media update’s Aisling McCarthy outlines five rules that will help you put your best content forward.

Ready to start putting your content together? Follow these golden rules:

Rule #1: Make your readers feel something

There are many factors that go into popular content, but one thing that almost all viral content has in common is that is makes readers feel something. Timing, luck and promotion also factor in there, but emotion plays a big part.

Everyone has an opinion on what the best types of content are – listicles, videos, infographics, text and so on. But no matter the format, it all comes down to emotion.

After reading, watching and hearing the content, did you feel angry, inspired, saddened or understood? You have to ask yourself: Why would someone care about this? If readers feel something – then they care.

So before you start working on your next piece of content, consider how your story could make an emotional impact. Find it, and use it!

Rule #2: Make your content powerful and punchy

When putting your content together, make sure that your writing inspires action.

You should aim to make you content powerful, punchy and direct. So, how do you do that? Consider your sentence structure, style and your choice of words.

Try to avoid writing in the passive voice as it makes your content seem less exciting. For example, “The town was destroyed by a hurricane” seems less interesting than “A hurricane destroyed the town”.

Wondering why the active sentence seems more exciting? It emphasises the action with “hurricane destroyed”, whereas the passive sentence focussed on the town, with the hurricane almost as an afterthought.

Also, try to use unique verbs in your writing to ensure that it impacts the reader. Try out ‘sales rocketed’ rather than ‘sales climbed’, or ‘costs were slashed’ instead of ‘costs were cut’.

And finally, vary your sentence style. Short, simple sentences get attention. While longer, more complex sentences can be used to flesh out your ideas. You can use interesting verbs to highlight important actions, but be sure to use more conventional ones for variety.

Rule #3: Make your reader care from the very first line

It’s never easy to write a good introduction. It can feel weird to skip straight to the point without giving the reader some background. But if you warm the reader up, and then work your way back to the main point, your reader is long gone.

Your content isn’t literature. Your readers aren’t there for slow, measured flow and nuanced language. They are there to get information and to solve a problem. And if you don’t give them that information, they’ll get it somewhere else.

Every piece of content you write should tell your readers why they should spend their time hearing what you have to say. Tell them why they should care!

Rule #4: Keep it simple

Don’t say ‘elongated yellow fruit’ when ‘banana’ will suffice.

By overusing meaningless buzzwords, you can show off your vocabulary, but it’s also an easy way to lose your reader’s interest.

Keep in mind the type of audience you’re writing for, and then use the kind of terminology they would. The best way to start is by identifying who you’re targeting and asking yourself: How would my target audience search for this content? What kind of questions would they ask? And then answer those questions.

Some industries have a lot of jargon – so how do you know when to include it? Look at it from your audience’s perspective. If you were the reader, would the jargon make your content more readable or not? Would plain language be able to explain it just as well, or even better?

Rule #5: Edit. Edit. And edit again.

The most important rule of them all is to always edit your work. And to do it more than once.

Once you’ve written your content, take some time to double check the words you’ve used, as well as your grammar and spelling. If you aren’t 100% sure about some of your sentences, you can use an online grammar and spelling checker.

Once you’ve edited your content, get someone else to check it too. Often when you have spent a lot of time working on a piece of content you don’t notice the errors you have made. A second (or third) pair of eyes is always a good idea.

If you don’t have the option of getting an editor to look through your work, give yourself a little bit of extra time to edit. Don’t write the content and edit it on the same day. When the writing is fresh, your mind will automatically make up the gaps in your content and your editing won’t be quite right. Instead, put it away and come back to it another day – or at least a few hours later.

Following these five golden rules will help you level up your content. Remember that excellent content is one of the easiest ways to grab the attention of new visitors and keep them coming back for more – or better yet, sharing your links!

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