I recently peeked back at a few articles I’d written when I first began my career. They weren’t bad, per se. They were informative, accurately researched and logically organized.
But other than that, they sucked.
I sounded like a high school text book. Let me show you an example:
A second option for tooth repair is dentures. Dentures are available as both full and partial sets, but do not look as natural as some other options. Dentures are made from repeatedly cast impressions of your jaw, and may not be ready to wear until up to twelve weeks after your damaged or decayed teeth have been removed, as the gums will require time to heal fully.
That was from a blog post. Isn’t that ridiculous?
Somehow, I was fortunate enough to have forgiving clients. They likely went through and edited just about every article I ever wrote, bless their hearts.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot. And little by little I’d like to share what I learned with you. With that in mind, I introduce to you … drum roll …
Creating Quality Content: Part 1 – Forget Your Grammar Teacher
When I first began writing as a career, I had a problem.
The problem was that I took high school language arts.
Throughout high school (and college if you attended) the rules of writing were drilled into your head ad nauseam. MLA formatting, Oxford commas, dangling participles, and misplaced modifiers were the ultimate sins. (Did you notice that Oxford comma? Ya see what I did there?)
We were trained to perfect, perfect, perfect.
Truth be told, if you’re looking for a career as a technical or academic writer, then great! You know how to dot your Is and cross your Ts.
But if you’re looking to establish an online presence, you’re going to have to tell the ghost of the language arts teacher who resides in your head to back off.
Of course, you’ll still need to know how to string a sentence together. You’ll still need an excellent command of grammar, syntax, punctuation and form. And you’ll still need to organize your thoughts in a way readers can (and will want to) follow.
But the trick to creating quality content isn’t always in the grammar and punctuation.
Sometimes it’s in breaking a hard and fast rule of language arts teachers across the world. Over and over they’ll lie to you, telling you that you should never, ever write like you speak.
Why You Should Write Like You Speak
I’m not going to put this nicely, and I’m not going to sugar-coat. We live in a world full of perpetually spastic little animals who dig shiny objects. When you write a blog post, an article or most other media, you’re lucky if you’ll hold the reader’s attention for more than a few paragraphs.
We want our information like we want our supper – easy and fast.
55% of visitors to your website will spend under 15 seconds reading your post.
That’s insane. And it means you’d damn well better capture their interest. Immediately.
The typical reader will find that it’s easier to simply click away from your site in search of another, easier to digest article than it is to read your stuffy, hard-to-interpret writing.
Does that mean you should start every article you write with “Hi! My name is Shana, and I’d like to tell you about creating quality content?”
No. Please don’t do that. In fact, most of your work shouldn’t even be in the first person.
But you’re going to need to relate to your readers right away. Within the first 15 seconds. How do you do this? By writing like you speak.
What it Means to “Write Like You Speak”
Take a look at the example I posted above. That article I wrote back in the day was absolutely atrocious. No one wants to read that – it sounds like a dental office brochure.
How would you rewrite that disaster?
Another option for tooth repair is dentures. Ask your dentist about both full and partial sets, but as you make your decision, keep in mind that dentures don’t look as natural as some of the other options.
Plus, to make your dentures, you’ll have impressions of your jaw cast. That means your dentures may not be ready to wear for up to twelve week. That’s four months with no teeth – eek!
Ohhhhh so much better. It’s more relatable. And it’s easier to navigate, as the paragraphs were broken down and easily digestible.
That’s what I mean by writing like you speak.
I’m fortunate enough to have a select few clients who, at times, don’t care what I say. One client in particular has even allowed me to use words like “y’all” and “I don’t give a damn” in the posts I write for him.
There are a few rules to follow when you write like you speak, though.
- No swearing, unless it’s in the nature of the site.
- Don’t use fillers such as “like,” or “um.” That’s just stupid.
- Don’t ever, EVER use emoticons. Ever. Did you hear me? Don’t ever.
- Ever. Got it?
Can you create quality and engaging content if you write the way you speak? Sure! Choose your words carefully, but don’t be afraid to have a little fun.
Yet Another Reason to Write Like You Speak
Think about it.
If you wrote every article in your queue the way I wrote that embarrassing dental article, why would a client hire you? Where’s your personality in that piece?
Clients hire you because they like your writing. They rehire you because they love your voice.
Any client who doesn’t love your true voice simply isn’t the client you need to be working with.
Don’t make the mistake of second guessing yourself, correcting your own grammar and changing the words which, in all reality, expressed what you meant to say.
If you censor your personal voice, you’ll be cheating yourself out of repeat clients. If you forget to write like you speak, you’ll be cheating the world of hearing your voice.