When I first started as a marketer I was on the hunt for experts to help me improve. There’s no shortage of “experts” and “thought leaders” on every corner of the internet, and I’ve read all of their advice. Writing tips, marketing best practices, stories about struggles and success, even the questionable “hacks” and can’t-lose strategies that have become popular on marketing blogs.
Maybe it was a complex I’d been carrying since college. I was just an English major. I’d never taken the business and economics classes my peers had on their resumes. What did I know about business writing or using content to drive sales?
Maybe it’s a millennial thing. I think of myself as an “old” millennial, but I still fall squarely into Generation Y. While headlines tell us that millennials are entitled, with overblown egos, that’s not me. My impostor syndrome runs deep, and even now that I have many different clients, roles and experiences under my belt, I still sometimes feel like the new kid on the block. (Because who doesn’t forever think of themselves as 23?)
Then one day I realized that some of the best writers and smartest marketers were right under my nose — the people who are doing the work every day. And after almost 10 years working as a writer and marketer, I realized something really scary — I am one of those people.
As I put together my class, I reflected on how I’ve earned my chops as a writer, and what I’ve learned along the way. I zeroed in on three ways I’ve learned to be a better writer.
By Editing Other People’s Writing
In my role at Rep Cap I spend some of my time writing and a lot of my time editing. Editing other people’s writing is the fastest way to become a better writer. It’s much easier to spot clunky sentences and confusing ideas when someone else wrote them.
I keep a running document with editing examples — long and confusing sentences or awkward phrasings that I’ve reworked. I’ve developed an eagle eye for unnecessary helping verbs (“she was tackling” is so much better as “she tackled”) and boring jargon (“impactful,” I’m watching you).
If you want extra practice, try these editing exercises. They’re a good way to train yourself to troubleshoot wordy sentences.
By Taking More Time for Each Piece
I’ve written before about the shift in marketing from content quantity to content quality. That move toward less content is a gift for writers and editors, who can take more time to craft each piece.
If you feel like you barely have time to write and scan back through every piece, you probably need to rework your editorial calendar. Take small steps to make your deadlines more manageable, and move your content team toward fewer, higher-quality pieces.
I’ve learned through experience that good writing is all about revision. No first draft is going to win a Pulitzer (or keep your reader’s attention).
By Writing What I’d Want to Read
Finally, a tip for B2B content writers. Just seeing the phrase “B2B” makes people clam up and turn on their most robotic “professional” voice. It’s easy to think about a B2B reader as a stock image of a Professional Business Buyer in a suit, sitting in an anonymous conference room. But B2B readers are people too. I’m a B2B buyer. You probably are as well.
Creating detailed audience personas helps. But even personas can feel impersonal and two-dimensional. So I often pretend I’m writing to my boss, or to a real customer I talk to every day, or to myself — a real, live human who also happens to be my potential colleague or partner. Getting human can transform boring copy into readable, relatable prose.
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