The internet makes it so easy for just about anyone to become a content publisher, but writing doesn't come easily to everyone. It's a good thing that writing is a skill you can improve with practice - whether you consider yourself to be a writer or not!
I know lots of business owners that have heard about the benefits of blogging, but it's overwhelming to get started when you don't feel you're a writer to begin with. (Here's one of my dirty little secrets: I didn't call myself a writer when I started blogging!) Fortunately, you don't have to call yourself a "writer" to write well about your subject matter expertise.
What would you say to clients and prospects?
Do you struggle to answer questions or explain concepts within your expertise to people who make inquiries with you? I hope the answer is (mostly) no because half the battle in writing is knowing what to say. If you can do that verbally when someone asks you a question, you're half way there.
The next step is getting those words out onto a page - physical or virtual really doesn't matter. There are a few ways you can do that:
- Write questions/inquiries down to answer on your blog, then do it.
- Record conversations (with permission, of course) to review.
Writing down questions and inquiries you get on a consistent basis will give you a flow of content that speaks directly to what clients and prospects are asking. That means these are the things they're interested in learning more about. That is critical information for your business! Playing back a recording of your answers will help you to hear the responses you give without thinking. That can form the basis of good content for your business.
Write with active voice, not passive
I don't see passive voice a lot on the web, but it nearly always gives me a double take when I do. Here's an example of active vs. passive that I've borrowed from Grammar Girl, because it's very funny to me. Imagine each of these versions sung by Marvin Gaye as you read:
Active: "I Heard it Through the Grapevine"
Passive: "It was heard by me through the grapevine"
The difference from a technical perspective is that in active voice, the subject is taking action. Marvin Gaye is the subject, and the action is that he's hearing that you won't be his much longer.
In passive voice, the subject becomes "it" - the news that not much longer would you be mine - and the song title becomes both silly, overly formal sounding, and challenging to fit to the rhythm and melodic sequence of the song. Not to mention that "it" - the news - is an incredibly awkward subject given that "it" isn't really doing anything other than being heard.
Active voice is stronger, simpler, and gives your writing greater clarity. Most of the time. If you read the full text of Grammar Girl's article on active vs. passive, she explains that it's not really wrong. Sometimes there's no real way to get around using passive voice. Active voice does, however, work better most of the time when creating web content.
Proofread your writing
I often write posts a week or two before I actually publish them. Sometimes longer. This allows me to come back to them 2-3 times before I publish to review what I've written and correct errors. This also gives me the chance to solidify how I want to present my thoughts and ideas.
- Check for spelling. Actually re-read and try to catch any words that are the right word, wrong spelling (e.g., to, too, two). This applies to similar words also.
- Check for grammar. Please don't ask me to draw a sentence diagram. Ever. But I can still edit for grammar and you should be able to as well.
- Check for punctuation. Commas are often overused and underused. I'm not sure which is worse. The same goes for apostrophes. Avoid punctuation abuse.
Even if you struggle with proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, spending time to proof your work before it's published will help you put your best work out into the world for your audience.
Write like you're talking to someone
That's what people mean when they say to write conversationally. I actually read parts of my posts out loud if I start to worry that my words are sounding too formal. When I hear the actual words coming out of my mouth, it's easier to decide whether that's how I would verbalize them to someone. The flip side is that you can record the words you want to say and then transcribe them or use dictation software to get them on the page.
Don't worry too much about the rules of writing
The rules matter, but you can break them if you want. Also, mistakes happen. You're human and fallible. Don't be too worried about errors, because no one's perfect. I love when people give me a heads up about problems they spot in my writing. It helps me fix them and (hopefully) do better the next time.
Everyone gets stuck
After writing for a while, you may find yourself stuck and unsure what to write. There are many ways to combat the affliction of writer's block. Try out anything and everything to find what works best for you.
Bonus tip: You can outsource, too!
You don't have to do it alone. There are many writers out there (like me!) who offer blogging services - from editing to writing whole posts. If you are stuck for time, ideas, or need help with the actual words, you can get the help you need.