Here’s the fourth episode of our weekly video series, which by the way has a new name!
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This week, we are exploring the most fundamental question-
What makes a piece of content?
Like the 5 elements that make up this universe, every piece of content is also defined by its three elements:
The message is the first ingredient that makes up content. A writer ignorant of his message is a ship without a compass.
Imagine, won’t it be ridiculous to start writing when you have no idea what information you want to convey!
Don’t confuse this concept with languages like English, German and Spanish. What applies to the concept of “language” here will apply to all other spoken and written languages.
The “Language-element” of content means the way in which the words are stringed together to deliver the message.
For instance, most professional writers prefer using few words, making short and crisp sentences.
The reason is pretty simple…
The human brain finds it easier to understand shorter sentences.
In fact, the Golden rule of legal writing taught in American 1L legal writing classes is:
There is also a research conducted by the American Press Institute, which shows how readability drops with the increase in word count:
So, whatever written language you choose, make sure your message is not only relevant but also readable.
From the way you comb your hair to the clothes you prefer, your dressing style is extremely personal. And, so is the writing style.
All writers, be they amateurs or professionals, have their own personal style.
New writers usually confuse between inspiration and imitation and try to imitate the writing style of famous authors.
This prevalent practice is one of the biggest reasons why budding writers feel hesitant to publish their content.
In trying to emulate their role models, they lose their own unique voice. The result is a farrago (borrowed from Shashi Tharoor’s lexicon) of style that neither matches their own nor of their role model’s.
So, the best way is to stay honest with your writing style.
By being who you are, you will develop the confidence to express what you believe in.
And the moment you stop shying away from taking a stand, know that you have successfully developed your unique voice in writing.
Now, if all the elements of writing are clear, then let’s begin with our next phase,
The Effective Writing Process
A big misconception common among writers is that drafting is equivalent to writing.
Drafting (the process of putting down words) is just a small part of the whole writing process.
Contrary to common understanding, it is the prewriting stage that should make up 75% of the whole writing process.
Once prewriting is done, it should be followed by Drafting, Revising and Editing/Proofreading, after which your content will be ready to publish.
What is Pre-writing?
Imagine had an idea and felt like writing about it. Excited, you started jotting down your lines.
At one point you got confused and decided to research a bit about that topic.
So, what happens in the story next?
If you ask most writers, the next part will go like this…
As you keep on digging more into the topic, it dawns on you that there is a big chasm between what you think and what is true.
Such realisations are a common phenomenon with writers who write on a whim.
Pre-writing is like drawing a map before you set about for a treasure hunt.
It makes sure that your content conveys the exact message that makes the most impact.
So, like you would spend a few days to weeks investigating the route to your treasure, invest at least 2-3 hours planning the content for a 500 words article.
If this step is properly executed, then the process of typing will hardly take 30 mins.
Parts of Pre-Writing
So, how would you draw a map?
You would select the best point from where you can reach your treasure most efficiently.
Same goes for pre-writing.
You select a topic which is of most value and on which you can write most efficiently.
The irony is, many people get confused in this first step itself.
To make matters simple, we have chosen the following topic for this blog:
Now that the topic is chosen, we start with the next step; writing a purpose statement.
What’s a Purpose Statement?
This process is like soul-searching before a treasure hunt, trying to realize the purpose that’s driving you on a dangerous adventure.
You may realise your purpose is selfish, driven by the greed to fill your own coffers or it could be noble, an attempt to restore the glory of your family.
Similarly, before planning and researching the content, think what is the purpose of your write-up.
Those sentences that will capsulize the aim behind your article will form, what is known as a “purpose statement.”
A purpose statement includes 1-2 lines written before the actual content.
It works like a compass which keeps on reminding writers what they are going to write about. It even benefits the readers as it shows them what they can expect from the write-up.
For the topic of “Write a Professional Bio for a trainer”, the following is an apt example of a personal statement.
Isn’t it quite clear from the above lines what you can expect from the bio?
That’s the beauty of a purpose statement
N.B: For learning more on this topic, pay attention to the video after 16.50 minutes.
Now that you are done with the purpose statement, don’t think that you can start writing the actual content.
There are three more steps left before you can begin your content:
Most of us think research to be a worthless endeavour, especially if it is about something we assume we already know, like a professional bio. But, only by checking out how others have attempted their bio, you will get an idea about which experiences to mention first. Or what to mention if you are a fresher and have no professional experiences to share.
Put Information in Bullet Points
After you have understood from researching what needs to go in your content, mention all the points of your message in bullet points. It’s like specifying the exact number of rooms that you would want in your house before you start putting the house plans on paper.
This practice makes it clear what exact message points you would convey through your content.
Organize the Information
This is the final step of pre-writing, where you organise all the points that you specified in the previous step. It’s like, now you know what all rooms you want, you start drawing the blueprint before starting with the actual construction.
Similarly, before writing the actual content, plan and specify which point will be mentioned in which paragraph.
To understand how Mr Singh organises the structure of his Bio, check out the video at 37.55 minutes.
Once you are done with the pre-writing step, next comes the process of the actual drafting.
Drafting comprises of the following elements:
When you are writing a sentence, make sure that it conveys the complete meaning.
For instance, writing “worked for 5 years in the telecom sector” is an incomplete sentence because it’s missing a subject. Any random person reading it might want to clarify if it’s you who has worked or someone else.
But, in the process of framing the message, don’t end up writing lengthy sentences. As we showed above, 14-15 words is the optimum number for ensuring good readability.
The longer you make your sentence, the less readable it becomes.
In the same vein, ensure that the use of active voice in your sentences. By shifting the focus from the doer, passive voice makes sentences unnecessarily complicated and long. This too affects the readability of your content.
Besides using your own understanding, you can also get an expert assessment of your content with the Hemingway app.
To know how to use this app, pay attention to the video at 53.36 minutes.
- With the addition of each sentence, you construct a paragraph.
While writing in paragraphs, make sure that one paragraph contains only one idea or two closely-related ones. This is known as the Rule of Unity.
Similarly, don’t make your paragraph bulky by including more than 5 lines. Most professional articles you read on Forbes and HBR follow this rule.
After drafting, comes the step of revising followed by editing and proofreading.
One way to revise and check your content is to read it aloud or ask your friend to offer an objective assessment.
The purpose of revising is to make sure that the coherence in your content is maintained. Also, it will help you check if the sentences and paragraphs are constructed properly.
Editing and Proofreading
As shown in the above section as well as the blog of the third video, I had asked you to use Hemingway and Grammarly to improve your content’s readability and grammar to a large extent.
While Hemingway is already taught in the video, you can learn much about Grammarly in one of our other blogs.
Through editing and proofreading, you also ensure if there is a smooth transition between your main ideas and other sections. Similarly, you assess if your content fulfils the objectives mentioned in the Purpose statement.
Now that you have followed all the steps from Pre-writing to Proofreading,
Congrats! Your content is ready for publishing.
Therefore, akin to finding a treasure, writing an excellent piece of content is an act requiring proper research, planning and mapping.
After all, when you publish something you are proud of, isn’t the feeling as exhilarating as stumbling across a chest of gold.
It is for me at least. And I am sure it’s the same for many writers too.
So, do you agree with all that was taught in this blog?
Do you think we could skip some step or there is something we overlooked?
Feel free to comment below or message us personally.
We would love to hear from you.