Earlier this week I wrote about how to get started blogging. The post was adapted from an email I sent to my business partner Corey Blake to help him get started with his writing. I advocated having someone ask you a question by email, and then answering it. Ignoring what comes after can help you avoid writers block and get something down on paper. It worked for Corey. He wrote up a great response within 24 hours. I gave him some feedback, and that’s where this post comes from. In other words, once someone asks you a question and you answer it, these are your next steps.
1. Copy and paste into a Google doc.
I like to label my Google docs with the format [outlet]_[year]_[month number][month three first letters]_[day]_[topic]. This way all my articles stay in date order and are easy to find either within a folder or through a search. This is how I organize things:
2. Do basic formatting.
Bold headlines, make sure paragraphs are spaced apart, make sure other formatting didn’t get lost in the copy and paste, etc.
3. Start finessing.
This is where the fun begins.
a. Remove text. As a general rule, if you can get your message across in 5 words instead of 7 then use 5. See more on this and get some bonus tips here.
I edited the first paragraph of Corey’s piece with suggestions focusing on this idea alone, with one or two other minor corrections. Here’s what it looks like:
I might recommend other changes as well, but these are the changes I would make based solely on the idea that fewer words are generally better, and I want to be concise and clear in my communication.
b. Check grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word choice. Basic stuff here, but make sure it’s right. If you’re not sure, at least make sure it’s consistent. When I have questions on things like “Is it i.e. or e.g. in this situation?” or “Should the question mark go inside or outside the quotation marks?” I just Google my question and I always am able to find a quick answer.
c. Address opposing opinions. What happens when five minutes after you post this, someone comments “I did a Google search for ABC’s of closing and this came up #3. You say it’s the ABC’s of closing are ‘as good of advice as you can get when learning to close a deal,’ but that other link says it’s trash and presents a compelling case. What’s your response?”
I try to anticipate the challenges people will have to what I’m writing, and head it off by addressing it in the piece. It’s not wrong to say “The ABC’s of closing are great,” but when something is controversial (as this is) then you have to address the controversy or be at risk of looking like you didn’t know there was a controversy, which takes credibility away from your message, even if it’s correct.
You can advocate a controversial idea and retain credibility by admitting its weaknesses but extolling its virtues. “Glengarry Glen Ross was a terrible example of a salesman, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some value in the ABC’s of closing,” or “Although the ABC’s of closing were Hollywood’s version of the stereotypical slimy salesman, there’s a grain of truth good sales people can take from the idea.”
4. Some extra writing tips, see 9 Ways To Make Your Content Marketing Stand Out.
I’ve intentionally kept this simple. It’s better to focus on a few simple tips than get overwhelmed with a comprehensive list.
This can be a lot of work at first. The good news is the more you edit your own work, the more you’ll start writing copy that’s closer to what you want as an end result, which means less editing.
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