That… and 8 Other Words to Avoid for Stronger Content
I never knew normal, everyday words could be ‘bad words’ until my second semester of Journalism school. I sat nervously in the tiny classroom with just a few other PR and Journalism majors on our first day of class. The room was cramped with a boardroom table and too many rolling chairs. Our little professor walked in wearing his multi-colored sweater, (think Bill Cosby style) and his glasses hanging around his neck.
He greeted the class by saying, “If I find the word that in any of your articles, you will automatically drop a letter grade.” Needless to say, I was intimidated, but I thoroughly edited every article before submitting it.
Only once did I let a ‘that’ slip in… and I walked out of the class with a solid B+.
Now, the no ‘that’ rule sounded harsh at the time, but it was an incredibly useful lesson! What our professor instilled in us during the spring semester was to be more creative and purposeful in our writing. The word ‘that’ he insisted, was sloppy and lazy… a lack of creativity which would lead to poor journalism. Harsh, right?
Why this lesson is for you, Bloggers!
OK, but I’m not a journalist… why is this harsh lesson for me?
Actually, this lesson is easily translated into the blogging world! As a Blogger, you’re in a competitive field which requires you to out-write your competition in every post. Bloggers, similar to Journalists, are in competition to gain readers from across the globe… and nothing turns away a reader like a lazy article!
Through my consulting services, I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of Bloggers and advise them on everything from content and voice to presentation and design. What I find most consistent in my reviews is explaining the importance of only publishing content the Blogger is proud to put their name behind! While you may be encouraged to post a new article four times a week, or even a new article every day, you may find yourself publishing bodies of work not up-to-par with your abilities, and in turn, you may end up hurting your subscribers and overall viewership.
Publishing quality, well-written articles is also incredibly important for your income!! Don’t think readers can tell when you threw together a quick article just to get something published this week – especially if you’re pushing an affiliate? They can!
There’s a reason certain newspapers, magazines, and blogs are thriving – they publish quality over quantity!! And their readers are loyal because of it!
What makes a post quality?
There are a lot of factors that make up a quality article or post, but let’s focus on filler text. For me, there are 8 words I strive to avoid when writing a new article;
- a lot
- sort of
All of these words can be substituted with more detailed descriptions and will better engage your audience in your writing. Let’s look at an example:
Sharing well-written articles that engage your audience in new things can increase your subscriptions.
OK, that sentence isn’t terrible, right? It’s informative, short, gives the information necessary. But take a moment to re-read the sentence and ask yourself, ‘why do we need the words ‘that,’ ‘your,’ and ‘things’?
The truth is, you don’t! The sentence could be restructured to be more descriptive, making it stronger and more concise;
Sharing well-written articles engage your audience and can increase subscriptions.
The sentence is now easier to read and makes its point without unnecessary filler text. You could also add more description by describing the ‘new things’ your audience is engaged with to offer more thought as to why you would gain subscribers;
Articles offering readers new opportunities to engage can lead to a higher number of subscribers.
Again, we are getting to the same point – engagement leads to subscribers – but the above sentence offers a better description and is easier for readers to digest without filler text. In this example, ‘things’ becomes ‘new opportunities to engage’ and we removed ‘that’ and ‘your’ to construct a more collective sentence.
Don’t confuse filler text with transition words
If you are using the Yoast plugin (you should be!) you know you want SEO and Readability to appear green rather than orange or red. If you are not using enough transition words your readability may appear orange, warning you a change in your content is necessary.
Often times, however, filler text and transition words are confused with one another. Transition words are used to guide your reader throughout your content to show you are summarizing, comparing, or concluding a portion of your content.
Yoast suggests using transition words like:
Cause: because, so, due to, while since, therefore
Comparison: same, less, rather, while, yet, opposite, much as, either
Conclusion: as a result, hence, consequently, therefore, in conclusion
Fuzzy signals: seems like, maybe, probably, almost
Emphasis: most of all, most noteworthy, especially relevant
Using these words instead of the filler text mentioned earlier will strengthen your writing as well as your readability and SEO! Win, win, win!!
So, here’s your task… revisit your previous articles and revise the content to read stronger and more direct. Read your sentences out loud and see where you can take out filler text or replace it with a transition word!
Remember, your articles are always around (thanks, Google!) so you can recycle materials you wrote a year or two ago. It’s just as important to update your content as it is to write new content. Readers are always able to reference your previous articles, so make sure you offer them the best version of you!