Letting Your Blog Verbs Breathe

Even if you’re not into verbifying your nouns (the topic of my latest Say it For You blog post), at least let the verbs you do use, b-r-e-a-t-h-e, is my advice to content writers. “Don’t smother verbs”, Mary Cullen writes in 87 Advanced business Writing Tips That Actually Work. 

The three cautions Cullen offers are:
  1. Use clear words rather than using punctuation to emphasize your point.
  2. Don’t smother verbs by changing them into nouns (this is called nominalizing, the opposite of verbifying).
  3. Don’t overuse adverbs; instead, use stronger verbs.
Weak sentences frequently begin with “There is” or There are…”, Cullen explains.  Cut to the chase, she advises.  Find the real subject – and the real verb expressing what’s happening – and start there. Just as over-introducing a speaker takes away from, rather than enhancing, the impact of the talk itself, in your blog content, get to it, I teach at Say It For You.
Composing a blog post can be like creating a resume, in that it’s better to opt for strong, positive verbs. More verbs make for more dynamic blog content. Verbs connote activity and excitement, advises Bits.blogs.nytimes.  

“Good writing has a point, a goal – to sell something, to convince someone of something, or to explain how to do something, but whatever the point, the goal informs every line., says Dustin Wax of lifehack.org.” Strong verbs move readers in the direction of that goal.
Powerful writing is compelling, demanding attention, Wax continues, in any of three ways
  • the force of the argument
  • the importance of the topic
  • the strength of the language
My point today – now you’ve discovered the strength verbs can lend to your content, don’t sabotage that strength with adverbs and cumbersome wording – let your blog verbs

5 Ways to Create Delicious Omelets and Blog Posts

There are four types of omelets, Course Hero explains: American style, French Style, Frittata, and Souffle. Interesting information, I thought, but Upfront Magazine’s article “Good Eggs: 5 Ways With Omelets” is a better example for my blog content writers. Why?  The Upfront piece went beyond providing information to readers, offering ways they can put that info to use.  blog post illustrations

The five “ways” (each attributed to a particular chef) include:
  1. using pizza toppings
  2. trying sweetness (tucking banana slices into the omelet, with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce)
  3. adding richness with goat cheese, meet, and herbs
  4. adding yogurt
  5. going Midwestern by adding fried kielbasa
I found a number of things in the “5 Ways” article that illustrate good practices for blog content writers:
It’s a “listicle”. 
Lists spatially organize information, helping create an easy reading experience, and by most accounts, search engines like lists as well.
It uses “chunking”.
Chunking is a way for business bloggers to offer technical information in easily digestible form, tying different pieces of advice and information into a unifying theme. The “5 Ways” article combines cooking advice (“It shouldn’t be brown or crisp” with a variety of ideas.

It uses visuals.
Visuals are one of the three “legs” of the business blog “stool”, along with information and perspective, or “slant”. Whether you use actual original photos or “clip art, visuals add interest and evoke emotion, in addition to cementing concepts in the minds of readers. “5 Ways” is headed by pictures of the 5 types of omelets being discussed.

It has an effective title
“How long?” is one question I hear a lot at corporate blogging training sessions, referring to the blog post itself, but also to the title. While the most effective length for a title is whatever it takes to signal to online searchers that “right here” is the place they want to be, titles should not be overly complicated or cumbersome.

It curates and properly attributes to sources
Quoting others in your blog adds value – you’re aggregating resources for the benefit of your readers. Then, as business blogging service providers, we need to add our own “spin” to the material based on our own business wisdom and expertise. At the same time, it’s crucial to properly attribute quotes and ideas to their sources.


Practicing Social Nearness Through Blogging

“Let’s face it. For most of us, business blogging is hard,” admits Mark Pridham of Canada-based the pridhamgroup.com. “Coming up with new ideas, doing the research, and then doing the actual writing are all big pieces of it. It takes time, patience, strategy, consistency and perseverance,” Pridham adds.

With social media being all about social connection, we’re certainly living though a strange time, a time when it’s all about social distancing. No easy solutions here, but perhaps, as blog content writers, we can heed the reminder offered by John Sharp, MD offers in Harvard Health Publishing

Avoid unintentionally practicing emotional distancing.

Amen, I want to say. After thirteen years of interviewing business owners and practitioners and creating blog marketing content for them, I think Sharp’s statement is true all the time, not only during this unprecedented self isolation period. A few years ago, in a Science News article, editor Nancy Shute put it this way: “The fear of solutions may be greater than the fear of impacts. Being bombarded with facts can make people dig in even more. People tend to seek out evidence that supports their own world view. In short, emotion trumps fact.

In her book In This Together, business writer Nancy D. O’Reilly describes strengths that help women succeed in business, including these three:

  1. Emotional intelligence (the capacity to notice, manage, and express emotions)
  2. Empathy (the ability to understand other people’s feelings)
  3. Compassion (sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress and a desire to alleviate it)
It’s always true that, in blogging for business, face-to-screen is the closest blog content writers come to their prospects. And, yes, even in B2B situations, emotion-based blog marketing can be effective.  Remember, behind every decision, there is always a person, a being with feelings.

Always, but especially now, we must use content to create connections with our audience, which will make them feel a) supported and b) receptive to our message. As writers, we must present the business or practice as very personal rather than transactional.
More than ever before, it’s important for readers to sense there there are real-life humans behind the scenes providing the information, the products, the services. If ever there was a time to focus on being authentic and practicing emotional nearness, it’s now.

Ways to Feed the Blog Content “Monster”

“There are two ways to “feed the content monster”, Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick suggest in their book The Art of Social Media:
  1. Content creation
  2. Content curation (finding other people’s good stuff, summarizing it and showing it)
However you’re finding – or ”birthing” your content, the authors tell us, there are dictates to follow:

Be valuable. (What happened? What does it mean? How can readers do that?)
One way to talk “value”, we teach at Say It For You, is to translate a benefit that a product or service has that isn’t typically expressed in dollar terms.

Be interesting. (Don’t assume your followers want to read about only a narrow band of subjects.)
Blog content writing is the perfect vehicle for conveying a corporate message using a a seemingly unrelated piece of trivia.

Be bold. (Express your feelings and agenda.)
Whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers.
Be brief. (People make snap judgments and move along if you don’t capture interest quickly.)
While blogs should be “small” (readers should not need to scroll down to read “the rest of the story”), the way to make blogs exciting is to find the “bigger idea”.  
Be visual. (Every post should contain “eye candy”.)
Engaging blog posts need to contain visuals, whether they’re in the form of “clip art”, photos, graphs, charts, or even videos, to add interest and evoke emotion.

Be organized. (Structure information in chunks.)
Chunking is one way business bloggers can offering technical information in “chewable tablet form”, because it refers to the strategy of breaking down information into bite-sized pieces so the brain can more easily digest it.

Be a Mensch. (Make positive and intelligent comments, suggest resources.)
Providing external links from your blog post to a news source or magazine article or to someone else’s blog post on your subject shows you’re staying in touch with others in your industry and that you’re confident you have special value to offer within a competitive environment.
Feeding the content “monster” over weeks, months, and years is certainly a challenge. Luckily, as Shakespeare pointed out many moons ago, “There are “more ways on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in philosophy” Could the Bard have been foreseeing the art of social media?

Too Humorous or Too Informal – Some People May Mind

Sometimes in business email, Tony Rossiter advises in “Effective Business Writing”, a degree of informality and humor may be appropriate, but this should not be overdone. If you are too formal, the author observes, most people won’t mind. If you are too informal, on the other hand, some people may, in fact, mind.

What about humor in business blog content writing? Everyone likes to be entertained, Joshua Nite admits in toprankblog.com, but our content needs to serve a business purpose. There are ways humor can be valuable in blogs, Nite suggests, including showing you understand your audience and teaching lessons.

A conversational tone in your blog has the effect of making you seem approachable, Ali Luke writes in Problgger.com. Some hallmarks of that tone include

  • contractions such as “you’ll”
  • active voice
  • chatty phrases
  • short sentences and paragraphs
  • starting some sentences with “and”

    I often explain to clients and to newbie writers that that blogs (compared to, say, brochures, white papers, and newsletters) are casual and conversational. Humor, on the other hand, is a riskier proposition, and it’s best to focus it on your own weaknesses (that you’ve overcome) and on problems your company or practice can solve.

    Also, being personal in blog writing doesn’t necessarily mean being offensively over-casual, we teach at Say It For You. For us blog content writers, getting the tone exactly right for a new client is the big challenge. Then, as the blog writing continues over weeks, months, and eventually years, consistency is important.

    When it comes to blog content writing, I believe, there’s a very special purpose to be served by using first person pronouns and keeping it conversational in tone – even for very serious topics.  The blog is the place for readers to connect with the people behind the business or practice. Using first and second person pronouns helps keep the blog conversational rather than either academic-sounding or “sales-ey”.

    Tony Rossiter has it right, I have to conclude – when it comes to informality and especially humor – it’s best not to overdo.