It’s all well and good scanning blog post after blog post in search of content writing tips, but sometimes you want instant, actionable tactics you can put to use straight away.
No hassle, no head-scratching, just fresh, measurable results. Right?
If this sounds like you, here’s a simple exercise that will improve any piece of your writing, using two of my favorite, free online tools.
Ready to get started?
1. How to brighten dull, stodgy copy
First, grab a piece of your writing. Doesn’t matter when you wrote it. It’s just to see if we can make it more compelling, more readable and more interesting to your target reader.
It could be an email, a newsletter, a report, or a good old blog post.
Got it? Okay. Now copy and paste the text into Hemingway App and follow the prompts to improve readability.
You’ll see how it highlights over lengthy or complex sentences, so you can prune them into submission, instead replacing your copy with lovely clear, succinct sentences that drag your readers eye down the page.
It also handily takes a sledgehammer to passive voice, adverbs and weakening phrases.
Now let’s try this with the two paragraphs you’ve just read - as you can see from the screengrab below, I’ve cut and pasted them into Hemingway App.
Also, the word “handily” got a touch of the blue highlighter, signifying that it's an adverb.
Quick reminder: adverbs can weaken your copy if overused.
For instance, instead of saying: Charlie smiled happily, it would be stronger to say: Charlie beamed (the adverb “happily” is unnecessary here).
Don’t get me wrong; there’s a time and a place for adverbs, especially in conversational copy. Just try to be a bit judicious with their use.
So, bearing all this in mind, I've now tweaked the copy to remove the highlights and - BANG! - more engaging, more readable, more graceful copy, which means better, stronger content that's more likely to achieve its intended goals.
Don’t you think it reads better?
2. How to nail a punchy headline
Now it’s time to improve your headline using CoSchedule’s 'Headline Analyzer'.
Drop in your blog post headline or your email subject line and see how it scores - this nifty little tool tells you if your headline has enough punch to make people click, scoring it out of 100 based on things like how long it is, what type of headline it is and the types of words you’ve used.
I don’t get too hung up on the how’s and the why’s, instead, I whack out headline after headline to see if I can push that score higher into the green.
The stronger your headline, the more chance your content has of getting opened and read - which after all, is what your content sets out to do.
The more you test it out, the more you’ll learn.
Here are the versions I came up with, before deciding on the one at the top of this post…
Although the headline I chose had a slightly lower score than some of the others, I felt it best reflected what I wanted to say. Anything above 70 is good, so go for green if you can.
Doing this will improve the chances of people reading your content; as well as sharing it and linking to it.
Now, how does your new version compare to the old one? Read it out loud. Does it sound slicker and more persuasive? I bet it does.
The best thing about this exercise is that the more you do it, the more your writing will improve, so it’s a win-win scenario for you and your readers.
A version of this post was first published on the Gather Creative blog.