Much of the writing you were expected to complete while attending university is completely and utterly inapplicable to writing for marketing, content creation, company blogs or in any creative capacity.
The fact is, many academics don’t have a clue about how to write well. If your goal is to create written content that people actually want to read, do the exact opposite of whatever it is they taught you about writing in university.
Here’s a look at why academic writing is terrible when it comes to marketing and content creation; and how to avoid the things that make it so painfully bad.
Is Your Content Relevant and Engaging?
If you don’t believe me (or think I’m just a bitter ex-student), then just take a quick read on the following excerpt from Guggenheim Fellowship-winning Professor Judith Butler’s “Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time”.
“The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”
This nauseating word salad earned Butler unanimous praise from her equally bad-at-writing colleagues in academia,and if you wrote this for a college paper, you’d almost certainly get an A.
However, the fact is that for anyone outside of a post-secondary setting, this writing is atrocious; putting this or anything written in a similar style would undoubtedly decrease traffic to your company website, lower your brand reputation, and chase off potential readers and customers.
I’m not saying that most university professors aren’t intelligent or that their ideas aren’t worth discussing, I’m saying they don’t know how to write well and the writing style they teach is wholly inapplicable in an entrepreneurial capacity.
How You Write and What You Write
Being an authority in a particular field simply isn’t enough to make people read and respect your work; if you want your company blog (and content in general) to serve its purpose, how you write is just as important as what you write.
So, here are three lessons you can learn from reading just about any academic paper.
Using big words doesn’t make you sound intelligent, it makes you sound condescending and snobby. Even worse than that, using obnoxiously verbose language makes it seem like you’re hiding the fact that your writing has no content, meaning, or depth to it whatsoever.
No one wants to read something about nothing and wordy language is a fantastic way to tell readers that you either don’t know what you’re talking about or you have nothing meaningful to say. Avoid it at all costs.
Readers shouldn’t have to think too hard about your company blog post to figure out what you’re trying to say; using simple, clear language that conveys your thoughts directly leads to blog posts that people will want to read.
Organize Your Thoughts
The sentence quoted above is literally 94 words long. For whatever reason, academic writing is notoriously paragraph-averse. Any sentence that requires the reader to take multiple pauses to catch their breath when reading it is a sentence that needs to be split up.
People prefer clear, to-the-point writing with ideas that are organized and separated logically. Throwing together a million ideas into one sentence is just going to confuse and irritate your audience.
Use short, impactful sentences that are easy and enjoyable to read. At the end of the day, no one is impressed by whatever matrix of commas, semi-colons, and parentheses you used to make your paragraph-long sentence technically and grammatically correct. They’re going to be impressed by your ideas, but only if your writing is clear enough to communicate them effectively.
Have a Voice
Academics are obsessed with the idea that impersonal writing is good writing. While stripping your content of its character and personality may make it sound more “objective” and “professional”, it’s also going to bore the hell out of your readers. They will quickly look elsewhere for brand content that doesn’t put them to sleep.
Whatever you’re planning on writing about, there are literally a million freelancers, bloggers, and bearded dudes in trendy coffee shops who are planning to write about the exact same thing as you.
What’s going to separate your writing from the masses is the authenticity, integrity, and personality of your content, rather than the content itself.
Infuse every sentence of your writing with your unique personality and brand in order to forge emotional connections with readers. Doing this will not only compel readers to respect you as an authority in your field, but they’ll actually have enough interest to read your content, share it with their friends, and engage with your brand on a deeper level as well.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Nenad Dumanovic is the founder and principal writer of Royal Professional Business Writers, an Alberta-based writing company that provides exceptional professional business writing services. Since his company’s inception, Nenad has produced high quality, originally-researched blog posts, business plans, articles, and web content for a wide variety of businesses and entrepreneurs. He is currently the chief blogger and social media manager for Xerroworks, a Minnesota-based software development startup as well. Connect with @xerroworks on Twitter.
© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.