9 Writing Tips to Master During the COVID-19 Shutdown
9 Writing Tips to Master During the COVID-19 Shutdown
If your company cannot carry out business as usual during the COVID-19 crisis, you’re likely watching every penny spent. Marketing is one of the areas where you—like many other business owners—may have cut back. For selfish reasons, I wish that weren’t so. Moreover, I fear that pulling back too much on your marketing efforts will hurt your business. Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations reminds us, “This WILL be over – and when it is, you’ll want to be top of mind when things start to recover and the economy rebounds. We can’t lose sight of that.”
But I get that money
is an issue. I, too, have been feeling the financial sting of coronavirus as
several clients have decided to scale down my workload temporarily.
Rachel Strella (owner of #Strella Social Media), for whom I fine-tune blog content written by members of her team, is facing the same struggles as many other entrepreneurs. She asked me if I could provide writing tips to help her team members improve their content before sending it to me. I consider the idea a win-win-win.
be able to keep costs in check because I won’t have to spend as much billable
time revising content.
members will hone their professional writing skills.
I will maintain
a valued client relationship. Also, because her team will be writing more
efficiently, I will potentially have more time available to take on other
#Strella assignments in the future.
While preparing my
coaching notes for each individual (based on the corrections and changes I
repeatedly make when reviewing their content), I’ve discovered some common
threads. If you or your team members are doing more of your own marketing these
days, I hope the following writing tips will help you strengthen your content,
A 9-point Writing Tips Checklist for Fine-tuning Your Blog Content
down long sentences into multiple sentences when possible.
Long and run-on
sentences make it difficult for readers to follow what you want to communicate.
As a general rule, if
a sentence extends onto three lines in a Word document, it can usually be split
into two or three separate sentences. Similarly, run-on sentences (even if
they’re relatively short) that do not have adequate punctuation can become
Here are examples of
My daughter, who is a senior in high school, doesn’t know whether her
class will have a traditional graduation ceremony in June because of the
coronavirus, and she also has no idea if she will be able to move into her dorm
at college when the fall semester begins.
My daughter, who is a senior
in high school, doesn’t know whether her class will have a traditional
graduation ceremony in June because of the coronavirus. Also, she has no idea
if she will be able to move into her dorm when the fall semester begins at
My dog has severe anxiety and she goes crazy when delivery workers come
to our front door and ring the bell as they drop off packages.
My dog has severe anxiety; she
goes crazy when delivery workers come to our front door, ring the bell, and
drop off packages.
Shorten long paragraphs.
If your content has
any long paragraphs and big chunks of text, look for opportunities to split the
content into shorter paragraphs. Readers will be more apt to stick with your
posts if you present text in bite-sized portions that allow them to pause to
absorb information before continuing to your next thought.
places where you can use bulleted or numbered lists to share information. Let’s
say I want to describe the things I miss most during the stay-at-home
coronavirus order. I could share them in a sentence using commas to separate
During the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, I miss visiting my parents,
dining out on Thursday nights with my friend Jennifer, finding ample supplies
of paper products on grocery store shelves, sneezing without people looking at
me as though I have the plague, seeing my daughter enjoy time with her friends,
shopping without wearing a mask, not living in fear.
However, a list would
be much easier for readers to follow:
During the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, I miss:
Visiting my parents
Dining out on Thursday nights with my friend Jennifer
Finding ample supplies of paper products on grocery store
Sneezing without people looking at me as though I have
Seeing my daughter enjoy time with her friends
Shopping without wearing a mask
Not living in fear
headings to break content into easy-to-follow sections.
Identify where your content covers different
main points and add headings to differentiate them. Use an appropriate heading
hierarchy (i.e., H2, H3, etc. to identify main points and distinguish them from
the sub-points that relate to them).
Also, review your headings to assess if they
will give the reader a sense of what they can expect to find in the content
that follows. Readers skim and scan content online, so well-crafted headings
can help keep their interest as they’re working their way through your posts.
capture readers’ attention, and, generally, they are
more SEO-friendly. Google will often truncate titles (cut off the words
at the end) that expand beyond 60 characters.
For example, my
working title for this post was “9 Online Writing Tips to Improve Your Business
Blogging During COVID-19,” which clocked in at 71 characters. After some
additional thought, I tightened it up to the present title of 53
5. Eliminate unnecessary words and
Usually, it’s better
to get your point across in as few words as possible.
Words and phrases like the examples below
often do not add anything purposeful to content. They’re fillers that add extra
words without enhancing meaning. Strive to either omit them or replace them
with more descriptive words.
really excited to go to the party.” vs. “I’m excited to go to the party.”)
so (“She was
so angry about the way you handled that.” vs. “She was furious about the way
you handled that.”)
I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.” vs. “I don’t understand what
all the fuss is about.” – Note: by using “I,” readers already know that you,
actually have never gone to that restaurant.” vs. “I have never gone to that
restaurant.” – Note: Readers will assume that you actually did or didn’t
do something without adding “actually.”)
felt pretty tired after that six-mile walk into town.” vs. “I felt exhausted
after that six-mile walk into town.”)
seemed very, very happy about the gift.” vs. “She seemed elated about the
in my opinion
(“In my opinion, we can all learn an important lesson from that book.” vs. “I
believe we can all learn an important lesson from that book.”)
was totally ready to begin the new project.” vs. “I was ready to begin the new
Use words like these occasionally to give your
writing a conversational tone, but don’t overdo it.
6. Exercise caution when using quotation marks for emphasis.
Not only are quotation marks used to identify
dialogue, but also many people use them to stress certain words and phrases.
This can work well for emphasizing wording that reflects how others or the
population at large refers to something.
We will finally find more toilet paper and
paper towels on the grocery store shelves when the “covidiots” in town stop
However, improper use of quotation marks can
give the impression that you mean the opposite of or don’t agree with
I worked with a client several years ago that
used quotation marks excessively for emphasis in his content.
Here are two examples:
This product is formulated (in “convenient to
use” bottles) to effectively remove excess organic and inorganic nutrients.
We have formulated three “state of the art”
When revising his initial drafts, I explained that he could be hurting his brand by using quotation marks in that way.
7. Don’t assume your readers are up on all the current lingo.
You may know what you’re talking about, but
your readers might not be familiar with every industry acronym or software
reference that you make in your content. When you first use an acronym or
potentially unfamiliar term in a blog post, spell it out, describe it, or link
to a source with more information about it so that you don’t confuse or
frustrate any audience members.
8. Read your draft out loud.
This is an excellent habit to adopt for
everything that you write. It allows you to assess if your content flows
smoothly and logically for readers. Vocalizing and hearing what you wrote will
also help you detect spelling and grammatical errors.
If parts of your post sound wordy or otherwise
out of sorts when reading it aloud, make tweaks.
Bonus tip: Consider using the app Grammarly for proofing your content. There’s a free version that will help you, and I find the Premium subscription worth every penny.
9. Ask a professional for help.
Everything you publish affects your brand image. When you recognize that something isn’t working well but are unsure of how to improve it, consider asking a professional writer or editor to review and fine-tune your content. If you’ve paid attention to my first eight writing tips, your draft should be in relatively good order and won’t require too much time for a pro to polish it.
Need help putting the finishing touches on your content? I can help! Contact me to see some “before” and “after” samples. Or, if you want me to take a look at a piece of your content and give you some high-level pointers on how to improve it, email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to schedule a complimentary 15-minute coaching session.
4 comments on “9 Writing Tips to Master During the COVID-19 Shutdown”
I view my role as more than an independent contractor for hire — I become a part of your team. You’ll find that I dig into the details to understand what’s important to you — and your customers. I embrace collaboration, communicate openly, and craft content to help you achieve your marketing and business goals. Read More...