Don’t let overwhelm hold you back— follow this expert advice and start writing your promotional article today.
In Part 1, I talked about the importance of planning and structuring your article. Here are three more essential steps to help you make sure your article is ready to go.
4. Avoid clichés (like the plague). As in, clichéd language, clichéd advice, and clichéd topics. To refresh your memory, a cliché is anything that's over-used, banal, or tired. It's anything we've all heard 1,000 times before and hoped we'd never hear again.
Some typical examples of overworked expressions (and there are thousands):
... bring you up to speed, at the end of the day, since time immemorial, chilled to the bone, a gleam in his eye, her heart leapt into her mouth, a level playing field, when all is said and done, on the same page ...
Clichéd language can be fixed with a good edit. First, determine whether you really need that phrase. If you do, express the concepts in ordinary terms. So, for "see if we’re on the same page", substitute "see if we all agree".
Clichéd advice and topics might include:
"Achieve your goals"
"Build the life you want"
"Don't worry, be happy"
and, my personal fave, sent to me in an e-mail newsletter: "Take a bubble bath".
I include in this category any concept that's corny and sentimental, or writing that attempts to express the inexpressible: all those fluttering leaves, vibrant sunsets, and yearning sighs.
It's really tough to write about intense emotions or universal experiences in a way that's original and subtle. Great novelists and poets spend their lives struggling to do this. If you’re not careful, it's easy to end up sounding like a 50-cent greeting card.
Fixing clichéd ideas is more challenging than fixing clichéd language. You need to ask tough questions:
"What does this phrase mean? What am I really saying here? What situations illustrate this? What do I want people to get? What value am I adding here?"
Remember that people are looking for straight talk and solutions to problems. Your solutions. They want your ideas, expressed with your urgency and importance.
So don't give your readers hackneyed ideas expressed in stale language. Don't fob them off with a bubble bath, try shoving them into a brisk, eye-opening cold shower instead.
5. Proofread Your article has to be 100% perfect in grammar, spelling and punctuation before the public gets to see it. The public means anyone visiting your Web site, and anyone you submit your article to for feedback or possible publication.
I confess, I did work as a professional proofreader for a time. And when you spend your life looking for missing periods and dots over i's, you tend to get a little demanding. But there's a reason for my concern.
Your article isn't like a casual e-mail that you zap off without reviewing or editing: It's more permanent and public. Your article is you, and people are going to assess your value by how you present it.
Think of it this way. If you're fortunate, hundreds, even thousands of people may read your piece. You're probably hoping to get lots of new clients from this exposure. Posting or submitting your article is, in a sense, like going for a job interview.
Dot your i's, cross your t's. Make sure there are periods at the end of sentences. Make sure you know how to use commas correctly, that you haven't made any common errors (for example, it's instead of its; there instead of their; your instead of you're). Check for missing words; check the spelling of any unusual words.
If you have even the slightest doubt about your English skills, have a professional proofreader or editor review your article. At the very least, give it to a friend to read. Mistakes are very hard to catch in your own work.
6. Be brilliantly unoriginal. Your promotional article is almost guaranteed to fall into one of these five categories:
What I want you to understand is that you don't have to have the greatest, most never-thought-of-before idea in the history of the universe before you write your article. In fact, you can't.
It's all been done.
That's the unoriginal part.
Yet people are always itching to read, again and again, how they can improve in one of these areas (or about what a terrible time someone else is having in these areas, and thank heaven it's not them this time).
So please, just get over your fear and give us your unique take on the eternal topics. Your unique take - that's the brilliant part.
Brilliant doesn't have to be big. It can be:
a new system for filing papers
the absolute best way to make espresso
the surefire way to find your G-spot or your Z-spot
a strategy for saving money that only an accountant like you would know
We're talking soft innovations that flaunt your particular expertise.
Your brilliance could be in how you package your experiences. Have you been through a messy relationship, learned how to talk better to your teenaged kids, survived a life-threatening illness, started up a successful small business? Chances are, there are people out there just waiting to hear how you did it. This information is gold.
There is brilliance in your own communication style. Are you kind and patient, buzzy and edgy, witty and ironic? Are you more like a kindly grandfather or more like a visionary CEO? Whatever your qualities, be utterly yourself.
Your brilliance can be the simplicity and clarity with which you give your advice—the way you get your idea across so well, it's like we're hearing it for the first time. The way you inspire. The passion with which you speak.
So don't worry that they've heard it all before. Of course they have. But they've never heard it all from you.