Adam Fisher
21st June 2018 - 7 mins read
O

f course, when Mr Zinsser started writing, he had little more than a typewriter for technological support.

Producing and creating content remains difficult, but the modern writer does have access to a range of online tools which can improve their writing and help them find inspiration.

Here are some of our favourites:



Grammarly

This is probably the best-known writing tool, so we won’t spend too much time discussing it.

It is essentially a proofreading tool which automatically spots grammar, spelling, punctuation and even style mistakes.

When it suggests a correction it also provides an explanation. This means the writer can make a well-informed decision on whether or not they will make that change.

You can copy and paste text into Grammarly’s Editor or install a free browser extension.



Cliché Finder

We’re all guilty of including words and phrases in our writing which might be a bit trite or overused.

Cliché Finder is a free, simple, tool which helps you to identify those expressions before your work gets published.

I used it on a blog I recently wrote and it instantly identified the expressions ‘over the years’.  Not only did this prompt me to remove this from the work, but it also means I will be more conscious about using the phrase in the future, ultimately improving my writing.



Hemmingway Editor

This is a bit like the newspaper sub-editor who has been doing the job for years and just knows how to make copy better even when there is nothing grammatically wrong.

The emphasis is on making writing short and punchy by highlighting complicated words, dull sentences, passive voice, and adverbs.

And it is easy to use. If you see a yellow sentence, it needs to be shortened; if it is red it is too complicated; purple means a shorter word could be used, and blue is used to highlight adverbs and weak phrases.



CoShedule’s Headline Analyzer

Headlines are important.

A good one will entice readers to your content, while one that fails to hit the mark could prevent people from clicking – a real shame if the article that sits below is strong.

But constantly producing eye-catching headlines isn’t easy.

The good news is there is help readily available.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer breaks down your headline in terms of structure, grammar, and readability.

Headlines are scored out of 100 with points gained for the use of ‘common’, ‘uncommon’, ‘emotional’ and ‘power’ words and phrases.



Hub spot Blog topic generator

When the dreaded writer’s block strikes, you need to find inspiration.

And tech can sometimes provide the answer.

There are a few blog topic generators around but Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator is probably the best one.

Simply type a few phrases into the boxes and the algorithm does the rest.

Putting ‘words’, ‘content’ and ‘ideas’ into the system came up with the following options:

 

1 Think You're Cut Out For Doing Content? Take This Quiz

2 The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Words

3 Tools Everyone In The Ideas Industry Should Be Using

4 Quick Tips About Content

5 Best Blogs To Follow About Words

 

As you can see, the ideas they generate aren’t always brilliant, but the third suggestion is very similar to this blog.

This tool is free and even if the suggestions do not always hit the mark, it could just come up with an idea you can develop.



Wordcounter

This website offers more than its uninspiring name might suggest.

As well as providing a running total of the number of words and characters – useful if you have a minimum or maximum total you need to reach – its main benefit is showing whether your writing has become a bit repetitive.

The system shows how often you have used each word, giving you the opportunity to provide some alternative options.

Additionally, it provides you with a reading and speaking time for your writing - ideal if you are preparing a speech.  



Power Thesaurus

Once you’ve identified the words you are using a little too often, you may need some help finding alternative options.

There are plenty of online thesauruses, with Thesaurus.com being the biggest. But I prefer the crowd sourced Power Thesaurus for a more user-friendly experience and fewer adverts.



Urban dictionary

Not every definition in the Urban Dictionary is going to be suitable for your writing, particularly if you have an audience which may be easily offended. Some definitions are, let’s just say ‘educational’.

But, if you are looking for a definition of a word or phrase that is new or has different meanings to different people, it can be a useful tool.

When I wrote a blog for our sister company Media First about spokespeople repeatedly using the phrase ‘deeply concerned’, Urban Dictionary provided the perfect definition to give my content a little more edge.

It defined the phrase as: “An expression used in PR, especially political, when the person or organization is expected to care about a situation and comment on it, but they don't actually give a s**t, because the situation in question isn't particularly relevant to them, but it is politically imprudent to say that outright.”



Coffitivity

Sometimes writers just need to find a way of boosting their creativity.

Personally, when I’m struggling for inspiration, or just need some background noise, I plug in the headphones and let Guns N’ Roses destroy what remains of my hearing.

I appreciate though that others may have a different (not better) taste in music, or just need something a little more soothing.

This is where Coffitivity comes into its own. It recreates the ‘ambient’ sounds of a café to create a pleasant working environment. Not only that, but there is a range of coffee sounds to help you get in the mood, including some from Paris and Brazil.



BrainyQuote

Adding pertinent quotes from famous writers, politicians and entrepreneurs can be a great way of adding more depth to your writing and inspiring your audience.

You’ll notice that I included a quote at the start of this blog and in other posts I have quoted the likes of John F Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and Maya Angelou among others.

Of course, it is not always easy to remember who the quote originally came from or whether you recalled it correctly.

This is where BrainyQuote comes in handy. The site not only enables you to check back on famous quotes but also search for more by topics, authors, and people in the news.



Word

It is not just going online that can improve writing. The ever-dependable Word also offers some useful tools.

The Flesch Reading Ease score uses the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in each word to calculate how easy it is to read a document. The lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read and ideally you should aim for a score of between 60 and 70.

The second check, known as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, is an equation which tells you how many years of education someone needs to understand your content.

The grade score is based on the American grade system and essentially you need to add five to your grade to find the reading age of your content.

To find your score, simply go to the ‘file’ menu, then ‘options’ and then on to the ‘proofing’ tab.

Under the ‘when correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ heading you need to tick the box which says ‘show readability statistics’.

Then when you run a spelling and grammar check you will find the two readability scores.

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

How to avoid writing content no one will read

Adam Fisher 6th April 2018 — 5 mins read
T

o put that quantity in context, according to TrackMaven, over the past five years, the average number of blog posts published per brand per month increased by 800 per cent. 

Everyone wants their written content to engage, entertain and entice their readers, but with this content overload – or ‘content shock’ as I have also seen it called -  it is increasingly hard for your words to stand out.

So how can you ensure your written content gets read?

 

Adopt a conversational style

It might break certain grammatical rules, but adopting a conversational style when writing your content will help your readers feel you are talking directly to them.

When I write, I always try to use the same informal language I would use if I was talking to a friend.

That doesn’t mean I write exactly how I talk, but, to adopt a quote from American novelist Elmore Leonard, I don’t want my writing to sound like writing. Formality is boring.

I avoid long words and unnecessarily complicated language and I place a lot of emphasis on the words ‘you’ and ‘I’ because I want to make it personal. I want to foster familiarity and for you, the reader, to believe the content you are reading has been produced specifically for you and not everyone on our mailing list.

And I ask a lot of questions. Why? Well because conversations are full of questions. The only difference in my writing is that I also (hopefully) provide the answers.

 

Make your writing look appealing

Inserting picture and infographics and including lots of white space into your content will certainly help, but there are other subtle techniques you can deploy to make your written content more appealing.

Readers find huge paragraphs and big blocks of text daunting and ultimately off-putting. If you look at newspapers, and yes I know print circulation figures are in decline, almost every paragraph consists of just one sentence.

Similarly, long sentences can be a big turn-off. If your sentence is longer than 30 words it needs to be split up into smaller sections.

You may have been told at school not to start sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’.  But now is the time to break those rules because there is nothing wrong with this in the grown-up world of content. And it is a great way of keeping sentences short and snappy. (See what I did there!)

Pull-out quotes, click-to-tweets and sub-headings are also great ways of breaking-up large sections of text.

 

Show you are human

People are interested in stories about other people.

The human touch lights up content and prevents the author sounding distant, detached and boring. It also builds connections with your audience.

I often include experiences from my career and even parts of my home life to illustrate points in my writing and the content which includes these examples and anecdotes is often the best performing.

Why? Because it make the content more relatable and also validates why I should be in a position to offer advice.

Strong personal opinions can add the human element we look for in an increasingly automated world.

At Thirty Seven, we thrive on creating authentic content which is original, credible and packed with human interest. Via: @37agency

 Offer something unique

Type ‘content marketing’ into Google and it returns more than 33 million results.

So your content needs to offer something different to stand-out from the noise.

That doesn’t mean you can’t write about the issues that other people in your sector have already been speaking about. But you need to offer a different perspective, point of view or an interesting twist.

You need to be able to add to the conversation, not repeat it.

Narrowing your subject down will help. I blog a lot on media training issues for our sister company Media First.

That is a broad subject area, so I often break it down into specific areas where it can be easier to add something unique or unusual. For example, I have written blog on how to handle specific types of questions, such as personal ones, and particular types of interviews, such as doorstep interviews.

 

Know your audience

The best way to attract readers is to ensure you know who you are trying to appeal to.

If you don’t know enough about your readers and the questions they are looking for answers to, it is unlikely you are going to be writing on topics that are relevant.

 

Spend time on the headline

The headline is obviously crucial for attracting people to your content. It is the gateway.

But it is a balancing act.

Over promise and you are in danger of creating click-bait which could result in people visiting your website and leaving again almost immediately (this is known as a bounce rate).

Under-sell it and you are not going to attract the number of readers your content deserves.

So how can you get the headline right?

Numbers are a good tool, particularly odd ones, and questions are enticing – just look at how often the Daily Mail uses a question in a headline on its website.

Words like ‘how’, ‘why’, and ‘who’ also have reader appeal. 

And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, keep it short.

Sites like CoSchedule will analyse your headlines and give tips on how to improve them.

 

Nail the intro

The introduction is a crucial part of any written content - it is the hook to get people to invest time reading the rest of what you have written.

The first thing I would say here is don’t repeat your headline in your introduction. This is something I see quite a lot of and it is incredibly dull and pointless.

It is also a good way of ensuring readers will quickly lose interest.

To entice the reader your introduction needs to show them they are going to read something relevant, timely, unusual or controversial (without offending them).

As with the sentences in the rest of your content, you need to keep your introduction short.

 

Promote, promote, promote

As much as I would like to tell you it is all about the writing, promoting your content properly is vital.

Email marketing, social media, PR, guest blogging and paid promotion are just some of the tactics you can consider to attract more people to your work and ensure your content marketing works.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

Adam Fisher
20th July 2018 - 5 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.