Category: copywriting

The formula for writing great content

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Welcome to the first Monday in May. Another month has come and gone, as they tend to do. The weather is doing what it does. The world continues to move as it’s supposed to. We’re all moving forward even when it feels like we’re standing still and experiencing the same day over and over. It’s a new day. Go do something with it.

Random quote: Always do the right thing even if it comes at great cost.

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk.

The formula for writing great content

Deep within the pages of one of my many notebooks, I discovered a secret formula for writing great articles and blog posts. Actually, it’s not that secret (I just don’t remember the source), but it’s a pretty simple formula when you break it down.

The formula is GREAT CONTENT = QUALITY + UNIQUENESS + AUTHORITY.

Quality

Write good copy. Keep your sentences tight. Make every word work hard.

Work on improving as a writer. Practice your writing. Study the craft. Read good writers. Write a lot. Work with an editor when needed.

Make your content look great. Follow good design principles (e.g., fonts, white space, bullet points, headings and subheadings). Hire a designer or learn to use the tools. Templates are your friend.

Uniqueness

Say something different. Don’t just repeat what other writers have said. Find a new angle on a popular topic. Be controversial. Explain topics in new and unique ways. Take a stand.

Create your own voice. State your opinions. Borrow another writer’s voice until you find your own if needed.

Authority

Be a journalist. Do deep research. Interview experts and authorities in their field. Cite your references. Back up statements with facts and data.

Become the expert in your field. Focus on a niche and get to know everything about it. Write on a topic or market to the exclusion of others. Be the authority that others seek out.

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.

  1. I don’t do UX (user experience) writing but I definitely appreciate good UX writing. We all hate instructions and writing that makes the user experience difficult or confusing. Check out How to write digital products with personality from UX Collective to learn about using words to make the user experience more interesting.
  2. I enjoy reading about what good writers do that makes their writing so readable. It’s a great way to learn and improve my own writing. Check out Writing tools I learned from Paul Graham from Built By Words for some great strategies on writing.
  3. I have written a few case studies in my day and would love to do more of it, as it suits my writing style (and pays well). It’s difficult to get into without some direction. Check out How to make a living writing case studies and white papers from The Write Life for strategies on getting into case study and white paper writing.
  4. Do you read a lot of articles or ebooks online but want to read them in a more convenient format? Check out How to read stuff posted online from Snakes and Ladders. It discusses two interesting services: Push to Kindle and Print Friendly.
  5. Many experts in the freelance writing field advocate for specializing in niches to be successful. I’m a generalist for the most part, which is why I enjoyed reading Range from David Epstein. Check out General education has a bad rap from Slate.com for an excerpt from Epstein’s book.
  6. In many cases, there is no need to reinvent the wheel and that includes writing headlines. Check out 332 incredible headlines with over 10,000 claps each from J.J. Pryor for some great headlines that have gotten readers to keep reading.
  7. I’ve written about word usage before. Because it’s such an important topic, as we should all use the right words, check out The 35 words you’re (probably) getting wrong from The Guardian to help you know when to use these words.
  8. First drafts are the bane of most writers’ existence. Getting started is harder than anything. Check out How to write a first draft of anything from Ann Handley for her thoughts on getting that first draft on the page.
  9. If you write a newsletter and you want to make a living from it, you’re going to need subscribers. Many experts have written on this topic, and if it was something I wanted, I should read more about it. Check out Foster’s real-world guide to getting your first 1,000 email subscribers from Foster if you’re looking to build your email list.
  10. Writers like cool things to store their cool things. Check out the Classiky Desk Tool Box from Wonder Pens. They are my favourite stationery store and I get nothing from promoting that fact.

Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com. 

David

Finding the right tone

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Welcome to the first Monday in April. The good news is that April 1st was last week, so there is no April fool’s joke. The bad news is that we could all use a good laugh right now and I have no jokes to share with you.

Random quote: When a vessel is empty, you can fill it up and empty it again. Is a vessel ever truly empty?

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk. It’s a bit late because of Easter and procrastination. I’ll try as hard as I did this week to make sure it’s not late again.

Finding the right (write) tone

Writing in the right tone for a new client – or even a current client – can be challenging and frustrating at times. Writers have ideas and styles that don’t always mesh with the client’s ideas and goals. However, there are some relatively simple strategies to help you get the right tone when writing a first draft:

  • Ask the client. They often know their audience better than you will, and the tone required to reach them. This will save the writer a lot of time.
  • Refer to the brand guidelines or style guide. If the client has a style guide, a lot of work and research went into it. Stick to the defined tone.
  • Ask for an example of desired tone. Sometimes, the client won’t know exactly how to describe the tone, but they probably know it when they see it in other work. Check examples and match the tone to them.
  • Ask for an example of what they don’t want. Clients will know what does not work, so the process of elimination will get you closer to what they do want.

What style elements go into defining tone?

  • Point of view = first person (I, we) vs. second person (you) vs. third person (he, she, they)
  • Sentence length
  • Paragraph length
  • Word choice
  • Marketing jargon
  • Em / en dashes
  • Sentence structure

Quick tip: If a client does not like a piece you’ve written, it often comes down to tone. Rewrite a paragraph (rather than the whole piece) in a different tone to get their reaction.

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com. 

David

Writing the call to action

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Welcome to the fourth Monday in March – there’s another Monday after this one! That seems like too many Mondays for one month. Something must be done about that – add another Saturday next month.

Random quote: The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.

This week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk is sponsored by no one. None of the previous issues have been sponsored either, so I’m keeping the streak alive.

Writing the call to action

Every piece of marketing content – such as newsletters and emails – needs a call to action. It tells the reader what you want them to do when they’re done reading your content. If you’ve done the job of writing persuasive marketing copy, and the reader has made it to the call to action, then they should know what to do… and they should want to press the subscribe button or reply to your question or do whatever it is what you want them to do.

So what makes an effective call to action?

  • It is an ACTION – Subscribe / Donate / Download / Email / Call
  • It has URGENCY – Use commanding words to imply the risk of waiting
  • It has VALUE – Download this free guide / Discover the power of XX / Book a demo / Start your free trial
  • It uses ACTIONABLE language – Get started / Reserve your seat today / Get it now
  • It reduces RISK – Download and get started today / Start your free trial
  • It makes it EASY to take action – One click to get started
  • It is EMPOWERING – Click here to get your free trial
  • It can be SEEN – Use white space and colour to make it stand out

Use these strategies when putting a call to action in your next email or letter of introduction. Let me know how it works for you.

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

If you’ve read this far and you’re the first person to SEND ME AN EMAIL with the words I READ IT, I’ll mail you a free copy of my book, How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground.

David

Making time to do your best work, becoming a content machine, writing the best call to action, and more

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Welcome to another Monday. If you’ve been a regular reader, you might have noticed a change in what and when I’m writing. I’ve decided to publish just on Mondays instead of twice a week. I might publish on the occasional Thursday if I write something that I want to stand out. Otherwise, it will be once a week. This will let me provide more information in each blog post. I’ve also changed the format a bit so you can learn more about what I like. Nothing is set in stone, but let’s see how this goes.

Here’s a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Make time to do your best work

Do Lectures published an article on seven ways to make time to do your best work. Strategies include:

  • Saying no to things that take time away from what you want to do
  • Committing all of your attention to your work
  • Mastering the ability to be patient
  • Finding something that you love doing
  • Getting rid of your ego
  • Identifying your purpose
  • Going for big wins

Here’s a great quote: “To change that you will have to learn how to say ‘No’ to things. Saying ‘No’ will allow you to have more time to do things well. You can’t do everything to the best of your talent. But you can do a few things to your highest ability.”

Becoming a content machine

Luk Smeyers from The Visible Authority published an article on becoming a content machine in just one day per week. He takes a three-step approach to generating and promoting his content. They include:

  1. Identify your content inspiration sources. 
  2. Create a content hub that will centralize all your content efforts.
  3. Set up a system for promoting your content.

He also tells you four things you can start doing tomorrow – I love instructions that include things you can actually do. Those four things are:

  1. Gather insights about your audience. 
  2. Centralize your content.
  3. Collect and assess the data.
  4. Schedule and automate your content production and distribution.

Writing the best call to action

Ann Handley published an article on writing the best call to action. She gives an example from North Carolina’s Currituck County Economic Development home page. The CTA is different, personal, and effective.

Quote: “The most effective copywriting reflects who you are, not just what you sell.

If you want to learn more about calls to action, read my blog post, Begin at the end: The call to action.

How to tackle the big project

Kate McKean, publisher of the Agents & Books newsletter, wrote an article on how to tackle the big project. Here’s some of what she had to say:

  • Read it all the way through one more time. I really feel it necessary to have a good lay of the land before I start a big project, but admittedly this step takes a lot of time and you might not have that time. Still, a read-through will give you an idea of what the most pressing issues are (soggy middle? unconvincing ending? prologue you need to chop off?) so that you can prioritize. This is especially helpful if you haven’t read it through in a long while. If you did it recently, you might not need to do it again.
  • Don’t do the small stuff first. It might be tempting to do your Find > Replace Joe to Joey, but tbh, do that last. You’ll likely just be editing stuff that will be cut after you do the big stuff, so don’t spin your wheels. 
  • Do the big stuff first. Do the biggest thing first. I know that is daunting and you would rather ease into an edit, but you have to take all the furniture out of the room before you replace the floors. (That metaphor works, right? How many metaphors can we use today!!!!) If you know the ending isn’t working, go in and fix the ending, which may mean fixing the beginning. If you feel like the stakes aren’t high enough, go ratchet up those stakes! When you do the big thing first, the rest feels so easy you’ll glide right through it. Also, the big thing usually ripples throughout the whole manuscript, so there’s no point in going in and changing the tense on a section you may just have to cut anyway.
  • Next do the medium stuff. Do you need to change the tense? First person to third? That’s what I consider medium stuff. It can still be pretty big! But after you have most things in the right places, then you can go in and make changes that affect the global template, so to speak. Again, do these after the big moves, even though it’s tempting to do them first because they’re easier to wrap your brain around.
  • Then do the small stuff. I know this seems obvious, or at least simplistic. But I also know that the overwhelm caused by an impeding huge edit can really cloud one’s judgement. Save the little things for last. Name changes. Checking timelines, weather, dates, consistency. These will feel like a piece of cake after the other two steps, so enjoy that relative ease!

The benefits of a morning writing routine

Naomi Pham from Craft Your Craft wrote an article on six profound benefits of a morning writing routine (and how to build one yourself). I’ve toyed with a morning journal and writing notes in the morning but it has not stuck with me yet. I understand the benefits, and the article lays them out very nicely, including:

  • It frees your mind of clutter
  • It helps you become more self-disciplined
  • It can help with your well-being
  • It enables you to take advantage of your best state of mind
  • It will help you avoid willpower depletion
  • It allows you to enjoy distraction-free writing

Getting ideas onto the page

Kayleigh Moore wrote an article about getting ideas out of your head and onto the page. This is a common problem for many writers, as they get stuck in their head and can’t translate their thoughts into the written word. Or they just don’t know where to start writing. Here is what Kayleigh suggests:

  • Identify your motivation – why do you want to write what’s on your mind?
  • Be OK with sharing something that is not perfect
  • Get over the mentality of “Why bother?”

She also provides some steps on executing the process of putting your thoughts on paper.

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for the November/December 2020 Issue of RHB Magazine2020 Taxation Report: Understanding the inequities in the taxation of multi-residential properties.

What I read

I finished reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. He is one of my newer favourite authors whose books I plan to continue adding to my bookshelf. It’s a story about a bank robbery gone wrong, which turns into a hostage situation at an apartment viewing. It’s more than that, of course. But to say more would take away the joy of reading and discovering what happens next.

What I watched

I finally got around to watching the movie Tenet. I’m a fan of Christopher Nolan, and this one messes with your mind. It involves moving backward and forward in time, the past is the future, etc.

I also watched the movie Palm Springs. To say anything more than it involves two people who meet at a wedding would be giving away the crux of the movie. I’ll let you discover that nugget for yourself.

What I listened to

Some of the podcasts I listened to this week:


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Following a checklist when writing articles, blog posts, and other content

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I’m the type of writer who usually likes to write first and figure out whether I’ve hit all my requirements later. If I missed a keyword or some key points, I’ll work them in somewhere in my rewrite. It’s partially a symptom of needing to get writing projects done quickly when deadlines are looming.

Having an outline and a writing plan are great for being organized before you write. You want to measure twice and cut once, so to speak. A writing checklist can help on the back end as well. Once your writing is done, you can go through your checklist to make sure you’ve done everything you need to do before sending it to the client or publishing it for yourself.

Here’s a checklist of questions you should ask yourself before you consider the writing done. It will work for most types of content. Your perfect checklist may differ, but you can use this one to get you started.

Checklist when reviewing your article, blog post or other copy / content

  • Does the content fulfill the promise of the headline?
  • Is the content:
    • Interesting?
    • Easy to read?
    • Believable?
    • Persuasive?
    • Specific?
    • Concise?
    • Relevant to the reader?
  • Does the content flow smoothly?
  • Does the content include a call to action?

Do you need help with writing your articles, blog posts, and other content? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

How to write an essay well, summarize books, and create a messaging framework

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Here are a few interesting articles and blog posts I’ve read this past week:

How to write an essay well

Julian Shapiro put together a guide on how to write an essay well. It covers how to identify what to write about, generate insights on your topic, and how to rewrite for clarity, flow, and intrigue. He has a great process on putting together an introduction, which includes:

  • Choosing the right topic to write about
  • Writing a compelling introduction that makes you want to read further
  • Combatting readers’ potential skepticism
  • Getting feedback from others on the introduction

The ultimate guide to summarizing books

Tiago Forte shares the ultimate guide to summarizing books. It includes a system to figure out what to highlight, what you should not highlight, and how to summarize it in a format that will benefit you over time. He also lists the benefits of summarizing books, which include:

  1. It allows you to more deeply absorb the book’s lessons
  2. It creates building blocks for thinking and creating your own work
  3. It employs imitation to improve your writing
  4. It can help you to build an audience of email subscribers (if you want)
  5. It can connect you with influential people
  6. It can help to improve your visibility and credibility in online communities

Creating a messaging framework

Ashish Jain of MarketingProfs discusses creating a messaging framework for your business, explaining what it is, why you need one, and how to build it. A messaging framework “is a structured representation of what your company and products stand for. ” With a messaging framework:

  • Your customers will know who you are and how you differ from the competition
  • Sales will be able to explain your company’s differentiating factors.
  • Marketing will have a basis for developing future content resources.
  • All parts of the organization will be aligned on your company’s purpose and mission

Need help with writing great content, or editing your existing content? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Opportunities for freelance writers, reimagine your existing content, getting specific, and more

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Here are a few interesting articles and blog posts I’ve read this past week:


Do you read some great newsletters? Share them with me – contact@davidgargaro.

David

How to write a great conclusion to your article or blog post

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A lot has been written about the importance of writing strong titles and headlines, as well as a powerful introduction, to attract people to read your article or blog post. Of course, it’s important to start strong to pull the reader into your content. But what about the conclusion?

It’s important to write a satisfying conclusion for your article or blog post. And I don’t mean the call to action. The conclusion wraps up your point and answers the question “So what?” for the reader. It’s pretty disappointing to read a great book or watch a great TV show that ends poorly – it’s almost like the rest of what you read or watched didn’t matter.

Nicholas Labonté from Craft Your Content wrote a great blog post on three steps to writing a satisfying conclusion. In a nutshell, to write a great conclusion:

  • Restate the thesis of your article or blog post to back up your main premise.
  • Synthesize (don’t summarize) your main points by breaking them down to explain the why behind them.
  • Open the reader to the possibilities that can extend from your thesis and main points, and broadens their horizons.

You can practice writing conclusions by paraphrasing what you’ve written in your article or blog post. This involves rewriting passages using different words to make the meaning clearer to your reader. It can involve providing more details to clarify the original meaning of the content. The paraphrased content should still contain the original thoughts and ideas, and make any “hidden” or “suppressed” meanings more explicit. 


Do you need help with writing a conclusion to your article or blog post? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

How to write with greater clarity

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I didn’t have time to write today, as I got backed up with some projects that all arrived at the same time, along with a meeting with a client to discuss a new project.

However, I wanted to share a great article called “20 questions toward achieving civic clarity in your writing” by Roy Peter Clark. I picked out four key questions that I ask when trying to make my writing clearer to the reader.

  • Have I used shorter words, sentences and paragraphs at the points of greatest complexity?
  • Where is the jargon, the technical language that came with the experts? What jargon terms can be avoided?
  • Can I say with certainty that I have found my focus — the one key piece of knowledge I want to impart?
  • Is my story so clear that a reader could pass along the most important information to another person?

These questions tie nicely into a blog post I wrote on writing clear copy, which lays out ten key ways to do so:

  1. Put the reader first.
  2. Organize your selling points.
  3. Break content into shorter sections.
  4. Use short sentences.
  5. Use simple words.
  6. Be concise.
  7. Be specific.
  8. Get to the point.
  9. Write in a friendly, conversational style.
  10. Avoid sexist language.

David

An incomplete list of writing tips for freelance content writers and copywriters

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There are bookshelves and websites filled with strategies on how to write better, faster, clearer, more compelling copy. I came across a few writing tips I wanted to share here because they are quick and easy to digest.

Writing tips that seem wrong but work

There are many “hard” rules for writing grammatically correct content. There are other rules for writing great ad copy, or great articles, or great blog posts. These writing tips might seem wrong, but can work when used properly. Try them out.

  • Begin sentences with a conjunction (but, or, and)
  • End your sentence with a preposition (of, with, for)
  • Use sentence fragments
  • Write one-sentence paragraphs
  • Use graphic techniques (sparingly) to emphasize words – bold, underline, capitals, italics, colours, arrows
  • Use bullets in the middle of your copy

The writer’s checklist

When you’ve finished writing your first draft, ask yourself:

  • Does the copy fulfill the promise of the headline?
  • Is the copy interesting?
  • Is it easy to read?
  • It it believable?
  • Is it persuasive?
  • Is it specific?
  • Is it concise?
  • Is it relevant to the reader?
  • Does the copy flow smoothly?
  • Does it contain a call to action?

40 one-sentence writing tips

This list of writing tips comes from Josh Spector. It’s a collection of lessons he has learned over the years that can help you get the most out of the next thing you write.

Writing lessons for the beginning writer

We’ve all been beginning writers – even Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, who make everything sound great. When we look back on our writing careers, there’s a lot we wished we knew when we started. This article on eight writing lessons explains what Naomi Pham from Craft Your Content wishes she knew as a beginner blog writer – it’s good stuff. These tips can help you to write more productively, overcome self-doubt, and love your writing.

Writing better email copy

I’ve written a million emails in my life, and I do a lot of email prospecting. Here’s a good list of six email copy characteristics that will help you write your next email.


Have any writing tips? Need help with your writing? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com

David