For years writers and marketers have used compelling written content as an essential tool to drive sales and build a strong brand. But “Content Marketing” as a strategy has become especially sexy for 2013, especially as content publishing opportunities increase and measurement tools improve. Copyblogger calls 2013 the Year of the Online Writer. A typical array of content assets – white papers, case studies, etc. – can be viewed on a company’s Resources Page.

At the core of creating great content is ensuring it hits the right audience with the right message. To do this, you want it to address readers’ pain points and grab their attention. You also want clean copy that is a quality representation of your brand. As other companies jump on the content marketing trend, take time to make sure your content stands out. Here’s my advice for writers who want to perfect their content, including a review checklist I’ve created and followed for 17 years as a professional marketing writer.

Reviewing Reaps Rewards

A final piece is only as good as its worst paragraph or subhead. So take the time to make them all exceptional. And certainly don’t let a typo or factual inaccuracy cast a dark cloud over your creation. Exercise the patience required to thoroughly review and revise your work post-writing, even under the pressure of tight deadlines.

When you review your content, check it against these 10 questions:

  1. Does it speak to the right audience? Evaluate whether your message will hit the target reader in the way it is intended. When possible, get feedback from someone in that audience.
  2. Is all information accurate? Are the product details correct? Have you checked with subject matter experts? Are statistics drawn from a reliable source and properly credited?
  3. Does it catch your attention? Look at whether your headline, introduction and subheads make sense with the copy and then punch them up to grab the reader. Read more about the importance of headlines at the end of this checklist.
  4. Does it make sense? Read through and evaluate whether the content is logically organized and flows together with good transitions. Be sure you cover what you say you will in the introduction, and tie everything up nicely in the conclusion.
  5. Is it easily readable? Check readability, and alter any sentences that are too long or repetitive of something else you covered. After your hard work to catch readers’ attention, you certainly don’t want to lose them.
  6. Is it consistent in tense and tone? Make sure you don’t switch the voice of the piece or the writing style mid-way through.
  7. Is it clean? Is the grammar and spelling correct? (Don’t forget to proof headlines, quotes, and fine print). Is all punctuation exact? Take an extra pass to make sure all proper nouns and names are spelled properly – and make sure the source you’re checking is reliable.
  8. Does it follow style/usage guidelines? If your company has its own style guide, follow it. If it doesn’t, pick a style/usage guide you like and stick to it.
  9. How does it look? In layout, are there any awkward line breaks to fix? Do the images fit the copy? Did you remember to proof the copy in the graphic elements of the piece (e.g. the title and captions)?
  10. Are you 100% confident you’ve done all the above? If not, go through this checklist again. And by all means, use your printer. Proofreading on paper offers a fresh perspective versus reading on a screen.

Call Attention to Your Work

It’s often said that a writer should take as much time writing the headline as the rest of the piece. This might overstate the time it takes to write a great headline, but the statement properly captures the importance of a catchy title. In most cases, the headline is all someone will read before passing it along via Twitter, LinkedIn or another social forum. When writing blogs or web copy, you’re not done until your meta data is also on target – but that’s enough to be the subject of another blog…

Dawn Mortensen (@DawnMortensen) is Sr. Marketing Writer for Axcient.

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