America’s Next Top Content Writer
It’s easy enough to dash off an accurate description of a mattress company, or a blog post about top kitchen gifts. But how many people can really make those articles stand out as something you want to read, something that grabs your attention and gets you hooked? The best content writer is the one who can put a unique spin on even the most mundane assignment, the one with a chameleon-like ability to switch tone and voice, and the one who keeps working at his or her craft. Use these tips to keep your writing fresh and snappy whatever the task!
The best content writer gets personal.
No, I don’t mean you should pop in a few lines about your latest dentist visit the next time you are writing some magazine copy. No one wants to hear about your loose crown. Getting personal, in this case, means mastering and employing your personal voice. The best writers are the ones who stand out, even on simple pieces. Let a little bit of your own style shine through (or, for some blogging assignments, a lot!), and you will see improvement. Let’s look at the example below, about describing a mattress company. You could say something like this:
At Sleepaway Mattresses, we are a top company in our field. All of our mattresses are of the highest quality to ensure that your sleeping needs are met. We customize to your preferences and test for comfort and endurance. Our materials are sourced only from the United States. Schedule a consultation at a location near you to learn more.
It gets the facts out, yes. It is grammatically sound, if a little awkward. But where’s the hook? Where’s that glimmer of excitement that will make Sleepaway come across as the best fictional mattress company there is? Let’s try again:
When you work hard and play hard, you need a mattress that’s going to leave you truly well rested. That’s where Sleepaway comes in. Whether you like a firm mattress, soft one or anything in between, Sleepaway will work with you to create the mattress of your dreams. Best of all, we’ll make it with eco-friendly materials sourced only from the United States, so you can support local economy and keep it green. Won’t believe it ’til your see it? Make an appointment with one of our consultants today, and we’ll get you on the path to a better night’s sleep. At Sleepaway, it’s more than a mattress–it’s a life change.
See the difference? The first one just tells the customer what the company needs them to know. The second one, however, creates a tangible brand–it has life, and personality. (I’m having to remind myself that I made it up, because these mattresses are sounding pretty good!). The point is, even if you are writing about something utilitarian, you don’t have to let go of having a voice. Hone it. Embrace it. Make it yours.
The best content writer can be a chameleon.
Now, obviously, you wouldn’t want to use the same tone that you used for the mattress company if you were writing a serious academic blog post about the problems of higher education. The best writer is the one who can change their style and tone according to the project. This doesn’t mean you lose your personal voice–even when a chameleon changes colors, it’s still the same animal. It just means that you are sensitive to content and can gauge your tone accordingly.
If this isn’t something that comes naturally to you, the best thing you can do is read, read, read. Check out different types of blogs, press releases, journalistic articles, magazine copy, anything you can find, and notice the stylistic and tonal choices in the ones that catch your attention. Compile a table of good words, sentence structure, and formats for different genres, and use it to help you find the perfect mood for each assignment. Read outside of your usual spectrum, too. Women’s lifestyle magazines may help you figure out how to use your voice to write about jewelry, or dating. An automotive newsletter could allow you to take on some assignments about top 2013 vehicles. By learning to change on a dime, you’ll open yourself up to all kinds of new work.
The best content writer keeps at it.
In some ways, writing is a lot like athleticism. Just because you’re at the top doesn’t mean you get to stop. If Michael Phelps had slacked off on his training regimen after his first Olympic success, do you think he would have had such a record-breaking streak this past summer? Probably not. The best writers are the ones who continue to hone their craft, who look for opportunities to improve their writing.
There are all kinds of ways to do this. Obviously, it goes without saying that to write well, you have to write often. Keep a notebook and jot down thoughts on anything and everything that comes to mind. Practice different styles and different voices. As stated in the point above, you also need to read often. Good reading is the key to good writing, because the more you see strong technique, the more you’ll use it yourself. Read things that make you wish you’d written them!
You’ll also find a variety of academic opportunities for writers out there, and some of them are cheap or free. Look for local classes (this is particularly easy in an urban area, but many community centers do offer courses), and try something new! Creative writing can help you improve your content much more than you’d think, by forcing you to think outside the box. Or, search the web and find free or low-cost webinars and workshops, where you can “meet” other content writers and work together to do better. The best writers are aware of one simple fact: there is no ceiling on success.
Emma S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.