There are a lot of factors that go into creating compelling content—from having a strong message to using the right tone of voice. But following some basic writing best practices can make all the difference.
Keeping content guidelines in mind can make your writing more effective. Who are you writing for? What are they looking for? What do they need to know?
Abiding by a handful of fundamental writing guidelines helps you tailor your content to meet your audiences’ needs. To level up your writing chops, here are 12 best practices to abide by.
1. Always prioritize clarity over flare
When it comes to creating content, clarity should always take top priority. Adding unnecessary flare can confuse your audience and ultimately gets in the way of your ability to get your ideas across.
Prioritize structure and simplicity over style, and you'll write better content that is more persuasive. This doesn't mean that you can't add some flair to your work—just make sure that it doesn't come at the expense of clarity.
When you’re aiming for clarity, heed a few writing tips:
- Use abbreviations
- Proofread for readability
- Add visuals if it helps you make a point
- Add bulleted lists when listing three or more things
- Stick to one style guide
- Cut out unnecessary words
Once you’re in editing mode, you can add the flair that makes your content stand out. Use simple language and break down complex concepts into manageable chunks.
2. Use placeholders to stay in “flow”
When you’re writing, it’s important to stay in “flow.” This means maintaining your momentum and keeping your concentration on the task at hand. One way to do this is by using placeholders.
A placeholder is a word or phrase that you can come back to and edit later. By using them, you can keep your focus on writing, without getting bogged down by the details.
To write better, faster, and with more conviction, start using placeholders. When you use placeholders, you can focus on getting your ideas down with clarity without worrying about things like grammar or punctuation.
Plus, using placeholders makes it easy to create compelling content because you aren’t interrupting the writing process to find specific stats or citations. A placeholder can be anything from a highlighted sentence to mark where you left off, an X, or a specific symbol you’ll remember you’ve assigned as the placeholder.
3. Edit for cliches and passive voice
Cliches are one of the biggest enemies of good writing. They make your writing sound cheap and unoriginal, and they can make it difficult to get your point across. Passive voice is another common mistake that can make your writing seem dull and boring.
By taking the time to edit for cliches and passive voice, you can produce copy that is more engaging and impactful. Using active voice in your writing is a great way to avoid cliches and make your sentences more engaging while maintaining clarity.
Take the time to edit your work for these elements. Add them to your editing checklist and see how much better your writing becomes.
Examples of cliches to avoid:
- Avoid it like the plague
- Think outside the box
- At the end of the day
- Like a kid in a candy shop
- There are plenty of fish in the sea
- Low hanging fruit
- Good things come to those who wait
- The grass is always greener on the other side
4. Take advantage of templates
If you're stuck in a dreaded writers' block, writing templates are one way to get a headstart and overcome it.
Templates are pre-made outlines that help you structure your writing. They can take several forms, including:
- Fill-in-the-blank worksheets
- Mind maps
- A list of simple sentence starters
- Jasper AI Templates
Whatever their form, they provide a framework for getting your thoughts down quickly. This is especially helpful if you have a deadline looming and you can’t take the time to come up with something from scratch.
Jasper offers a long list of content marketing, SEO and email templates designed to give you a headstart with your writing.
5. Make your main idea persuasive with an outline
Outlining is a key step in the writing process that many people overlook. It seems unnecessary at first glance.
But an outline can help you to strengthen your argument by revealing your main points. Once revealed, you can use them as a guide to finding supporting statements, statistics, or anecdotes.
Pro tip: Use Jasper’s Blog Post Outline Template to create an outline with subheadings quickly. You can also incorporate keywords so your writing is search engine friendly. Here’s an example.
6. Write introductions with AI
AI-powered writing assistants like Jasper can help you write introductions quickly and easily. With a few clicks, you can generate a well-written introduction that incorporates your main ideas and keywords.
Here’s an example using Jasper’s Blog Post Intro Paragraph template:
This can be a great way to get started on your writing project, especially if you're struggling with writer’s block or need to produce content quickly. With AI on hand, you can focus on what's important—sharing your best ideas through great content.
7. Know exactly who you’re talking to
Knowing your audience is key. That is, who is your writing speaking to? You need to know what arguments will persuade them, and how to phrase those arguments in a way that compels them to action.
Many times, writers make the mistake of focusing on the message they want to share, without taking the time to consider what their audience needs. As a result, their content falls flat because it doesn’t resonate with the key people they’re trying to reach.
To create compelling content, consider fleshing out who your audience is. What are their interests? What motivates them?
What are their concerns? Where are they on their buyer’s journey if you’re selling a product? What matters to them? Take the time to understand your target audience inside and out, and then craft your content around their needs and wants.
8. Lean on specific examples when possible
It can be tempting to write in generalizations. Especially when you're trying to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. However, specificity will always trump generalizing. The more specific you can get with the examples, anecdotes, and descriptions, the stronger and more appealing your writing will be.
This is especially important when you’re selling your ideas or convincing others of your point of view. Your audience is more likely to be persuaded by concrete evidence than by abstract claims.
The next time you're writing something, make sure to lean on specific examples whenever possible. You'll be surprised at how much difference it makes. Relying on specifics adds depth and nuance to your work, making it more interesting and memorable for your readers. It truly makes a difference in the quality of your writing.
The introduction for How To Learn Anything With The Feynman Technique starts its introductory paragraph by naming the specific attributes and contributions of Richard Feynman, creating credibility. Imagine if the blog post would have started with “Richard Feynman was a scientist.” It doesn’t quite hold the same weight, does it? This is yet another example where specificity wins.
9. Add expert takes when possible
When forming an argument, you can't lean on yourself to know everything. Besides citing statistics and numbers, expert takes can be a great way to make your argument stronger and give your readers a better understanding of the topic. It’s also a way to add credibility to your main points.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to experts for their outlook on a subject they’re well-versed in. It can only serve to add to your writing.
Shopify does a great job incorporating e-commerce expert takes in its content:
10. Add hooks to every section of your writing
Without hooks, writing can seem monotonous and boring—which is definitely not what you want. You’re probably familiar with adding a hook to your introductory paragraph to grip your audience’s interest from the beginning. But as your piece flows, adding hooks to each section can keep that effect going.
Some tips for adding hooks:
- Start paragraphs with strong statements or questions
- Use interesting facts or statistics
- Pose a rhetorical question
- Make an analogy or metaphor
- Quote someone famous or interesting.
- Add a personal story or anecdote
There's a reason why books, articles, and other pieces of writing are typically divided into sections—it helps the reader stay engaged. By adding hooks to every paragraph or subsection, you make sure that your readers will stick around until the very end.
Of course, this doesn't mean that you can't have a few longer sections without hooks. Just be sure to include them where it makes the most sense.
11. Vary sentence structure
Varying sentence structure makes your writing interesting. Why? Because it adds rhythm, personality, and dimension to your ideas. All of these elements keep your audience engaged.
This way, you can create a piece that is both enjoyable to read and memorable. As you write, play around with sentence formatting and length. Brevity can be just as effective as length in getting your point across. When you need to pack a lot of information into a piece, using short sentences can be the best way to do it.
Power up your writing with Boss Mode
In the real world, writing skills matter. Whether you're a business owner trying to create compelling content for your website, or a first-time writer, using the right tools can help you write better and faster.Jasper's Boss Mode can be a great addition to your writing process. You can also use Grammarly to edit what you don't like or rearrange a sentence that isn't quite clicking.If the goal is to write better content in less time, try Jasper. Check out the Bootcamp to get started.