back from hitting publish on a piece because they worry it’s not “good enough.” So, how exactly do you know when a piece is ready to go live? Here’s some advice:

Sarah said a piece of content is good enough to publish when it fulfills the goals you set out to achieve. Consider your purpose, the questions you’ve answered, your tone, etc.

Zala said to make sure your content: addresses the needs of your audience, is structured and well-researched, is optimized with the right keyword, and has a clear call to action.

For Danielle, she feels a post is ready to go after someone else has proofread it and made edits. If you don’t have someone to edit for you, wait a day after writing before editing it yourself. This allows you to review the content with fresh eyes.

Bruce also suggests having a second and third pair of eyes looking over your content if possible.

For some, you might have a team that a piece of content needs to go through prior to publication. If you do, make sure you’re respectful and take their feedback into consideration.

When you’re proud of the work you’ve created it, hit publish! Don’t stand in your own way.

Khulekani agrees. If you’ve impressed yourself with the work you’ve done and you love it, it’s good to go.

Q3: How much does spelling and grammar matter when writing? Any editing tips you can share?

Will those spelling and grammatical errors really turn off your audience? Find out what our chat participants had to say! Plus, you’ll want to implement the editing tips they chimed in with.

If your work hasn’t been edited and is littered with typos, it shows a lack of care. Try walking away from what you’ve written for at least one hour. Then, come back and proofread it with fresh eyes and a clear mind. You’ll be more likely to spot mistakes.

When you take the time to edit, it shows you pay attention to detail and that you truly care about the work you create.

Do you want your work to be taken seriously? Taylor says you better edit your content and use correct spelling and grammar!

Proper grammar is the soul of the language!

Jason feels correct spelling and grammar keep the integrity of the article. He won’t read something that has mistakes.

Both Leah and Megan won’t bother reading articles that are filled with mistakes. It’s worthwhile to take the time to proofread a couple of times before hitting publish. Don’t turn your readers off.

Khulekani relies on Grammarly to double-check for any errors in writing.

The Hemingway application is Danielle’s go-to tool!

We have another Grammarly fan! Not only is it great for spotting mistakes, but it’ll help enhance readability. Another suggestion is to have a friend or editor proofread for you.

Q4: What’s your biggest pet peeve when reading articles? What should freelancers avoid doing?

When discussing writing tips for freelancers, there’s no doubt that a few pet peeves are going to come up. We asked everyone to share their biggest pet peeves when reading articles so other freelancers can avoid the same mistakes. Check out these responses:

Content that isn’t original will get you nowhere! You need to make your content unique if you want to stand out online.

Grammar mistakes and bad writing are just two things that irritate Sarah when it comes to writing.

For Carla, she hates when people go off topic.

A lack of fact checking and clarity can certainly spell disaster for your article.

Research is a must! Present facts and back them up with reliable sources.

Jason doesn’t like posts that are too long. He also suggests making sure key points are bulleted or bolded. You also want to quote sources and provide visuals. These are all essential writing tips for freelancers to use in their career.

No fact checking. No uniqueness in voice or content. No focus on detail. Natasha knows that all three of these things are mistakes you don’t want to make.

Clickbait titles are definitely a NO. They’re misleading and will quickly turn your readers off.

Q5: How can style and brand guidelines help freelancers become better writers?

When you’re a freelancer, you’re going to be writing for a variety of companies. How can style and brand guidelines help in this situation? Here’s some advice from our chat:

Maureen feels guidelines help establish standards and set expectations. It’s going to help produce consistent content in the long run.

As Leah said, style guidelines help you capture the brand’s voice. After all, they want to make sure the writers they hire are consistently on-brand.

For the company that’s hiring the writer, they’ll want guidelines in place to set expectations.

Clear guidelines are going to ensure both the brand and the writer are happy with the end result. It states what the brand wants so the writer can deliver.

Bruce feels that having structure can actually force you to be more creative in your writing.

Shannon said writers should think of guidelines as a challenge to meet and surpass, as opposed to viewing them as a burden.

Q6: Can you truly become a better writer? If so, what do you need to do?

Is it possible to become a better writer or is it just something you’re born with? If everyone can strengthen their skills, what should we all keep in mind? These writing tips for freelancers are important to consider:

If you want to become a better writer, you have to write more often. It also helps to get feedback by having others review your work.

Practice every day if possible! It doesn’t matter if no one will see what you write. Choose a topic and just get started.

Cheval also agrees that consistency is key here. If you want to strengthen your writing skills, you need to write regularly.

Missy knows you don’t become great at what you do that easily. It’s going to take time and effort.

Think of it like a muscle that you have to train. The more you practice writing, the better your skills become.

Don’t forget to learn from the mistakes you’ve made in the past so you don’t continue making them.

Danielle suggests seeking feedback from trusted editors. They’ll tell you where you can improve.

As Lauren said, you also need to be open to feedback. Listen to what others have to say and take it into consideration as you write.

Shelly’s advice is to spend time reading like a writer/editor.

You can even take classes or join a writing group if you’d like!

Maria said it’s important write, read, educate yourself, and stay curious to improve writing skills.

Q7: Which tools do you rely on for writing and managing your work?

There are plenty of tools that can make it easier for managing writing tasks, so why not use them? Take a look at these recommendations from the chat:

Lexie said the Netvantage team relies on Google Drive for their calendar and storing content ideas. They also use Yoast for SEO purposes, which is a handy WordPress plugin.

The go-to tools for the ThinkSEM team include: WordPress, Google Docs and Sheets, the Hemingway App, the web, their brains, and plenty of time.

Jasmine relies on Asana to manage her freelance writing tasks.

Hubspot, Buzzsumo, Grammarly, Google Analytics, and Buffer are all essential tools for Sabjan.

Sarah mostly relies on HubSpot, but she also uses Evernote for storing ideas. She also turns to Grammarly during the writing process and the Hemingway app afterwards.

John is also a fan of Grammarly.

Brain, creativity, pen, and paper are all essential tools for the freelance writer.

As for Jeff, you can find him speaking to the Notes app on his phone. Sometimes this is just the best and easiest way to record all those ideas!

Q8: What’s your final piece of advice freelancers can take away from this chat?

Last call on writing tips for freelancers! Here’s the final advice some of our participants had to share with everyone:

Be open to suggestions and constructive criticism. As Sarah said, you’re writing for someone else and you need to listen to their feedback.

Jeff’s advice is to know what you’re worth. Don’t let anyone devalue the work you can create.

The freelance life doesn’t have to be isolating. Danielle suggests making connections on Twitter and in real life to connect with follow writers.

Never stop learning!

To be a writer, you just have to get started. Don’t put it off!

And we’ll close on this inspirational note from Cristy because sometimes you just have to go for it.

Want to join #ContentWritingChat? Follow @ExpWriters and @writingchat, and be sure to join us live every Tuesday at 10 AM Central Time!


#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Productivity with Pamela Rosen & Forrest Bryant of Evernote

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Productivity with Pamela Rosen & Forrest Bryant of Evernote

Let’s face it… Writing is no easy task. From brainstorming ideas, to actually getting them out on paper (or on your computer screen), and then editing everything, it can sometimes be a stressful process that takes a while to complete. Fortunately, in this week’s chat, we shared some amazing tips for writing productivity that will help you tackle your writing tasks with ease.

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Productivity with Pamela Rosen & Forrest Bryant of Evernote

Our guest hosts this week were Pamela Rosen and Forrest Bryant, who are both part of the amazing Evernote team. Pamela is a Senior Copywriter for Evernote and Forrest is their Director of Content. Since they’re both experienced writers and content creators, they were the perfect fit to share some writing productivity tips with everyone in the chat.

Q1: What does writing productivity look like to you?

To kick off the chat, we asked everyone to share what writing productivity looks like to them. Check out their responses and see if any of these resonate with you:

For Forrest, writing productivity is a state of flow. He said it requires clarity, purpose, and direction. And of course, it’s not all about how much content you’re able to create. It’s more important to focus on the quality and the value of the content you’re writing.

Pamela said writing productivity is being able to get into the zone. When you get to that state where the words are flowing freely and you don’t have any distractions, it’s always a great place.

Jenn is absolutely right that it isn’t about how much you get done, but how well you do it. You have to come up with a schedule and processes that work for YOU, not anyone else.

Tara, our Content Development Specialist, writes in productive phases. These phases include researching, drafting content, editing, and then publishing.

Tony feels productivity is about getting his writing assignments done at a good time. This means there’s no time to procrastinate!

Jeremy knows it’s helpful to block out distractions when you have writing to be done. If you just focus on your writing, as opposed to multitasking, you’ll be much more productive.

Sorry to say it, but writing productivity also means ditching Netflix for a while as you get work done.

Olivia knows that passion, focus, and efficiency are three very important factors of the writing process. And she’s right that a little excitement about the task at hand helps too!

Q2: Which strategies do you implement when writing content for your brand?

When it comes time to write content, which strategies do you rely on to get things done and do them well? Check out what some of our chat participants do when writing:

Pam shared a great reminder that everyone should keep in mind when writing content. You always need to be human and real because you are speaking to actual people. Another human being is going to be reading your content and you want to create something that resonates with them. To do that, focus on engaging your audience and adding value.
It’s helpful to ask yourself if you would want to read the content you’ve created. If not, you should start over. While everything you write needs to appeal to your audience, it also needs to appeal to you as well.

Forrest said you need to make sure every piece of content delivers value to your reader and/or generates excitement. Before you hit publish, ask yourself if it’s serving your audience in some way. If not, you probably need to revisit what you’ve written.

Gabriela’s writing process looks something like this: getting inspiration, researching the topic and audience, outlining the content, scribbling down her thoughts, writing, and then editing.

Great questions to ask before making a blog post live: Does this benefit my readers? Does it fit with our goals? Is it easy to read/visually appealing? Everything you publish should benefit your reader in some way, but should also help your brand reach an end goal. You also want to make sure the content itself is easy to read and visually appealing, otherwise people just won’t bother.

Be authentic, transparent, and engaging!

Shawn relies on Evernote to help him through the writing process. He creates folders for every project that he’s working on. These folders house notes, research, and ideas. It’s perfect for staying organized!

Q3: How do you brainstorm content ideas and store them to review later?

Content creation all starts with the same step: brainstorming ideas. In Tuesday’s chat, we asked everyone to share their brainstorming tips and how they store ideas to come back to at a later time. After all, we can’t risk forgetting those genius ideas that come out of nowhere!

Forrest said he brainstorms throughout the day. Whenever an idea pops up, he puts it right into Evernote so he knows where to find it later. Eventually, those ideas he saved gets fleshed out into a full piece of content. He begins adding links when needed to support information and turns it into a rough outline.

Pamela knows the value of a team that collaborates, as that’s what they do at Evernote. They share and evaluate ideas together, which is a great way to brainstorm.
And as Pamela said, not all ideas are good. Sometimes you’ll find that something doesn’t fit your brand or audience or maybe it needs to come to life in a different format than you were anticipating. You have to take the time to separate the good ideas from the bad ones. Having a team by your side is a huge help for this!

Just like Forrest, I also rely on Evernote to store ideas. Whenever an idea for a blog post comes up, I save it in an Evernote notebook dedicated to any ideas that come up. I have a specific note that’s solely for blog posts and it’s organized by topic. This ensures I always know where to go to find that idea I had come up with.

For Elizabeth, brainstorming happens as she’s just going about her daily life. She knows that inspiration can strike at any time, so you just have to be open to letting those ideas flow.

Since you never know when inspiration could strike, it always helps to have a notebook and pen on hand. (Or your phone!) Maggie likes to keep a Moleskine notebook in her handbag and jots down any ideas that come up.

You just might want to keep a notebook beside your bed in case inspiration strikes in the middle of the night!

For Lexie, she relies on sticky notes and Trello to brainstorm and store ideas.

At ThinkSEM, the team has brainstorming chats. They then put al of their ideas into a Google doc. Once they’ve planned out the timing for their content, it goes into the final editorial calendar.

Shannon also brainstorms and prioritizes ideas as a team. They then work on the best ideas and shelve others for later, while ditching the ones that just won’t work.

Q4: What does your writing process look like? Any secrets you can share?

Have you ever wanted to get an inside look into the writing process of other content creators? Here’s your chance! This is what some of our chat participants do to create amazing content:

Pamela chooses not to outline her content first. This is the perfect example of why it’s important to do what works best for you. If you need to outline your content, go for it! Otherwise, you can skip this step if you find that it doesn’t help your overall process.

On the other hand, Forrest does take the time to outline his content, but he keeps those outlines rough. He feels it gives him direction, but also the freedom to let everything develop as he writes.

For Jenn, she relies on having a set schedule to get his writing done. She creates a schedule of due dates in Asana and then works in phases to complete tasks. This is one great strategy to encourage writing productivity.

Mallorie said a quiet space is a necessity for her. This helps to eliminate distractions that could direct her attention away from writing. She also likes to have a warm cup of tea on hand as well.

Lolitta likes to have a collection of inspiring writing to refer to when needed. It’s a great way to get yourself in that writing mindset and to get you motivated.

When Olivia is passionate about a topic, she likes to dive right in. Sometimes it’s great to start writing something when that idea is still fresh and you’re still excited about it.

Krissy starts by writing out the main points she wants to get across in her content. She brings up a great point that you shouldn’t expect the first draft to be perfect. Instead, focus on getting your ideas out and then edit later.

Q5: How can you best collaborate with a team when it comes to writing?

If you’re working with a team, you know there are advantages and disadvantages to having teammates writing alongside you. Here are some tips to help ensure the collaboration process goes smoothly:

At Evernote, they have a twice-weekly meeting for all writers across the teams. This is a great way to ensure your team stays in touch and is able to easily communicate with one another.

As Pamela said, you should be able to count on one another to make content better. Don’t let any kind of constructive criticism get you down. You want to be open to what others have to say so you can implement their advice and improve your skills.

Lexie agrees about being open to other ideas. You should be willing to take advice that others give you.

Schedule times for brainstorm meetings with your team. Make sure you also give everyone space to speak up and share their thoughts and ideas. Everyone needs to feel safe and willing to speak their mind when the time comes.

Tara relies on a few tools to help her out, including: Trello, Evernote, CoSchedule, and Zoho.

You can brainstorm ideas in real life or via online chats if you’re a remote team. At ThinkSEM, they rely on Google Docs to proof and edit content and they’re sure to stay open to what others have to share.

This is great advice from Jeff. Remember that you’re a team and everyone has their own unique strengths. Don’t be afraid to speak out and share ideas even if they go against what everyone else is saying.

You can form ideas separately, but be sure to come together to discuss what you’ve come up with. You can pitch ideas, discuss, and collaborate with one another for everything to come together.

You also have to be willing to separate the good and bad ideas so you know what’s truly right for you to pursue.

Q6: When are you most productive at writing? What time of day do you write? Where do you like to write?

There are all kinds of factors that influence our writing productivity, including when and where we write. It’s helpful to consider what time of day you’re most productive for more involved tasks like writing and also the environment around you. Here’s what works for some of the participants in this week’s chat:

Forrest likes to be alone and away from his desk when it’s time to write. He also likes to have some jazz music playing in the background. Coffitivity is also great for giving you those cafe vibes from the comfort of your own home.

Pamela said she’s definitely a night owl. She uses the morning for coming up with ideas, but is most productive at nighttime.

It seems the pressure of an impending deadline is what gets Maggie writing. She often finds herself writing late at night before her work needs to be done.

An evening with the lights dimmed and good music sure sounds like a picturesque writing scene, doesn’t it?

Tony said he’s most productive during the middle of the day, but he finds his best ideas pop up when he’s about to go to sleep. All the more reason to keep a notebook and pen by your bed!

Olivia is most productive in the morning when her coffee is still giving her a much needed energy boost.

For Jeremy, running is what gives him some of his best ideas. If you’ve hit a road block, get outside for a walk or run and see if it helps get those creative juices flowing.

Jenn takes every opportunity he gets to write. She writes on his train commute, at work, at home, on the couch, in bed, and anywhere she can. It’s all about seizing the opportunity when inspiration strikes.

Gabriela is the same way. She writes whenever inspiration strikes!

Q7: Which tools do you rely on to stay on track with your writing tasks? How can Evernote help you?

There are plenty of tools available today that can help with writing productivity. Evernote is just one of those handy tools! Here are a few other suggestions and tips on how Evernote can help you out:

Forrest keeps it simple when it comes to writing tools. He uses Evernote to outline content, create to-do lists, store research, and write drafts. Even when he receives Word documents, PDFs, and Google Doc links, he adds those to Evernote.

Pamela loves using cloud-based tools so she can work from anywhere. Evernote and Google Docs allow you to do this with ease.

For me, I like to write blog post drafts in Evernote. WordPress has crashed in the past, causing me to lost an entire post, so I never write there.

Julia uses Zoho and Google Docs for collaborative writing, Google Calendar for reminders, and Evernote for note taking.

Lolitta relies on both Google Docs and Evernote for blog and social media writing.

Mallie is a big fan of the Pomodoro technique and relies on a timer to keep her focused and on task.

Shannon relies on Google Calendar to keep her on track with tasks that need to be completed.

Gabriela turns to social media to get feedback from her audience.

Zala uses Evernote to store ideas and for writing.

A helpful reminder: know what’s best for YOU. The tool that works for someone else might not be the ideal one for your needs. It’s okay to test out a few to see what works best.

Q8: What final tip can you offer to help others step up their productivity when it comes to writing?

Last call for final tips! Before we ended the chat, we gave everyone the chance to share their top tip for others to walk away with. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Block off time in your calendar for writing so you know you have ample time to get it done.

As Forrest said, the first draft is always crap. You can’t expect the first draft of a blog post to be perfect. That’s what the editing phase is for. Instead, you should focus on getting the content out and editing once you’ve completed your writing.
He also suggests taking time for self-care with breaks, walks, meditation, and plenty of laughter.

Shannon agrees with Forrest and encourages you to not obsess over perfection. You can fix up your content in the editing process or have an editor handle it for you.

Another reminder to quit seeking perfection. Jeremy said you need to focus on expressing yourself.

Be passionate about the topics you’re writing about because it shows through in the final result.

Find the strategies and tools that work best for YOU. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what clicks.

Whether it’s Gary Vaynerchuck or someone else that gets you fired up, a dose of motivation is sure to help you start creating.
Join us live for our #ContentWritingChats! Follow @ExpWriters and join us Tuesdays at 10!

#ContentWritingChat June 14 2016 Recap: How to Write for Difficult Industries & Make it Fun

#ContentWritingChat June 14 2016 Recap: How to Write for Difficult Industries & Make it Fun

Did you miss this week’s #ContentWritingChat? If so, you missed an amazing discussion! There’s no need to worry though. We have a full recap so you can catch up and learn all about how to write for difficult industries.
Do you need proof that Tuesday’s chat was amazing? Take a look at this! We trended at #11!

#ContentWritingChat June 14 2016 Recap: How to Write for Difficult Industries and Make it Fun

This week, our guest host was Kathleen Garvin. This was Kathleen’s second time guest hosting our chat and we always love having her share her expertise. As an editor for The Penny Hoarder, she has loads of great advice to share on writing.

Q1: What are some of the craziest/most difficult industries you’ve written for?

To start off the chat, we wanted to see what kind of writing experience our chat participants have had. While some of them haven’t written for any crazy industries, quite a few had. Let’s just say their answers didn’t disappoint!

Kathleen has had to write for an extremely niche healthcare product before, which she found to be pretty crazy. She also said that personal finance was the most difficult for her because she found it boring.

Tara had to write for a rock hauling company. That sounds pretty weird, right?

It’s safe to say that Danielle may have had the craziest answer of all.

Different grades of steel? That sounds interesting.

Our very own CEO, Julia, had to write about trash bags. Does it get more fascinating than that?

Zachary had to write product descriptions for batteries!

Q2: How can you still maintain readability and creativity when writing for difficult industries?

When writing for a difficult industry you still want to make sure your writing is easy to read and creative. Check out these tips from the chat:

No matter what, you always need to keep the basics in mind. Kathleen said to ensure you have good grammar, correct spelling, and the right information.

Kathleen and Alberto were on the same page with their responses. Remember that you’re writing for people. Write how people talk, not like a robot.
Kathleen also suggests using images to break up the text in your article and interviewing people in the industry you’re writing for.

Address the interests and questions of your reader. You want to make sure you’re adding value for them.

Hardik said to make sure you get to know the industry and business you’re writing for. The more knowledge you have, the easier it’ll be to write.

Amanda said you shouldn’t be too technical in your writing. State the facts, but make sure it’s easy for the reader to understand.

Jenn said to give your content personality. That’s a sure way to pull readers in.

As Zlatka said, understand what your audience is interested in. Also, quit thinking you’re writing about boring content. It’s all in the mindset!

As Kathleen said, there are no boring topics… Only boring content creators.

Q3: Industry content can require extra research. Tactics/methods for best research?

If you’re writing for an industry that requires you to do some research, implement these tips from the chat:

Kathleen said to ask a lot of questions. Figure out what other people within the industry are asking and talking about. She also said to see what industry leaders are covering. Check out reputable publications to gather information.

If you need to have a membership to access industry-specific publications, ask your client. They may have a membership already.

Take your research to social media! You can search hashtags that are widely used by the industry you’re writing for in order to see what others are talking about.

Jenn said Google Alerts help her with her research. Consider setting up Google Alerts for the industries you write for so you’ll be notified of the latest news.

Tara and Jacob suggested using BuzzSumo to find experts within the industry.

Amanda said to gather as much information as you can. Read news articles, case studies, and anything else you can find. Don’t forget to get information from your clients, too.

Michael also recommended getting quotes and input from your client.

Danielle’s advice is simple, but it’ll help you be a better researcher. Keep all of the information you find in one document so you stay organized.

Q4: What are a few tips on writing to appeal to industry-specific audiences?

If you want to appeal to the audience you’re writing for, keep these tips in mind:

We agree, Kathleen!

Make sure you know who your audience is before you write. Brandie said to spend time chatting with them.

Julia knows you should always keep your audience in mind when writing. She said to write in their language. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

Be confident! Write as if you are an influencer within the industry and it’ll show through in your work.

Great answer, Jacob!

Jeremy said you shouldn’t write “down” to your audience. Speak their language and offer something new.

Q5: Show you SEO-optimize industry content?

Should you optimize industry content for search engines? Here’s what participants in Tuesday’s chat had to say:

Kathleen said you should. She likes to use Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush.

Do you want search engine traffic? Optimize your content!

Erika said to optimize your content, but remember that you’re writing for humans. Don’t write for robots.

Brittany said yes. She has been optimizing all of her web content for search engines.

Julia said to focus on your audience and expertise first, and then optimize your content.

Yes! Great answer, Cheryl!

If you want your content to be found, you should definitely optimize it!

If your audience can’t discover it, what’s the point?

Q6: Any recommended tools that help you create industry content?

What tools can help you when creating industry content? Check these out:

Kathleen knows Google Analytics is a must. She said to get to know your stats, data, and demographics. She also recommends Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush.

For Tara, she relies on BuzzSumo, SEMrush, and Answer the Public for researching and finding influencers.

Jacob is also a fan of BuzzSumo. We use it here at Express Writers as well. You should definitely try it out if you haven’t already.

Have you tried these tools? If not, you should!

Don’t forget about social media. You can use a tool like HootSuite to monitor what others are saying on social media platforms.

Amalia relies on analytics, trends, news, alerts, and specific blogs to help.

Larry is another BuzzSumo fan. He also uses Google Trends and Instagram to see what’s popular.

For Julia, she likes to use BuzzSumo, Google surveys, and KW Finder.

Jenn relies on Google Alerts, Twitter Trends, Google Analytics, and her own ears. Don’t forget to use your ears, writers!

Danielle uses BuzzSumo, Feedly, and Grammarly.

Q7: What are your favorite brand examples that are creating great industry content?

What brands are creating amazing industry content today? Here’s what our chat participants had to say:

Kathleen said blender company, Blendtec, is creating some pretty great content.

Have you checked out these brands?

If you’re looking for content within the tech industry, check out UX Magazine, Fast Company’s Co.Design, and Forbes Tech.

The brands Jim and Varun mentioned are all doing a great job at content creation.

Julia said Slack and NewsCred are both fantastic at industry content. She also loves Poo~Pourri.

Q8: Q&A for Kathleen.

Check out some of these questions for Kathleen:

Grammar and spelling are so important when it comes to writing!

Kathleen said to get higher-ups to contribute content. It’s a good idea to get others involved and sharing their expertise.
We look forward to seeing you at the next #ContentWritingChat! Mark your calendars weekly for Tuesday at 10 AM CDT for great chats centered around content writing and marketing. Follow @ExpWriters to stay updated on our new topics and guests!

50 Weak Words and Phrases To Cut Out Of Your Blogging

50 Weak Words and Phrases To Cut Out Of Your Blogging

Could a few extra, unnecessary words in your blogs be costing you readers?

We’ve all heard the commands “show, don’t tell” and “write what you know.”

While these conventions are great advice for the everyday blogger, they don’t exactly address how you can go about making small tweaks that strengthen our writing and increase reader engagement.

While its great to use descriptive words and write whatever pulls you into it, the easiest way to strengthen writing and blogging skills is to begin cutting out those weak words and phrases.

Words and phrases that don’t add to the overall meaning of the writing only serve to clutter it up and make it difficult for readers to understand. Fortunately, this easy guide will help you learn which words and phrases should be cut from writing.

Disclaimer: Some of these phrases may be essential to certain sentences or phrases of speech; if so, leave intact! My approach is more to show you which “overused” words and phrases could use a good shave to make your blogs tighter, more readable, and better. So, don’t throw these words in your sentences just to fill a word count, or to elongate a sentence: use as necessary only.

Let’s dive in!

50 blogging phrases

50 Words and Phrases That You Should Cut From Your Blogging (Now)

1) About: “About” is a vague, weak word and it’s wise to cut it out when discussing quantities. Get more specific by using the word “approximately” or giving readers a specific range, as in “15-20 cows got loose.”

2) Accordingly: Accordingly is a chunky word and it can make your text difficult to read. If you must use it, replace it with a simpler word, like “so.”

3) Actual Facts: Saying that something is an “Actual fact” is a little bit like saying something is a “new invention.” It’s redundant and clunky and you simply don’t need it. Remove “Actual” and stick to the facts.

almost there meme

4) Almost: Excess use of the word “almost” can spell a quick death for a blogger. Vague terms like this
leave readers hungry for specificity and you’ll make your writing stronger instantly when you get rid of “almost” and replace it with specific terms.

5) All Throughout: “All throughout” is another one of those redundant phrases that can spell clunky, flabby writing for writers. Omit the word “all” and get to the point.

6) Amazing: Although “amazing” has some value as a descriptive term, it needs to be used sparsely if at all. Qualify your use of this word by specifying what, exactly, makes it amazing.

7) Better: How much better? Why is it better? “Better” is a vague and subjective appraisal unless you back it up with analyzed and summarized data. For example, “Susie was doing better” vs. “Susie was doing better after she began using an Asthma inhaler.”

8) Maybe: Do you know or don’t you? This is especially important when it comes to opinion pieces and authoritative writing. People are reading your words in order to learn something from you and use of the word “maybe” makes it seem like you’re really not that sure at all.

9) Perhaps: Unless you’re using this word to explore alternate endings on unknown topics (as in “Perhaps Amelia Earhart’s plane ran out of fuel and crashed”) then it’s time to get rid of it. It makes your writing seem unsure and nobody wants to listen to rambling musings for very long. Be confident in your writing and answer reader’s questions without beating around the bush.

10) Just: “Just” is a minimizing word and seldom adds value to a sentence. Get rid of it and streamline your thought process.

Literally11) Literally: If something is literal, your readers should know it without you needing to use this word to clarify it. More often than not, the word “literally” makes writing sound flabby and juvenile, which is probably not what you’re going for.

12) Big: Once more, readers hate it when you’re vague and unclear adjectives like “big” only leave them asking “how big?” Instead of saying the horse was big, say it stood 5’6″ at the shoulder and weighed 2,000 lbs. This will give your readers a clearer picture and more satisfaction.

13) Really: Although you might use the word “Really” when you speak, you don’t want to use it when you write. It doesn’t translate into text and phrases like “really hard” only make writing seem half-finished. If the word “really” isn’t adding distinct specificity, cut it out and don’t look back.

14) Very: In the same boat as “really,” “very” is a word that offers little, if any value. “Very” is subjective, weak and best left out of your writing.

15) Stuff: Unless you’re aiming for an informal piece, stay far away from the word “stuff.” The bane of professional writing near and far, this word makes your writing seem informal and half-baked. In order to avoid this, be more specific about what the “stuff” is. Instead of saying “he grabbed his stuff” say “he grabbed his baseball bat and mitt.”

16) Things: Vague as can be, “things” leaves readers wondering. Instead of saying “10 Things You Can do to Get Better at Math” shoot for something like “10 Strategies for Acing Math This Year.”

17) That: This is a big one. Open a word doc on your computer and read through it once. Now read through it again without the word “that.” Did it detract from the meaning? Most likely, the answer is no. “That” is generally a filler word that adds no value to sentences and can easily be eliminated, especially when referring to people.

18) Went: “Went” is a vague word that describes only the action and not the method. Instead of saying “I went to class,” consider saying “I trudged to class through a howling blizzard.” Replacing “went” with more descriptive terms will do wonders for your writing and help your words pop off the page.

19) Always: Nothing is always true and nothing is always false and if you’re going to use this word in your writing, you risk making dangerous, absolute statements. The only place “always” has a home is in written instruction, as in “Always make sure the blade guard is down before you start the saw.”

20) Never: A close partner to “always,” “never” makes you susceptible to dangerous assumptions and exclusive statements, which in turns makes you more likely to sound ignorant and offend people.

21) It: Vague pronoun reference, anyone? “It” can generally be replaced by descriptive terms for stronger writing.

22) Aspect: This is a vague noun that can be strengthened by simply saying what you mean.

23) Area: Which area? Where was it? How big was it? Get specific and give your readers what they want.

24) Facility: Just like “area,” “facility” begs questions like what, where and how?

25) Meaningful: Although “meaningful” has a place in some writing, it’s better if you cut it entirely and simply say why something was meaningful.opinionated

26) In my Opinion: Unless you’re writing an opinion piece, leave this out. Even then, it should go without saying that the opinion piece is indeed your opinion.

27) It Has Long Been Known That: This adds extra five words to whatever you’re trying to say and you can tighten your writing by cutting it out.

28) In Fact: Often used as a transition, “in fact” is a clunky way to introduce new information.

29) That Said: Like “in fact,” “that said” is used as a transition in writing and is often unneeded.

30) Type Of: Rather than using this flabby phrase, say exactly what you mean.

31) Added Bonus: A bonus, by definition, is added. Omit “added” for a clearer sentence.

32) Aid and Abet: This clunky phrase can easily replace with more direct expressions.

33) Armed Gunman: Should you find yourself writing about gunmen, it’s unneeded to say that they are armed.

34) Ask a Question: Would you rather ask a declarative? It’s implicit that anything asked is a question so leave the later part off.

35) By Means Of: This clunky expression can be dropped simply to “by” in order to simplify expressions.

36) Continue On: If you’re continuing, it’s not needed to say you’re going onward.

37) Current Trend: Trends aren’t long-lasting things, so it’s needless to say that they are current.

38) Drop Down: Unless you’re dropping something up, it’s needless to include “down” in this phrase.

39) Depreciate In Value: Depreciate means that something loses value so you don’t need to specify that value has been lost.

40) Is Found to Be: Leave off “found to be” and keep it at “is.”

41) It is Evident That: If it’s evident, you probably don’t need to say it. Leave this out.

42) It is Noted That: This phrase doesn’t add anything but extra words to your sentences. Leave it out for clearer writing.

alleledgy43) Allegedly: Unless you’re discussing a court case that is still in progress, leave the word “allegedly: out of your writing. It makes for unclear statements and a lack of authority.

44) The Majority of: Change this to “most” and you’ll immediately clarify your writing.

45) At Such Time As: This is a clunk phrase that can easily be replaced by “when.”

46) Despite the Fact That: Often used as a way to introduce a new fact, this phrase can be replace by “although” for more clarity.

47) For this Reason: Although this phrase isn’t explicitly bad. It can easily be replaced by “thus” or “therefore.”

48) In All Cases: Change this to “always” for more streamlined thoughts.

49) In Most Cases: “Usually” or “typically” can easily replace this unneeded phrase.

50) In the Event That: Replace this big chunk of words with “if” and you’re well on your way to a better reader experience.

Although few of these words and phrases are explicitly bad for writing, eliminating them or at least decreasing their use can make your writing clearer, more direct and much easier to read.