Here's my pet hate as a content writer: flabby, baggy writing that charges headfirst toward a keyword or link, before offering up a few eye-stabbingly mundane suggestions and trundling forlornly to its wordcount. Maybe it's more noticeable to me as a content writer, but when I read an article that begins "There are a variety of ways to [<em>insert topic here</em>], here are some of the most popular" or "Everyone agrees that [<em>insert contention here</em>], and here's a handy guide on it" I just stop reading. My bored-copywriter-regurgitating-someone-else's-content detector (patented) goes off the damn charts, and I go off looking for an article written by someone who knows what they're talking about.
Here's my pet hate as a content writer: flabby, baggy writing that charges headfirst toward a keyword or link, before offering up a few eye-stabbingly mundane suggestions and trundling forlornly to its wordcount. Maybe it's more noticeable to me as a content writer, but when I read an article that begins "There are a variety of ways to [insert topic here], here are some of the most popular" or "Everyone agrees that [insert contention here], and here's a handy guide on it" I just stop reading. My bored-copywriter-regurgitating-someone-else's-content detector (patented) goes off the damn charts, and I go off looking for an article written by someone who knows what they're talking about. Here's an example of what I mean: Summer time will soon be upon us and with it most people are going to go away to warmer climates. If you’ve got a holiday arranged then you need to always take out travel insurance to ensure that if anything at all should happen while you happen to be off you aren’t at a loss. Travel insurance is offered for the duration of your trip or as yearly insurance policy if you travel a lot for work or pleasure then it really is advised to take out annual travel insurance so as to rid yourself the job of taking out travel insurance every time you go abroad. If you very seldom go abroad then it truly is far more constructive to take out insurance that covers the duration of one’s trip as it is considerably more financially efficient. With a bit of luck, that wasn't written by anyone I know. It's horribly bloated, flat and full of hyperbole, the last refuge of the writer with nothing to say: "it really is advised", "so as to rid yourself of the job", "truly is far more constructive". There is actually some useful advice there (annual cover may be cheaper for frequent travellers), but it's buried under a load of wordcount-cheating blather. As content writers, we're often writing about stuff we're not necessarily experts on - we're expected to be jacks of many trades who can explain how to cut down the cost of your home insurance one minute before recommending Florida's top beaches the next. Trying to come off like an expert shouldn't be the goal, though: being knowledgeable about your subject, at least as far as it's useful to the reader, should be. Of course it's tempting to take the safe route, but you're going to end up recycling the same tried-and-tested advice, and then someone else will recycle yours, and so on and so on, with the article losing a little bit of its authenticity every time it passes through the churn mill, until finally deteriorating to the kind of empty drivel I cited above. Let's take a look at the same topic, done right: Before looking for a travel insurance policy it is important to understand not only the types of coverage that should come as standard but also the limitations of travel insurance policies. Not every policy will cover for every eventuality so it is vital that you choose a policy tailored to your needs both to avoid paying too much and to ensure that you are covered for all eventualities. Even so, there are a few eventualities that are covered by most travel insurance providers. Below is a list of the coverage that should be offered as standard: Why does this work? (Barring overuse of the word 'eventuality'). It talks in specific, rather than general terms; it gets right to the point, and more importantly it's not overtly trying to sell anything. It's even got a nice little hook that suggests you're about to find out what your rights are. Most importantly, it's offering genuinely useful advice that the reader - who is presumably looking for travel insurance - might not know already. It's presumably based on actual research, which usually isn't buried too much deeper than the strata of churn. So what's the point of all this ranting? Mainly that it's no harder to produce useful, original content than it is to endlessly rehash the same articles. Make your source as primary as possible - this means finding a (preferably neutral) authority such as a government or trade association's website. Get just the facts and figures, avoiding the temptation to rewrite any text you find. Then think about your who your audience is, about what they probably know already and what they probably don't. This train of thought helps to find an angle - angles are specific - specific is useful. Specific gets read, generic gets forgotten. Writing an article on reducing the cost of home insurance? Explain what smart water is, how it works and how many burglars it catches each year. Pet food? Write about how and why dogs' nutritional needs are different according to their size. Kitchen trends? Find the most hilariously grotesque designs the interwebs can throw up and use them as a platform to make alternative suggestions. Going for specifics rather than generics isn't just more likely to be read, ranked and retweeted; it's more fun to write, too. And the internet will thank you. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.