Content writing and marketing is an art just like any other. If you write badly, you can sacrifice reader engagement and valuable leads. But, what lessons can you learn from novelists and apply to your content?

1 | Rewrite anything you can’t read aloud

"It's much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about it." — Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

All too often, we write without taking a step back and asking ourselves if it’s close enough to how we would speak.

If you were shy in school — I certainly was — you’ll have some traumatic memories about reading aloud. A paragraph of a book each passed around the class.

The feverish hammering of the heart as the person before you finishes reading and maybe sticky palms as you fumble with your copy to find your place.

Taking a deep breath and, stumbling over some words, trying to read the whole paragraph quickly in one exhale.

You’re not in school anymore, the class isn’t staring at you, and reading your piece aloud can ensure it’s coherent.

If whilst you’re reading your writing aloud anything sounds awkwardly phrased, it’s a sure sign you need to rewrite it.

A big part of content marketing is writing persuasively. But, you need to make sure it sounds natural and not forced, stuffy or too formal.

2 | Appreciate the power of the short sentence

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” — J R R Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Long sentences have their place — but, in marketing and online content, they can be meandering. Your audience will soon lose interest if you have too many.

To boost your content’s readability, aim for clarity above all. In your email subject lines, blog titles and website copy, be concise for impact.

By simply removing the fluff, you can save yours and your reader’s time. Do as much as you can with a small number of words.

Use the reading aloud tip to help you with this. If you’re running out of breath trying to finish the sentence you’re reading, shorten it.

It’s likely there’s more than one thought in there and “one thought per sentence” is a good general rule to write by.

3 | Write to connect

"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." — E B White, Charlotte’s Web

If you don’t genuinely care about the content you’re writing, it will show. It’ll also show if you’re oblivious to the audience you’re writing to.

Try this in your content writing — instead of writing to the faceless crowd you’re imagining, focus on one person in that crowd.

The effect will be a change in how you address your reader. Your writing will sound more personal and easier for your reader to connect with.

Sure, keeping things general reaches the widest audience — but, how many people in that audience will convert if they can’t relate to your content?

By remembering that each and every person in your audience has their own passions, needs, and problems to tackle, you can create more engaging content for all of them.

4 | Not everything has to be perfect

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” — John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Having high standards for your writing is great. But, getting too hung up on perfection neglects a simple fact — you’re human.

Your audience wants you to be human, too. Imperfection is honest.

Most novelists agree that a finished, imperfect novel is better than a novel that never gets done.

There are things you can do to refine your writing and make small, impactful tweaks in the editing stage. Using ReadablePro will help you see where you could shorten sentences, use simpler words and be less formal to make your writing more human.

That’s the real focus — readability, not perfection.

Content writing is designed to build a relationship with your audience. Don’t get tunnel vision and forget about the human aspect of that relationship.

5 | Don’t stop learning

"After all, tomorrow is another day." — Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind

Good novelists all started somewhere and never stop learning and improving their craft.

As a content writer, every day is another opportunity to research what answers your readers are looking for and notice what content they love.

By tweaking your content’s readability, you can create marketing material that connects, inspires and converts.

This is no easy feat — it’s actually easier to write in a way that’s convoluted and cloaked in jargon.

Your reader will appreciate the effort you made to write in a clear and concise way that’s easy to understand.

Try a free demo today and don’t forget to approach it like a novelist — every great piece of writing is about being human.

Laura Kelly

Laura is a freelance writer and worked at Readable for a number of years. Laura is well-versed in optimising content for readability and Readable's suite of tools. She aims to write guides that help you make the most out of Readable.