It’s a content jungle out there. When a Net surfer lands on your website, you have just minutes to engage them with some compelling, original content before they ride off into the sunset to satisfy their content lust elsewhere.
But in this field, a deadline feels feels centuries away one minute, the next it’s closing in on you like those walls with spikes in them in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (easily the best of the three – I like to pretend Kingdom of the Crystal Skull didn’t happen!). With one eye on the clock and the other on your content, perhaps you bash out anything, regardless of whether it’s original or not, interesting or not, just to meet the deadline.
I sincerely hope you don’t. But if you do, I’d like to change all that with a few tips on how to write original content every time. They’re a few rules I live by… well, my copy does at least.
Remember: Your first paragraph always sucks (and maybe your second one too)
When we start writing a piece of content, we’re passing ‘Go’ but we’re not really collecting £200. We’re just warming up. Fast forward a paragraph later and it’s a different story. Our brain is firmly in gear and we’re thundering towards the end of the piece.
So once you read the end of your article, highlight the first paragraph (and maybe the second too) with your trusty mouse and click on that ‘delete’ button. Give a little yelp if it makes you feel better, but watch what happens to your copy when you lose that first paragraph. Doesn’t the writing magically feel crisper and look more like it means business? You can either leave it that way, if it makes sense to, or rewrite a sharper intro now you’re brain is in gear.
You’re not wasting words and, more importantly, you’re not wasting your reader’s precious time. Work hard on your intro and they’ll read on.
How was mine, by the way? #paranoid
Adjectives also suck
Okay, that’s harsh of me. Not all not all adjectives suck. That would be one of the most horrifically sweeping generalisations in the world of copywriting!
There’s nothing wrong with a well placed adjective, but think back to all the times you’ve seen the same description used to describe a person or a thing. Then imagine the effect it might have on your reader. Maybe they’ve seen it even more than you have! That’s gotta hurt in copy one-upmanship!
I believe the best way to describe something is to adopt a ‘show rather than tell’ approach. For instance, cities clearly are bustling, but instead of describing them with an adjective, state some of the sights and sounds that convey the impression of a busy environment. Say how it makes you feel.
This kind of experiential writing makes descriptions more original, gives the writing an alternative voice and creates a picture in the reader’s mind. The approach evokes feeling and engages them, and shows you’ve put a bit of effort into the description rather than fob them off with the same tired old adjectives. There’s also the bonus that you don’t have to keep searching for a different adjective each time. Phew!
Your first idea sucks (sorry!)
You’ve had an idea. Congratulations, but before you run with it, how long did it take you to come up with it? Five seconds? All of 10 seconds?What – a whole 15 seconds?
Don’t rush out and buy the intellectual property rights to it just yet, my friend. The idea will almost certainly have popped into the heads of thousands of copywriters and other marketing professionals across the planet before entering your creative noodle.
Go with the fourth or the fifth, the ones that have made you dig a little deeper. You’ll produce something more original and add more value to your blog or to your client’s marketing. Good job!
Lack of personality sucks
There’s nothing worse than prose with no real voice or feeling in it. Your words must work hard to hold your reader’s attention, especially if you want to promote a service or a product, or even if you’re just writing for fun and want them to return to your site.
So inject personality into your writing, whether you’re writing for a client and infusing the copy with the brand voice, or writing a personal blog and sprucing it up with your own voice. You’ll add so much more verve to the copy and readers will want to keep reading.
People like to be around others who are enthusiastic and have a positive mental attitude: apply this to your copy so they like to keep reading it! A reader is for life, not just for a blog post!
Not sleeping on it sucks
If you have the luxury, you should give your copy ‘the overnight test’. That means writing your article, leaving it overnight and then re-reading it with a fresh pair of eyes the next day. You’ll find that some of the stuff you’ve written seemed like a good idea at the time. But so was that tattoo of Fred Flintstone you got on your bum in Magaluf and you’re not so keen on that now are you! Thankfully you can delete your copy…
It’s just your chance to place some distance between yourself and your copy. You’ll see there are turns of phrase that reek so badly your eyes start burning, sections you’re ashamed you even wrote in the first place etc. In a nutshell, you’ll read your copy with a more objective eye. This is all a part and parcel of good self editing.
That’s my say on writing original content every time. Like I said, my copy lives by it. If your writing needs a little First Aid, breathe some life into it with these tips. Then long live the content!