It’s difficult to overstate the importance of promoting your business using well-written content. Today’s consumers are sensitive to signs of unprofessionalism, and the fine margins separating one firm from another mean that amateurish web copy or badly punctuated social media content will be immediately obvious – and detrimental.
One solution involves employing a professional to produce marketing materials and social content. Talented freelance writers present products and services in ways designed to appeal to the intended audience. But employing freelancers may become expensive if there’s an ongoing need for regular content.
However, there are various online resources that can help make anyone’s prose sound elegant. If writing isn’t your main strength, these five websites can improve your writing standards by eliminating common mistakes and suggesting improvements:
Named after the famous novelist, Hemingway scans pasted text, identifying areas for improvement. It’s designed to increase readability by giving each piece of text a ranking. This indicates the typical age at which an American school child could understand it. A grade 12 ranking suggests complexity, whereas grade 8 ought to be accessible by anyone. This article achieves grade 10, so 15 year-olds should be able to make sense of it.
Hemingway identifies complex verbs, passive voicing, and sentences that are difficult to read. In reality, that means anything with more than 14 words in it. Some companies favour staccato text, with only one comma per sentence – like this paragraph. But as Hemingway also ranks down text with lots of long words, optimised copy often ends up sounding limited and basic. This may be inappropriate for technical content, or materials aimed at a professional audience.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, plagiarism is the worst form of laziness. Duplicating content from other online resources isn’t just unprofessional or a show of poor writing standards. It could result in pages getting actively downgraded by search engines. If the content’s original author finds out, it might trigger a legal letter, too. Yet sometimes we’re unaware the inspiration for a sentence or paragraph came from something we’ve read elsewhere.
Copyscape scans web pages for free, identifying any content duplication on existing sites. A paid-for premium version supports copy-and-paste submissions, trawling the internet for matching content. Some words and phrases are ubiquitous, but lengthier transgressions can be eliminated.
When writing for online audiences, it’s crucial to consider which messages you’re conveying. Think about the terms people might be searching in Google and Bing for, and integrate these into the text. This article features the phrase “writing standards” five times. Anyone searching for that term is likely to end up reading these paragraphs.
Google Analytics reveals the terms people commonly search for. As an example, somebody looking to buy a new house in Bradford may search for “new home Bradford”, or “estate agent West Yorkshire”. Google Analytics identifies how many times particular keywords or long tails (search strings of generally three or more words) are searched for. That helps people to decide which terms their own content should include.
Daily Writing Tips
Everyone makes technical mistakes when writing content, but unless you have a degree in English, these infractions can easily slip by unnoticed. Daily Writing Tips features a new blog every weekday, identifying common linguistic pitfalls. These range from using unnecessary bridge words (like, also) to the common misuse of dashes (-) and hyphens (–).
A dedicated Business section features over 80 blogs aimed at a corporate audience. These cover business letter writing, techniques for drafting compelling headlines and conversational email tips. Presented in plain English, it’s a great resource for refreshing skills and learning new techniques.
Cambridge Online Dictionary
A number of web-based dictionaries are hosted by platforms including Cambridge’s arch-rival Oxford University. However, Cambridge’s online resource has some compelling attractions. The search bar includes dictionary, grammar and translation options, and words are presented with the IPA formatting used by vocal coaches and pronunciation experts. It’s also possible to hear UK and American English recordings of the words being spoken. Synonyms are listed in a drop-down sub-table, and there are even links to blogs containing the searched-for word or phrase.
It’s worth noting that Microsoft Word and Google Docs contain dictionary and thesaurus functionalities. It’s unacceptable in 2018 to submit or upload content without running a basic spell-check. Yet Cambridge offers superior resources to Word or Docs, making it a valuable bookmark.
A few other tips deserve mention for improving writing standards:
- If possible, always proofread copy the day after writing it. You’ll generally spot improvements when you read something with a fresh perspective.
- Ask colleagues to look over lengthy documents like brochure copy or website content. They may identify passages that are difficult to understand or miss an intended point, giving you a chance to rectify the issue
- Read aloud when proofreading. This highlights confusing syntax and often reveals a need for better punctuation.
- Finally, try printing out longer documents like reports and white papers. Some people find it easier to spot errors on paper rather than on a screen.