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Writing about writing about writing

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Why read this? : We’ve written a lot about writing these past few months. So this week we share what lessons writing about writing has taught us. Learn what makes a good length for your blog articles. Why the rule of three matters in writing. And where to start with advertising copy. Read this to see what you can learn from writing about writing. 

65,000 words and counting

Most published books have a word count of between 80,000 and 100,000 words.

We’re getting close to that on our website. Since its launch in October, we’ve written 50+ pages of content and 15 blog posts. This is blog #16.

Each page / article averages around 1,000 words so far. So we reckon we’re at about 65,000 words.

Not quite a book’s worth of content on marketing, creative and e-commerce. But not far off. 

Fountain pen writing on lined page

With all this writing skills practice, we thought it was a good time to write more about the act of writing itself. Since it’s clearly something we value doing. 

What's the idea length of a blog article?

Let’s start by looking at how much writing you need for a blog article. 

We recently came across this study on Medium about the optimum length of a blog article. It’s a few years old now, but the data suggests 7 minutes as the optimum blog length reading time.

It’s unlikely that’s changed much since the article was written. Most people read at around 250 words per minute, so our initial 1,000 words per post is probably a little low. Around 1,500 to 2,000 words is more likely to give you that 7 minute reading time. 

But if you read the article, it makes clear there’s a huge variance in reader engagement. It’s not just based on length of the article. It’s as much to do with the quality of your writing.

We put the content together on this site and work to a weekly deadline. Everyone knows, working to a deadline can sometimes compromise the editing and quality of what you deliver when you write.

But without deadlines, most people who write for a living would never produce anything. 

It’s an ongoing writing challenge to get a new article posted each week, while making sure it’s well written enough to be interesting.

Article length matters for a couple of reasons, but maybe not those too related to writing on its own.

An article of decent length which Google tracks people spending time reading is great for your SEO. But it’s also good for your readers. And so it’s also good for your business. 

Young woman on train station platform looking at her mobile phone

The rule of three in writing

In our guide to market research in the marketing plan, we refer to the “Rule of Three” as a great way to structure your story when sharing results.

But the rule of three works in multiple situations. Particularly when you’re writing.

It works because your brain finds it easy to triangulate data into 3 chunks to remember it. (see our article on design psychology for more on this). 

It’s how you remember your phone number for example. Say your phone number if in your head right now. We bet you say it in 3 chunks.

Wooden model of Three Wise Monkeys - Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

You remember those 10 or 11 digits in groups of 3, right?

So when we were putting this blog together, we also looked at going the other way from writing a long article. What if you can only use a few words? What if you only have 3 words?

3 inspiring words

Inspiring 3 words quotes was an interesting Google Search for us. Here’s what came up :-

“I’ll be there” (technically 4 words)

“I love you” 

“Maybe you’re right” (again with the 4 words)

“I trust you”

“Go for it”

“Got your back” 

“How are you?”

“I want you”

Normally, we wouldn’t write out a list of search results. But these were just too interesting.

Grafitti of a red heart, with a stick person hanging from on it on a white wall

You might wonder how these all personal and relationship driven words can be of use when you are running a business.

Well, here’s the thing. Look at the underlying themes that run through these very simple words.

Trust, love, support, empathy, desire.

These are all very human feelings you need to have in mind when writing.

Interesting.

You might find yourself writing the most boring bit of product page information to fill out your product information management system. But someone, somewhere, someday will read that. So why not include the benefit to them?

Make it more interesting.

What if you can add warmth and humour to your content? And if it’s not going to work in your writing, can you encourage it in your customers?

For example we’ve seen people sharing hilarious Amazon reviews of Veet so often on social media over the last few years, we have to think there’s a savvy marketing agency encouraging those reviews.

It’s not the sexiest of products. But with a bit of good writing, you can bring any product to life. 

Finding the right balance

The idea to write about writing for this article came about because we’re in the middle of updating our whole writing skills section.

It needs more work. There are all sorts of different types of writing skills you need to understand and know how to use, when you work in marketing, creative and e-commerce. 

The really short punchy writing you need to write advertising or sales copy for example. If your target audience has a short attention span, you need to choose your words very carefully.

Person wring at a table - close up of their arm with a coffee mug in front of them

An unusual headline that captures attention for example.

We chose the headline for this article to be a bit ‘meta’ and self-referential. Because we know people interested in reading about writing like that sort of stuff. And a few interesting facts also helps draw those people in. Plus of course, you need to close with a strong call to action which tells the reader what to do next. 

The fact we’ve almost written a book worth of content already, is something readers won’t know. But it helps you judge whether we’re able to help you develop your own writing in the future. 

Article and blog writing can be a great way to engage specific target audiences with your expertise and your brand identity. We aim to do that with articles writing about marketing for example, or habits you can learn to improve your writing expertise

Writing long content vs writing advertising content

If you compare writing blog articles or social media posts to traditional advertising, the reader / viewer experience is very different,

Compare watching a 30 second TV ad to a 7 minute read of your article.

That’s 14 times longer a reader spends engaging with your brand, if the content is good enough to make it worth their time.

And writing an article’s a lot cheaper and faster than making a TV ad. 

Outdoor billboard with writing that says this will drive $1m in sales - probably

Even outdoor billboards which are much cheaper to product might only be seen for 3 seconds. That makes readers spend 140 times more time with your article than an outdoor advert. 

We don’t want to digress too much into the world of brand strategy here, but we’ve worked with many brand marketers over the years who just didn’t get this. They saw little to no value in writing or storytelling

Content writing isn’t particularly sexy. You can’t stand up in front of the leadership team, or the rest of the business and show them a 1,000 word article on breastfeeding. Or organising a party. Or making biscuits.

Just to pick 3 content topics we’ve written about in the past.

Evergreen written content

But articles on topics like these can sit on your website and be ‘evergreen’. They don’t disappear. They can generate interest and engagement with customers over a long period of time. If you find the right keywords for terms customers search on a lot, people could be reading your content for years to come. 

Unlike your $m dollar TV ad. At best after it’s been on air for what 8 weeks or so, it might live on in the ‘basement’ of your You Tube account.

But let’s be honest, once seen, most TV ads are almost always forgotten by most customers. How many TV or outdoor ads do you recall seeing this week? Or even so far today? 

Don’t get us wrong, big budget media campaigns have their place. Even if that means awful meetings with the media sales team. And debates about the sales impact of your advertising

But if it’s your business, don’t forget good quality written content for your website adds value too. You’ll see the financial return in spades, just over a much longer period of time.

Conclusion - writing about writing about writing

As the sun sets on 2019, we’re closing up shop for a few days to see in the New Year and to relax a bit. We hope you’re going to be chilling out too. 

But we’ll be back early in 2020 with more writing about writing, as we continue to build our skills and share what we learn to help you build your skills. 

Best wishes for the New Year. 

You can read our guides writing skills to learn more. Or, contact us to have a conversation about how to improve the writing in your business. 

Two wine glasses on the railing of a balcony overloloking the sun setting on a sea view

Photo credits

Fountain Pen : Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Woman at Station with Phone : Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Heart graffiti : Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Person writing near mug: Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Billboard (adapted) : Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

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