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Should You Be Writing Content? – The 7 Rs (now 8!!!)

Should You Be Writing Content? – The 8 Rs.

Over the years, we have tried out dozens of writers, all of whom had a number of things in common. They were all appropriately qualified, very well educated and considered themselves to be excellent writers. Many have some degree of training specific to the job. Our policy when we need writers has always been to give anyone with the right CV a try (we pay them the going rate) and see if they cut the mustard.

The large majority don’t.

It therefore intrigues us when we see firms throw this task at people as some sort of ‘add-on’ to the main job.

Virtually EVERYONE thinks they write well. Regrettably, few really have ‘the knack', especially when it comes to writing clear, engaging copy especially where it is based on a fairly difficult substrate.

So – here are the 7 Rs you should employ to have a more objective opinion of your writing capabilities:

  1. Requests. If you put out material that is read and is really good, the very best indicator that it IS really good is that you’ll get requests from other people to write for them. For money. Decent money. If you’ve been blogging for a while and no-one has been in touch and offered you good money to write for them, my advice is to stick to the day job.
  2. Reads. People confuse ‘reads’ with ‘engagement’ for web-based content. This is wrong on SO many levels, starting with your level of penetration and how reads are measured, but if your content isn’t read by a decent percentage of your connections, there’s a reason for that.
  3. Reduction. We have measured a STRONG NEGATIVE correlation between content length and measures of engagement – SHORTER IS BETTER. The issue this creates is that it really rewards those who learned how to précis material, a skill not much taught these days. (One of the few things I thank my 5th grade teacher Mrs Black for were those précis exercises). If you can reduce material down to the key points and get those across fast, you’ll gain readership.
  4. Recirculation. Really good content gets recirculated. Bad content doesn’t. However, content with videos of cute dogs doing silly things and other ‘amusing’ material does well, so recirculation has to be taken with a pinch of salt. However, if you write a piece and you see it forwarded to relevant groups on LinkedIn and to people at whom it is targeted, then the chances are it is pretty good or at least worth reading.
  5. Responses. Good content that is intended to bring responses brings responses…proper responses, not just ‘likes’. I mean clicks to links and emails and phone calls to talk over the material. Enewsletters should bring emails and calls, too. If your material doesn’t hit the hot button, it won’t cause much response.
  6. Returns. When your material is edited (and it always – ALWAYS - should be...although this isn't!), you’ll know the quality is good if you never hear from the editor. That is assuming your editor is really good (and good editors are as rare as hen’s teeth) and they are not your employee, because if they are, they’ll probably not want to incur the boss’s wrath by taking an axe to or being uber-critical of your material. The self-preservation instinct is strong.
  7. Recondite. Neither be it, nor use words like it. People don’t know what they mean. Effective B2C communication means not using industry jargon (such as B2C)... unless the C in question is in the industry. English is a big language with many similar words expressing subtle differences in meaning. Knowing them is good. Using most of them is unnecessary, because you aim should always be to write in your reader’s language and using their lexicon.
  8. Rules. A good writer follows the rules. Not just those of grammar and syntax (you can take some liberties with those when it works - see above!), but the editing guidelines that are in place. If your firm doesn't have editing guidelines, it should, because otherwise you can't enforce your firm's 'voice'. Indeed, a really good writer should be able to take vague rules on style (e.g. 'write this one as a pastiche of Jane Austen') and apply them. Rules that always should be followed include using words correctly. 'Literally' means literally, it is not a term of generalised emphasis...and principal and principle mean completely different things, which most writers these days seem not to know: I mean 'most' literally, as I see them used more often incorrectly than correctly.

I can safely predict that amongst our target audience, at least 90% will realise how true this is of everyone else they know and be very glad indeed it doesn’t apply to them. But then, because this is 'long-form' content, not many will get this far anyway (see point 3 above).




Joe Reevy is nowhere close to being the best writer used by Words4Business.com and is an object of some derision for his pronunciation of the word 'tomato', which has somehow never been anglicised out of him..

He has written for hundreds of law firms, accountants, banks and financial institutions, insurers, governmental organisations, writers of software, telecoms providers and journals throughout the English-speaking world. On one glorious occasion, he received more than £1000 per word. Although that was a very substantial outlier, it is one he’d like to repeat. He is an appalling typist and drives the editors crazy, sometimes intentionally.












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