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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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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Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking?

Whether you’re trying to solve a tough problem, start a business, get attention for that business, or write an interesting article, creative thinking is crucial. The process boils down to changing your perspective and seeing things differently than you currently do. People like to call this “thinking outside of the box,” but that’s the wrong way to look at it. Just like Neo needed to understand that “there is no spoon” in the film The Matrix, you need to realize “there is no box” to step outside of. You create your own imaginary boxes simply by living life and accepting certain things as “real” when they are just as illusory as the beliefs of a paranoid delusional. The difference is, enough people agree that certain man-made concepts are “real,” so you’re viewed as “normal.” This is good for society overall, but it’s that sort of unquestioning consensus that inhibits your […]

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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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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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Meet the Lazy Marketer’s Best Friend: The Email Autoresponder

No one loves blogs more than I do. They’re a great way to attract an engaged audience, develop trust and rapport, attract links, and stake your claim in search engines. I love blogs. But like babies and kittens, two other things I love, they’re also a lot of responsibility. Blogs take time. You’ve got to write terrific content that stands out from the general noise, promote it intelligently, and cultivate reader relationships. And that’s in addition to everything else you do in your business, from producing your product to getting your taxes filed. That’s why there’s another content marketing tool that I always recommend having in place — ideally before you write your first blog post. It’s the email autoresponder. What is an email autoresponder and why do I want one? An autoresponder is just a sequence of email marketing messages that gets sent to subscribers in the order and […]

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13 Timeless Lessons from the Father of Advertising

In 1962, Time magazine called David Ogilvy: “The most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.” During his years as an advertising executive and copywriter, Ogilvy created some of the world’s most successful and iconic marketing campaigns, including the legendary Man in the Hathaway Shirt, plus notable efforts for Schweppes, Rolls-Royce, and the island of Puerto Rico, among many others. Ogilvy was one of the pioneers of information-rich, “soft sell” ads that didn’t insult the intelligence of the prospect. Ogilvy’s successful advertising campaigns demonstrate how to persuade prospects, influence readers, and create memorable, evergreen content. But “The Father of Advertising” also has plenty to teach us about productivity, branding, research, and ambition. Let’s look at some things David Ogilvy had to say, and what we can learn from each of them. On creativity and creative process “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker […]

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Why Your Friend with a Creative Job Isn’t the Village Idiot

It happened again. You were out to dinner with your Writer Friend, and the waiter came over to see if you needed anything. This led to a short, friendly conversation with him. As he walked away, your meal companion apologized for reaching into her purse to get her phone. She opened her Notes application and explained: “I have to jot that down. What he said was so perfect for something I’m working on. It just gave me a bunch of ideas.” You sat back and took a sip of your Syrah while thinking: “We’re supposed to be having a relaxing dinner. The last thing I’m thinking about right now is work. She’s not doing real work anyway. It’s annoying that she calls it work.” The nonsensical nature of creative work can bewilder onlookers. But is creative work that much different from other types of work? The development of a creative […]

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8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content

Your precious words. You know they’ve got to be right to attract the audience you want. You’ve carefully crafted each phrase. You finally hit “publish,” and what happens? Nobody reads them. No comments, no tweets, no sharing on Facebook. It’s enough to send a writer into deep depression and wipe out motivation to keep producing great content. Think you need to spend another 10,000 hours perfecting your writing skills? Probably not. Actually, the solution may be a lot easier than you expect. Writing less and styling your text so it’s easy to read could be all you need to do to attract and hold attention. Impatient searchers Jakob Nielsen’s seminal web usability study from 1997 showed that 79 percent of web users scan rather than read. Think about how you use the web. You’re in search of information. And if you don’t find it on the page you’re visiting, you […]

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30 Sure-Fire Steps to Become a Successful Freelance Writer

You may or may not know that I haven’t always been Copyblogger’s editor. For many years, I was a Copyblogger reader. I didn’t know Brian. I didn’t know Sonia. But I pretended that I did. Of course I didn’t tell anyone that … I just received so much guidance from Copyblogger that helped me position my writing and editing services for success that it felt like I knew them. Although it was just a website with content I read, Copyblogger supported my business journey. I’m bringing this up today because I’m happy to pay it forward, if you will, and share a list of Copyblogger’s top 30 steps that help you become an in-demand freelance writer. 1. Start with the basics The overhead to work as a freelance writer in the digital space is quite small compared to a brick-and-mortar business. Get clear on the bare minimum you need to […]

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10 Content Marketing Goals Worth Pursuing

Ever wonder why content marketing works so well for some businesses — but doesn’t seem to do anything at all for others? Curious about why some content that seems great doesn’t do anything to build a business? “Content is king” has been an online cliché for years now, but it’s not true. It’s never been true. Content all by itself — even terrific content — is just content. It may be entertaining. It may be educational. It may contain the secret to world peace and fresh, minty breath, all rolled into one. But it has no magical powers. It won’t transform your business or get you where you need to go, until you add one thing … Content marketing is a meaningless exercise without business goals. What makes content marketing work? To make content work, you need to understand your marketing and business goals. Then you can create content that […]

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How to Use the ‘Rule of Three’ to Create Engaging Content

What’s so magical about the number three? It’s no accident that the number three is pervasive throughout some of our greatest stories, fairy tales, and myths. It’s also no coincidence that some of the most famous quotes throughout history are structured in three parts, nor is it surprising that the Rule of Three also works wonders in the world of comedy. It all comes down to the way we humans process information. We have become proficient at pattern recognition by necessity, and three is the smallest number of elements required to create a pattern. This combination of pattern and brevity results in memorable content, and that’s why the Rule of Three will make you a more engaging writer. Storytelling Have you ever wondered: What the Three Little Pigs, the Three Blind Mice, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Musketeers, the Three Wise Men, and the Three Stooges have in […]

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The 7 Things Writers Need to Make a Living

If you’re a writer, you might have heard this most of your life: People don’t make a living writing. You should find something practical to do with your life. Smart, capable writers grimly pass around war stories on Facebook. Penny-a-word assignments, clients who don’t pay, disdain for our craft, and disrespect for our profession. And yet, look around at this digital world so many of us spend our lives in. It’s made of words. The technology to produce digital content exists because we create words worth sharing. Text, video, audio — it all needs great writing if it’s going to be worth spending our time on. If writing is your profession and your passion, you can accept crap assignments for crap money and crap treatment. Or, you can choose something better. Because there is something better. In the time I’ve been writing professionally, I’ve noticed some necessary traits, abilities, and […]

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