Going with the Flow
As freelance writers, we’ve all seen instructions that demand our content flows, or received a revision request that asks, “Can you make this piece flow better?” What does that mean? Making content flow is not about imbuing it with some kind of Zen-like quality. Instead, content that flows is content with interesting sentences, organized paragraphs and information that is presented in a logical fashion.
At the Sentence Level
When content doesn’t flow, the culprit is often either the sentence structure or the word choice. I often hear the advice that if you aren’t sure whether a particular punctuation mark works in a sentence, you should rewrite or split the sentence to avoid the punctuation mark altogether.
Don’t do that! Punctuation marks are your friends, so take every opportunity you can to learn how to use them properly. The fact is, for your work to flow, you need change your sentences up every now and then. If you use short sentences – no commas, semicolons, colons or even lovable em dashes – your work will seem choppy.
Conversely, you can’t adopt the philosophy that no sentence is complete if you haven’t daisy-chained at least three independent clauses, and maybe mixed in a few verb phrases just for good measure. Long sentences are exhausting and often confusing. Be kind to your readers and learn how to construct sentences of varying lengths, preferably with some interesting punctuation just to keep them on their toes.
The name of the game in web writing is brevity. If content marketers could figure out how to create a fully fleshed blog post in 120 characters or less, blog writers would all starve to death. However, just because you’re expected to keep things short and sweet doesn’t mean you can forget everything your English teacher taught you about paragraph structure.
Just like a story, your paragraphs need to have a beginning, middle and end. Don’t just dive straight into the facts without a sentence that introduces the idea you’ll be covering in the paragraph. Outline the main points you need to cover with a couple of sentences in the middle of the paragraph, and then close with a sentence things up or subtly leads into the next section.
Tying the Whole Thing Together
Throughout your post, the information you’re presenting needs to have a logical flow. That means that if you’re writing about painting a kitchen, don’t get things started by talking about how to clean paint brushes. Always be conscious of how you would like the information presented if you were the reader.
There is also the touchy subject of introductions. Approach your introductions as if you’re playing poker. You don’t want to be the guy in sunglasses that sits in stony silence because that doesn’t give your readers any idea what to expect. You also don’t want to be the player with an uncontrollable ear-to-ear grin, because now your readers know what’s in your hand and they’re less inclined to read further. Drop just enough hints and tells to lure your audience in, but don’t give away your whole hand until they’re hooked.
And finally, there’s the conclusion. A good conclusion takes the salient points of an article and wraps them up into a neat little package with a bow on top. So in this conclusion, I should be telling you that things like varied sentence structure, paragraphs with beginnings, middles and ends, and logically organized information throughout the whole piece are the three best ways to make your content go with the flow.
Amber K loves writing about agriculture, home improvement and construction. She loves to collaborating with her clients, and she is very easy to work with!