Freelance writers, content marketing professionals, and business communicators everywhere: let’s cut the fluff from your writing.
No one has the time or inclination to read it—regardless of how pretty it is. Readers want immediate answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.
When readers fail to find what they’re looking for in the first few lines of copy or see a daunting page filled with long, tedious paragraphs, they’ll get their answers elsewhere.
Fluff is bad for business.
So, how can writers and marketing directors avoid filler content to give their audience the information it seeks?
The first key is understanding what “fluff” is and where it comes from. Good content does more than hit a word count and adjusts for keywords. Create value in your writing while eliminating the extra words.
How to Know It’s Fluff
Fluff or filler describes any content in an article that is:
- Lacking value to the reader
- Awkwardly stuffed with keywords
- Used to boost word count
If you’ve ever clicked on a link for a recipe and scrolled through paragraphs of memories from the author’s childhood before even finding the list of ingredients, you know what fluff is.
Those extra paragraphs are intended to keep readers on the page longer, earning the website more ad dollars. They’re filler.
The problem with this content marketing tactic? It provides no value to the reader. In fact, it often backfires because readers are more likely to bounce from the page when they don’t find the information they expect.
Ensure your content is engaging, concise, and provides value.
Have a Clear Topic
It’s easier to stay concise when your topic is straightforward. Aim for a specific idea or answer to a question.
A narrow topic like 5 Ways to Improve Cardiovascular Health for Men Over 50 will help keep your writing on track. It will also attract readers looking for that specific information, and they’ll be more likely to read to the end.
Create an Outline—and Stick to It
Once you’ve chosen your topic, outline the article. Choose the points you’ll make and ensure they directly relate to the topic. Jot down ideas for the intro and concluding paragraphs. Once your outline is complete, let it guide you through your piece.
Get Right to the Point in Your Intro
First impressions matter. You’ve got to engage your audience and convince them to continue reading in just a few sentences. A good intro should quickly state:
- What the article is about
- What will be gained from reading the article
A long, meandering intro will only confuse or bore the audience. Include a quick summary of the key points in the article and move on.
Use Headers, Subheads and Lists for Easy Scanning
Scannable content helps your readers quickly find the information they’re seeking. Use clear headers and subheads to highlight main points, keep your writing concise, and break content into digestible chunks.
Bullets or numbered lists also break up content visually and are, by nature, concise.
Keep Sentences Short and Paragraphs Shorter
Reduce sentence length by replacing wordy phrases with strong action verbs. For instance, use “championed” instead of “stood up for,” or “escalated” instead of “grew more serious.”
Compelling, authoritative content is the goal in business communication. Grab your reader’s attention and keep it with short, powerful paragraphs of two to three sentences that move from point to point. (This will help with SEO, too.)
Don’t Stuff Your Content with Keywords
Speaking of SEO, many freelance writers and marketing communications professionals fall into the keyword density trap, thinking more is better.
It’s not necessary to insert keywords into every paragraph. In fact, blatant keyword stuffing is penalized by search engines, so the practice works against you. Instead, use keywords only where they make sense and feel natural.
Writing content that provides helpful insights and information is far more critical. When your topic is clear, and your headers describe your main points, search engines will understand what you’re trying to say and rank your article accordingly.
Avoid Writing for Word Count
While word count plays a part in search engine rankings, it’s certainly not the most critical part.
What matters most is a well-written article that people want to read—to the end.
Search engines are getting smarter and more able to understand whether your content provides real value to your audience. When readers see content that isn’t relevant to their search query, they bounce. Quickly. Shorter time on a page signals to search engines that they should exclude your article from their SERPs.
Instead of adding an unnecessary sentence or paragraph to reach a specific word count, focus on sharing research and information that offers new insights, answers or solutions.
Stop Using Superlatives and Hyperbole
Another way to cut the fluff from your writing is to snip the superlatives and hyperbole. Using terms like “the best” or “fantastic” to describe products or ideas diminishes credibility and trust.
Instead, stick to facts that can be proven. If a product wins a “Best of” honor, refer to the award. If customers report that a service is “fantastic,” quote them.
Redundant content is fluff. Look for and remove redundancies in paragraphs, sentences and phrases.
- Does my conclusion just regurgitate my introduction?
- Do my phrases contain a repeated concept, like “unexpected surprise?” (A surprise is unexpected by definition.)
- Is this word or phrase necessary to explain my point?
Edit, Revise, and Edit Again
Every piece of writing needs an editor. Whether you edit your content yourself or hire a freelance editor through a platform like PowerPublish, editing is critical to ensuring your content stays fluff-free.
If you’re acting as your own editor, carefully review your article and make revisions to improve clarity and conciseness. Then, step away from your work for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes for one final round of edits.
Content Without Fluff is Good For Business
From topic conception to outline to final edits, these steps will help you remove unnecessary filler from your writing and produce a polished, compelling, engaging article that earns your reader’s trust. And that is good for business.