A Writing Checklist for Content Marketers… and Everyone Else
In a recent guest blog post for the Content Marketing Institute, I talked about how crisp writing and a consistent treatment of words and phrases are a very public reflection of an organization’s professionalism. The post went on to describe how to create a content marketing style guide and to make the point that in the digital age, where our thirst for content and ability to share that content is greater than ever before, style guides are essential.
I stand by that claim, but also recognize that putting a style guide together can be a pretty daunting task, particularly when resources are limited. That’s why in this post I’m giving you an out in the form of a writer’s checklist. A regular component of the style guides I’ve created over the years, it’s essentially a one-page cheat sheet that you can use to help make sure your content is up to snuff.
My Writer’s Checklist
Always remember to read your writing out loud and ask yourself: Is it easy to read? Do you stumble anywhere? Is it hard to follow? While doing so, remember to check the following:
- What is the main message being communicated?
- Is it interesting to read?
- How does it look? Are the paragraphs divided into easily digestible lengths?
- Read your first sentence or two. Is the purpose of your writing clear? Have you hooked your reader into wanting to read more?
- Does the story progress naturally and logically? Would any paragraphs make better sense elsewhere?
- Are your point of view and tone consistent?
- Have you chosen words that are appropriate for your audience?
- Will your writing offend anyone who is reading it?
- Is each sentence complete? Does each focus on a simple point? Is each clear and explicit?
- If all sentences are about the same length, can you find ways to vary their lengths?
- Are your transitions between sentences and paragraphs smooth and logical?
- Are you writing in active (not passive) voice?
- Have you used verb tenses consistently?
- Are adverbs and adjectives used excessively?
- Are any words overused?
- Do any parts of your writing sound wordy, choppy or repetitive?
- Do any of your sentences start with and, but, or so? Can you eliminate these words without changing your meaning? If not, can you combine these sentences with others without making them excessively long?
Grammar and Spelling
- Do all your subjects and verbs agree?
- Do all your pronouns agree with the subjects to which they refer?
- Have you spell-checked?
- Are all names and titles accurate and spelled correctly?
While a checklist like this will never take the place of a content marketing style guide, following it will at least make you think more about your writing before you share it with the rest of the world. Doing so will almost always lead you to a better final product.