Overcome your fear of numbers, source: https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2019/10/writing-tricks-audiences/
- Turn numbers into people
ORIGINAL: Over 80% of dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum.
REVISED: Four of five dentists recommend sugarless gum.
WHY: Translating percentages into numbers of people (or things) allows the reader to better visualize who or what is being counted or affected.
- Use percentages to show pervasiveness or lack of pervasiveness
ORIGINAL: About 8 million American workers use public transportation to travel to their workplace.
REVISED: About 5% of American workers use public transportation to travel to their workplace.
WHY: If you want to show how common or uncommon something is, citing a percentage can be more effective. In this example, 8 million people sounds like a lot. A reader could be impressed by the number. But when the 5% is used, the reader realizes that relatively few workers use public transportation.
If you want to show commonality (or lack thereof), use a percent figure.
- Count down
WHAT CHANGED: The original piece from CBS News counted in sequential order, while the version from Vanity Fair started with the highest number and counted down to No. 1.
WHY: If you reveal the best right away, readers don’t need to continue reading to see the payoff – what is No. 1 on the list.
- Count up
ORIGINAL: Building a new home is an exciting opportunity. To get it in move-in condition, you must pick your interior paint colors, buy the roofing materials, get it framed, and build a strong foundation.
REVISED: Building a new home is an exciting opportunity. To get it in move-in condition, you must:
1. Build a strong foundation
2. Get it framed
3. Buy the roofing materials
4. Pick your interior paint colors
WHAT CHANGED: The to-do list mirrors the order in which they need to be completed – they’re in sequential order.
WHY: By incorporating the 1, 2, 3, your readers can easily see how the big picture comes together and/or follow it themselves.
- Sell the story in 150 to 160 characters
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Dressing up in costumes and trick or treating are popular Halloween activities, but few probably associate these lighthearted fall traditions with their origins.
REVISED META FOR SEARCH: Few probably associate the lighthearted traditions of Halloween with their origins in Samhain, an ancient Celtic pagan festival.
WHAT CHANGED: In the original, the lede became the de-facto meta description. In the revision, a meta description tailored for search was written.
WHY: The intent of a searcher often is different than the intent of the on-page visitor. While the lede should be written to grab the attention of a reader, a meta description should be written to capture the attention of a searcher.
Exercise 1: Limit “I” and “we”
ORIGINAL: In this article, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, but I will detail how to build a content marketing program that I know will produce great results.
REVISED: Without reinventing the wheel, I will detail how to build a content marketing program that will produce great results.
What changed? The revised sentence includes only one first-person reference rather than the original three. Yet, the revision still reflects the author’s opinion.
Why? Studies show that people are more likely to perceive people who use multiple first-person references as less confident and less assured, or worse, suffering and self-conscious.
Exercise 3: Resist qualifiers and intensifiers
ORIGINAL: Subject matter experts generally are rather excellent resources for content. Talk to them before writing as they can be particularly helpful in identifying very relevant topics.
REVISED: Subject matter experts are excellent resources for content. Talk to them before writing as they can be helpful in identifying relevant topics.
What changed? The qualifiers (generally, rather) and intensifiers (particularly, very) were deleted.
Why? “A qualifier weakens or lessens the impact of a word or phrase … while an intensifier strengthens or emphasizes the importance of a word or phrase,” according to K.L. Wightman’s grammar guide.
Exercise 1: Show, don’t tell
ORIGINAL: The day began with nice weather.
REVISED: Temperatures hovered in the 70s as the sun rose. Fluffy clouds dotted the ocean-blue sky.
What changed: The revised text describes what nice weather feels and looks like. It also defines what “nice weather” means from the writer’s perspective.
Why: Readers benefit when they can visualize what the text conveys. Don’t settle for telling readers something when you can show them with words. Use descriptive words and avoid vague words. Set the scene, describe your source, show how the product works in real life – the options to show are almost endless.
Exercise 5: Use repetition purposely (and avoid it otherwise)
ORIGINAL: The CMO attended a board meeting with the CEO. At the meeting, they discussed the marketing strategy for the coming year.
REVISED: The CMO attended a board meeting with the CEO to discuss the marketing strategy for the coming year.
What changed: The revision contains a single use of “meeting,” but conveys the same meaning as the first.
Why: Efficient writing is easier for the audience to consume. Revise your content to eliminate unnecessary repetition and don’t think keyword stuffing will make your content more attractive to search engines.