Freelance writers, content marketing professionals and other business communicators know filler and fluff are bad for content, but sometimes they’re difficult to avoid in the writing process.
Audiences want immediacy and relevance. Content that fails to deliver within a glance will likely be abandoned in favor of other sources.
So how can writers and content marketers cut the filler and fluff, and focus on giving audiences the information they seek? The first step is understanding what filler and fluff is.
How to Know it’s Filler or Fluff
Successful marketing or informational content must do more than hit a word count and include applicable keywords. Writers can create value in their content in part through eliminating unnecessary text.
Fluff and filler describe text within an overall piece of content that is:
- Lacking value to the reader
- Stuffed with keywords
- Used to pad 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. Following are 10 tactics that can help writers eliminate filler and fluff.
1. Have a Clear Topic
It’s easier to stay concise when your topic is straightforward. Aim for a specific idea or to answer 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.
2. Create an Outline (and Stick to It)
Once you have a clear topic, outline the article or post.
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.
3. Get to the Point
First impressions matter. Your content should captivate your audience, address the subject matter and convince people to keep reading within a sentence or two.
A good introduction or lede should state what the content is about and what insights will be gained from reading the content. 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 to address them.
4. Use Headlines, Subheads and Lists for Reader Accessibility
Scannable headlines and lists help readers quickly find the information they desire.
Use clear headlines and subheads to highlight salient points. Keep writing concise throughout, and break content into digestible chunks. Bulleted or numbered lists can also break up content visually and allow for reader scanning.
5. Keep Sentences and Paragraphs Succinct
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 digital marketing 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.)
6. 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. Instead, use keywords only where they make sense and feel natural.
7. Avoid Writing for Word Count
While word counts are often inescapable in freelance writing, try not to write to the count but rather the topic.
This is another area in which having a thorough outline can help. It ensures that you’re tailoring content to the subject at hand instead of padding content to meet a word count. You can also use research, interviews or other external resources to back pertinent information in your content or provide additional insights related to the topic.
8. Reduce Adverbs, Hyperbole and Superlatives
Adverbs rarely add anything significant to content (how big is the difference, for example, between “big” and “really big”?). Hyperbole and superlatives like “the best” or “the greatest,” meanwhile, can diminish credibility and trust.
Stick to statements that can be proven, or opinions that can be supported through valid resources. On the other hand, if “best” refers to an honor your organization has received, or “the greatest” is a customer review, use those statements and cite them; these can actually help build credibility and trust.
9. Eliminate Redundancy
Before submitting your content, read back through it and watch for redundancies. Ask yourself:
- Does the conclusion just regurgitate the introduction?
- Do any phrases contain repeated concepts, like “unexpected surprise?” (A surprise is unexpected by definition.)
- Is a given word or phrase necessary to explain my point?
10. Edit, Revise and Edit Again
Every piece of writing needs an editor. Whether you edit your content yourself or work with an editor, 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.
Filler-Free, Fluffless Content 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 polished, compelling content that earns your reader’s trust.
And that is good for business; for you as a content professional, and for your business or clients.
PowerPublish is dedicated to growing its network of knowledgeable, freelance writers. If you’re interested in becoming a PowerPublish writer, visit our freelancer portal today.