Even as videos get a lot of play in content marketing circles (see what I did there?), as a writer I’ll always maintain that words have a place, even if they’re the script to a video. While content writing could be perceived as a tension between creativity and the directives of business, I don’t see it as either/or: When we create content, we follow best practices as we try to truly move the audience. It’s a waltz between strategy and inspiration, and a mini survey of my colleagues provided insight on the steps.
Good writers read, question, adapt and enjoy.
- A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. Thomas Mann
These qualities were mentioned by multiple EVG writers, and the common element is a love for the written word, a drive to get it right both technically and artistically. Writers here and everywhere consistently talk about the importance of reading—some say writing is just stealing from other writers. And curiosity is key: good writers observe, ask, ponder, put themselves in other people’s shoes and play devil’s advocate.
Good writing is precise, on target, intriguing and moving.
- Good writing is like a windowpane. George Orwell
Let’s start with what good writing isn’t – sentences like “The restaurant’s welcoming atmosphere complements a versatile menu.” It sounds pretty sophisticated and uses intelligent, appealing adjectives. I’ll admit I’ve written sentences like this more than once. But this text could describe any restaurant, anywhere. It does nothing to inform us, catch our attention or leave a mark on our memory.
Instead, good writers let the reader clearly see the subject by being precise. This encompasses both accuracy and level of detail—getting it right as succinctly as possible. Good writers stay on target by understanding for whom they’re writing. But keeping the audience in mind doesn’t mean presenting what they know in ways they’re used to hearing it. Good writing is intriguing. In a forum as competitive as the Internet, writing needs to capture attention and evoke a response.
Even as I talk about good writing in general, and see commonalities across good writing, it would be silly not to acknowledge that writing a hotel room description is different than writing a short story.
Good content writing focuses on audience needs, is judged against business goals and adheres to SEO considerations.
- I made a decision to write for my readers, not to try to find more readers for my writing. Seth Godin
Content writing is not the Great American Novel because it has a different impetus. While creative writing is born of one person’s desire to communicate an individual vision, content writing is about an organization’s objectives and that organization’s audience—what do they need to know and want to know? What are their pre-conceived notions? Are we trying to bolster those notions or shift them?
Good content writing is the interplay of technique and inspiration.
- Good writing gives energy, whatever it is about. Marilyn Hacker
Getting back to the inspiration vs. technique idea, good writers find inspiration in the particularity, the locality, the one-of-a-kind nature of their subject. The technique for finding this inspiration and offering it back to the reader is found in concrete details. Good writers perfect the picture they’re painting with specific details on appearance, background, makers and users. They query the client as possible, ask these questions of themselves if there’s no one else to ask, and do what they can to find answers.
The title of my article was inspired by the way someone described EVG’s services. Even though it’s a bit reductionist (and a little grammatically incorrect), I think it highlights the importance of a firm footing in good content writing. Our services in content audit and strategy are informed by what we’ve learned in the trenches of content creation. But we all have things to learn. Fellow content writers, how do you uncover the details? Respect the purpose? Keep it fresh? Content clients, how do you help your writers gain these details? We’d love to hear.
If you enjoyed this post from Emily, check out her other blog posts!
Emily Smith – Content Writer and Editor