Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well

Who better? Many business people faced with the task of writing for marketing purposes are quick to say: “Hey, I’m no Hemingway!” But really, who better than Hemingway to emulate? Rather than embracing the flowery prose of the literati, he chose to eschew obfuscation at every turn and write simply and clearly. So, let’s see what Ernest can teach us about effective writing. 1. Use short sentences Hemingway was famous for a terse minimalist style of writing that dispensed with adjectives and got straight to the point. In short, Hemingway wrote with simple genius. Perhaps his finest demonstration of short sentence prowess was when he was challenged to tell an entire story in only 6 words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” 2. Use short first paragraphs See opening. 3. Use vigorous English Here’s David Garfinkel’s take on this one: “It’s muscular, forceful. Vigorous English comes from passion, focus and […]

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Take 15 Minutes to Find Your Winning Difference

A unique selling proposition (USP) is the reason people do business with you and not someone else — a winning difference that sets you apart and makes you the only real choice. Traditional marketing advice will have you lock yourself in a cave for weeks listing all of the features of your business, translating them into benefits, then somehow finding that one compelling point that will differentiate you from everyone else you could possibly compete with. These days, your winning difference depends more on who you’re selling to more than the features of what you’re selling. You need to stake out a favorable position in the minds of those you’re trying to attract, even while turning the wrong people away. If you have a firm grasp on what your ideal customer looks like, then you can do some simple exercises to discover your own winning difference. Three five-minute exercises to […]

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How to Start a Blog (in 5 Essential Steps)

Starting a blog can be a life changing decision. I started blogging on a sabbatical while road-tripping through Mexico one year, and had no idea just how much my life would change as a result. Because I started a blog, I have: Reached millions of people Made friends around the world Delivered keynote talks at conferences to hundreds of people Built a business I can run from anywhere, anytime Coached thousands of customers Earned millions of dollars Maybe most importantly, starting a blog has helped me become the person I was meant to be. I feel more fulfilled, creative and useful than I ever did in my traditional career. All because I started a blog. Are my results typical? Of course not. Are they entirely possible if you show up, do the work, and build a truly great and useful blog? Absolutely! Starting a blog is just the first step, […]

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15 Copy Editing Tips that Transform Your Content into Persuasive and Shareable Works of Art

What’s special about the compelling content you retweet, Like, bookmark, and email to your friends? Those articles serve the audience, not the content creator. Creative work that instantly captivates and holds an audience’s attention influences their lives. So, you have to remember that transcribing the thoughts in your mind won’t always serve a purpose. You must craft the right instructions and help a reader optimize a part of their daily life through the topic you share. Here’s how you get there: Strengthening your ability to create content that spreads includes improving your editing skills. Editors transform basic text into powerful stories (in all media) that persuade people to take action. Once you’ve written a draft, review these 15 copy editing tips that help turn your articles, landing pages, webinar content, podcast episodes, and videos into shareable works of art. 1. Walk away Realistically assess your post’s urgency. Unless you have […]

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8 Elements that Make Your Next Piece of Content Even Better than Your Last

Moving on to your next piece of content — regardless of how your last one performed — is the mark of the diligent marketer. We have to keep producing, but we also want to improve and learn more about what our audiences want. Each new piece of content we create is a new opportunity to do just that. On Monday, I outlined 2 Key Factors that Distinguish Satisfying Content from Forgettable Ideas. This is a mini tutorial for polishing your content into a powerful package that gets your reader, listener, or viewer to share and subscribe, rather than hesitate and move on. On Tuesday, Brian Clark kept things rolling with 5 Easy Ways to Open Your Blog Post with a Bang. In a split second you need to show why choosing your content is the best decision a reader can make in that moment. You can mix and match the […]

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5 Easy Ways to Open Your Blog Post with a Bang

What’s the second most important part of your blog post after the title? Master copywriter Eugene Schwartz often spent an entire week on the first 50 words of a sales piece — the headline and the opening paragraph. Just imagine how disappointed you’d be after crafting a killer headline for your post, only to lose readers with an opening that failed to carry the momentum. A great headline mixed with a weak opening is like inviting someone into your house, only to slam the door in their face as they approach. So, here are five ways to open your post that will capture the reader’s imagination and pull them deeper into your content. 1. Ask a question Opening your post with a question is a rhetorical device (hence, the “rhetorical question”) that creates curiosity and gets the reader thinking. Thinking equals active engagement with your writing, and that’s a very […]

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What to Do When You Absolutely, Positively Must Know if Your Content Will Rock

Ever had a great idea, and then started to doubt yourself? Or maybe you’ve already executed on that great idea, but you’re hesitating to launch. Maybe it’s an article, or an ebook, or a new product or service. How can you be sure it will work? Should you ask for feedback? I’ll answer both of those questions in this article, but first I need to tell you a couple of stories from the nutty worlds of music and film. Let’s start with a band called Wilco. Wilco gets the shaft In 2000 and early 2001, Wilco recorded a selection of songs for a fourth studio album. Signed to Reprise Records (a subsidiary of Warner Music), the band was continuing to shift away from its “alt country” roots toward a more experimental alternative rock sound. This made the folks at Reprise nervous. After a shakeup at the top executive level of […]

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Update Your Focus to Work Hard on the Right Things

Last week, I affirmed that “hard work is luck.” However, what if you work hard and aren’t seeing any progress or results? What if hard work just leads to you feeling disappointed and ready to give up? Before you actually do give up, it’s helpful to take a look at the activities that consume your time and attention. Why do some people who work hard succeed, and some don’t? I think those who “work hard and succeed” are open to a variety of pathways that will help them reach their goals. They are flexible and don’t have a fixed mindset about the work they should be doing or a rigid definition of success. In other words, those who “work hard but don’t succeed” might work hard on the wrong things and ignore other versions of success within reach. It’s not the most exciting truth, but we have to crawl before […]

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How Serious Writers Expand Their Audiences with Guest Blog Posts

Note: While we encourage you to explore guest posting to grow your audience, Copyblogger does not currently accept guest post submissions. But don’t worry, these pointers are useful for any publication. In my first edition of the Copyblogger Weekly, I mentioned a running joke Sonia Simone and I have: that she rejected the first guest post I submitted to Copyblogger. (If you’re not already subscribed to the Weekly, sign up here to get a short note from me straight to your inbox every Thursday.) Today, I’m going to share that story to shed some light on the delicate nature of writer-editor relationships. Let’s take it back to 2008 … When I began developing my personal guest posting strategy, Copyblogger sat atop my “Where I Want to Guest Post” list. Five years later, I achieved my goal. So, how did I spend the time between May 2008 and May 2013, when […]

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A Simple Plan for Writing One Powerful Piece of Content Each Week

Good morning, you epic article writer, you. That’s right, I’m talking to you. You publish content to attract new prospects, to build trust with them — word by word — so you can get down to business. And you do it in your slippers. Because shoes are optional in our world, right? Your shoes might be fuzzy, but your words need to be consistently remarkable. Consistently good content that builds an audience is the foundation of online business. But how can you make that happen? Well, one option is to drink lots of coffee and stay up late the night before you publish your post, stifling yawns and squinting to see your screen. But the better option is to spread out the writing and editing process over a few leisurely days, and write your post in stages without ever getting out of your slippers. Sound good? Quality over quantity That’s […]

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7 Steps to Grow a Blog Post

Sometimes it seems like writers are magicians, because we have the power to create something out of nothing. An important point to note about magicians, though: They don’t really do magic. 🙂 Instead, they study and practice specific behaviors until they can create that illusion of creating something out of nothing. And of course, all creative people do the same. We study and we practice our craft, making consistent improvements and (if we’re lucky) building habits that lead to more consistent output. Today’s post will help with the “consistent output” part. I don’t think I’m alone in finding Starting the hardest part of writing. We don’t know what we’re going to work on. We’re not sure what the structure will be. We don’t have the first sentence yet. The ideas are all running around in our heads like kittens with ADD, and we have no idea how to get them […]

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Join the Copyblogger Renaissance to Pursue the Career You’re Meant to Have

If you told me 10 years ago that one day I’d be taking over writing Copyblogger’s weekly newsletter from Sonia Simone, I’d have said: “In what fantasy world? I don’t know her, and she didn’t review the guest post I submitted.” (True story.) But I believe four simple words: Hard work is luck. Long story short, Sonia and I did eventually connect and have had a great working relationship for the past five years. I’m honored she passed the baton keyboard to me and I now get to talk with you every week, in addition to the other posts I write on the blog. This week, we took Monday off to observe Labor Day in the United States. On Tuesday, Brian Clark talked about why he’s returned to Copyblogger. He shared behind-the-scenes stories about the company and what we have in store going forward. For even more details, check out […]

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The Content Crossroads: Supernatural Success at the Intersection of Ideas

Do you know what happens down at the crossroads? Legend has it that Robert Johnson — the most famous of the Delta blues musicians from the 1930s — took his second-hand guitar and went down to the crossroads in the middle of the night. When the young plantation worker returned home, his guitar skills had taken a quantum leap. The overnight improvement in Johnson’s playing wasn’t just significant; it was supernatural. Something strange happened down at that crossroads. Word got around that Johnson ventured to the crossroads to meet the Devil himself, and sold his soul to become the best blues guitarist who ever lived. Sure enough, less than a year later, Robert Johnson was the king of the Delta bluesmen, and created, played, and sang the greatest blues anyone had ever heard. Johnson is now known as the “Grandfather of Rock and Roll,” and has influenced artists ranging from […]

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A Farewell and Some Advice to Keep You Moving Forward

Well, our big news this week is that I’m going to be moving to a more solo career. The ultra capable Darrell Vesterfelt will be taking over my partnership interest in Copyblogger Media. It’s a huge step for all of us, but it also feels like a natural evolution. It helps a lot that I think Darrell is going to crush it. 🙂 But Copyblogger has never been about only one person. (OK, apart from those very early days when Brian kept it all afloat himself.) And we still have advice and strategies for you! On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman helped us through a painful moment — when a prospect chooses a competitor over our solution. And she explores the ways we can build trust in our prospects, becoming a complete package that they prefer over any other option. On Tuesday, Robert Bruce talked about a brutal problem that writers face […]

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Changes You Can Make in 10 Minutes for Exceptionally Effective Copy

Sure, professional writers spend a lot of time on our craft. As we should. But it’s also nice to have a few fast tweaks to make your content and copy a lot more effective. This week, we offered three ways to make your persuasive writing work a lot better … without spending a zillion more hours on it. In fact, you can implement all three of these tweaks in about 10 minutes, every time you publish. (You can also spend a little more time and really make them sing … it’s up to you.) On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman shared a foundational technique every content marketer should be using — strategically managing your internal content links. It seems simple (and it is), but it has outsized benefits for the time you put in. Typical time investment: 3 minutesPayoff: Improved authority, significantly better audience experience, SEO benefits On Tuesday, Brian Clark reminded […]

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One Ridiculously Easy Addition to Enhance the Power of Your Blog Posts

The overall aim of your blog is to help your audience with the issues they struggle with while also educating them on what they need to know to do business with you. That’s too much responsibility for just one article, so each blog post you publish can be thought of as a piece of your content marketing strategy puzzle. And how do you connect those puzzle pieces to keep readers engaged with your story and on your site for longer? Internal links: a strategic way to connect your content I often advise writers to be selective about the hyperlinks they include in their blog posts. While links allow you to cite external sources and provide more background information on certain topics, articles that make sense without clicking on a bunch of links are naturally easier to read. That said, linking to your own content is an opportunity to showcase your […]

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How to Beat the Boring Content Blues in 30 Days

Have you ever reached a plateau with your content? You come to a point where you have a predictable amount of traffic, that traffic creates a predictable level of response (comments, clickthroughs for your product, number of backlinks, whatever), but your response doesn’t seem to budge past that point. It’s fun climbing to that spot, but less fun to get stuck there for weeks or months on end. I’m going to share a painful secret with you. It isn’t your layout or your banner. It isn’t your SEO. It’s your content. Specifically, your content has become flat and routine. You’ve found a modest audience that likes you, but your ideas and your writing aren’t sharp enough to pull in, energize, and keep new readers. Over 30 years as a professional writer, I’ve developed a method to take my writing to a stronger, deeper level. I originally got this process from […]

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The 7 Keys to List Posts that Are Worth Writing (and Reading)

A lot of smart writers can’t stand list posts. What’s a list post? It’s also known as a numbered list post, or a (shudder) listicle, and it’s a post whose headline features a numbered collection of things. This post, for example, is a list post. There are an awful lot of crummy ones out there. The celebrity sites make frequent use of them (These 17 Celebrities Used to Be Hot, etc.). In fact, all of the CRaP blogs use them liberally. So it’s natural that a quality-focused content writer (like you) might try to avoid them. But that would be silly. And here’s why: Smart marketers have always focused on underlying human psychological drivers. And those drivers change very little, if at all. One of them, for whatever reason, is that we get a tiny bit mesmerized by numbers. When we see a number in a headline, a part of […]

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For Courageous Content Creators Who Want to Do Epic Work

When I started blogging, a little over 10 years ago, one of my then-colleagues mentioned that she “didn’t have the software to read blogs.” Today, the landscape is a little different. Blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and other content formats are being consumed at an astonishing rate — and an equally astonishing volume of new content is being generated to fill that demand. The content landscape isn’t some mythical blue ocean lacking in competition. It’s a teeming jungle — with plenty to eat, and plenty that wants to eat you. To make it in the content jungle, you need courage. The courage to stand out, the courage to get real about your values, and the courage to create over the long haul. This week, we’ve got fuel for your content courage. One reason creativity and self-expression are difficult is that we’re afraid someone will be mean to us over what we […]

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Why You’re Missing Out if You Save Your Best Content Ideas

Imagine this, if you will. An old woman, near the end of her life. Shivering in a fleabag apartment without heat in the winter. Walking four miles each way to the food bank, to carry home unmarked cans of mystery meat. Not even a cat to keep her company, because cat food is expensive. Then one day she dies, and the neighbors find $2.7 million wadded up in her mattress. It’s a natural human impulse to hold on to what we have. We figure we can handle whatever discomforts we might be facing now, and who knows how bad it could get down the line? So we hoard, saving up our riches for some mythical later time. What does this have to do with writing? Everyone who writes faces this at some point. We come up with a powerful idea, something we think will capture a lot of attention. This […]

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