6 Tips from High School IB English to Use in Your Inbound Marketing

tips_for_online_content_editingMy high school curriculum was a little different than most. I had Biology, Geometry, American History and all the other courses most attend, except the difficulty level was more like AP courses on steroids. That case was especially true when it came to my English classes. You couldn’t get away with a run-on sentences or even a misplaced comma.

As painful as those classes were, that knowledge comes in handy when I edit blog posts, whitepapers, and emails.

So thanks to Mrs. Vann and IB English, here are 6 things that you might not have learned in high school but should use in your inbound marketing content:

Use paragraphs strategically.

Paragraphs are a great way to break up your points and make your content easier to read. And making your content easier to read is especially important when it comes to the online space. Screens are harsher on the human eye than printed text.

By breaking up content into shorter, strategic paragraphs, you’re making your visitors’ life THAT much easier.  And why wouldn’t you want to make your visitors happy?

Pair “this” with a noun.

Writing is much clearer when you pair the words this, that, or those with a noun.  Don’t believe me? Here’s an example:

A: This helps my content be clearer.  
B: This rule helps my content be clearer.

By adding that noun into your sentence, you eliminate the opportunity for readers to incorrectly interpret your point.

Use commas sparingly.

Commas are awesome. They can break up a sentence and add a clear pause for the reader. Commas should be used sparingly, however. Just because you pause when you read your sentence aloud doesn’t mean a comma belongs there.  

There are quite a few rules when it comes to comma use. To become familiar with all of them, you can read this article from the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.

Embrace the semi-colon.

The semi-colon is definitely my favorite punctuation mark; yes, I have a favorite punctuation mark. Unfortunately, most people don’t learn how to use a semi-colon. The two biggest uses of semi-colons for you to know are:

  1. Use semi-colons in place of commas when your list items already contain commas. For example: She lived in St. Petersburg, Florida; Madrid, Spain; and Houston, Texas.
  2. Use semi-colons in place of a period when the two sentences are dependent on each other to make sense.

For more examples of how to use semi-colons, read this article.

Avoid repetition.  

There is no easier way to bore a reader than using the same word over and over again. Use a handy thesaurus to find synonyms for your words.

Use active voice.

Active voice often condenses sentences and also mimics spoken voice more closely. Not sure if you use active or passive voice? Here are examples of both:

Passive voice: She has helped her co-worker proof the blog article.
Active voices. She helped her co-worker proof the blog article.

To easily identify if you use passive voice, look for any helping verb (is, are, was, were, has, been). If you have another verb behind the helping verbs, you used passive voice. Go through and change them for stronger writing.

Get to editing.

Use these tips, along with HubSpot’s grammar tips, for some great sounding content.

Oh and if you’re struggling to identify grammatical issues, try reading your content aloud. This method will force you to slow down and hear how it might sound to fresh eyes. If you’re still struggling, try the Hemmingway App. This app is great for identifying really long sentences.

Good luck and happy blogging!

Photo Credit: Sammy0716 via Compfight cc

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