The Ultimate Writing Guidelines? (Input Appreciated!!!)

16 replies
I put these guidelines together for my writers and I'm hoping that some of the more seasoned and professional writers on here can chime in with their suggestions. :-)


Use contractions in a consistent manner throughout your article or batch of articles. You generally should use contractions unless specifically asked not to.

They make writing flow better, are more succinct, are more conversational and easier on the eye. Nothing is drier than: "Dog training should not be taken lightly because it is an extremely vital part of having an enjoyable relationship with one's pet." ...Yuck!

A better version might look like this: "Dog training shouldn't be taken lightly since it's SUCH a vital part of your relationship with your pet." Can you feel the personality and conversation going on in the second sentence juxtaposed against the clinical feel of the first?

"One" vs "You"

Using the impersonal pronoun "one" gives web content an unnecessary degree of impersonality and pomp. Unless you're writing a technical document, or some other formal piece, stay way the heck away from "one" and use "you" instead. "You" engages your reader in dialogue; "one" engages nobody.

Forget Grammar

OK, don't forget grammar, only use your good grammar to the degree that it's necessary and appropriate for a given assignment.

Your job isn't to impress your high school teacher with your mastery of the rules of English; it's to provide value to the reader in the most digestible format possible.

Speak to your reader as you would to a friend because while your friend will call you out on your pretentiousness, the reader will simply leave the site and cost clients money, or, more accurately, fail to make them money.

Don't let Microsoft Word bully you into changing interesting writing into boring pablum any time it has a "suggestion" for you. Better yet, write in notepad.

Look Stuff Up

If you don't know the meaning of a word, look it up. If you're looking for a synonym or an antonym or any kind of nym, Google it.

Be Pithy

Convey as much as possible with as few words as possible while still observing the rules of readability and a conversational tone. Fill your writing with content, not with words; there's a difference.

Now it's true that some topics don't give you much to write about but don't use that as an excuse to say the same thing several times or beat around the bush.

Repetitiveness and redundancy make your writing look 3rd world and it is extremely annoying to read this kind of writing. If you have to, do some more research, dig deeper and go off on a bit of a tangent.


You should use the exact keyword in the first and last sentences and no more.

You should also overusing any words, in general. In my opinion, keyword density of above 1% constitutes overuse post-Panda.


Fact of life: becoming a good writer means becoming a good researcher. In fact, the majority of your time will go towards gathering the material to write about and not to the writing, itself.

If somebody is searching for information about the topic you're writing on, give it to them!

Provide real value by educating them with facts, learned observations, statistics, etc. Incidentally, YOU will also receive an education in the process.


Throw your personality into your writing! Make it quirky, unique, irreverent, sardonic, whatever. But be tasteful; there's a fine line between a little attitude/humor and shtick. The content is the meat and personality is the spice.

Write For People

Forget about writing for search engines; write for human beings. Write the kind of stuff that YOU would enjoy reading.

In this business, karma is currency and your reputation is your purchasing power. Why? Better reputation = more trust, more customers, BETTER customers, higher rates, less work, more interesting work.
#appreciated #guidelines #input #ultimate #writing
  • Profile picture of the author Kecia
    I would also mention writing short paragraphs. They are much easier to read.

    ETA: I will go ahead and mention my gut response to this thread: make sure they know the difference between lose and loose. That is the most common error I see in online articles. It makes me want to contact the writer, just so I can ask them for correct it.
    Signature - Blogger. Content Creator. Social Media Enthusiast.
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  • Profile picture of the author Melissa82
    I know this is not what you're after but Kecia reminded me; proper use of "then" and "than". I don't know why this bugs me so much but I've seen it so often over the past few years.
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    • Profile picture of the author sellerscompanion
      One thing that drives me nuts as a writer is when I see content that is obviously FLUFF. The writer is saying the same thing over and over again in different ways. I saw a writing sample the other day where the individual kept saying "You should buy this toy because it is life changing. Your kid will love you forever for buying this toy. This is the best toy to ever be made..." LOL..... It was about 200 words of that kind of stuff.

      Have something to say, say it and give them QUALITY! Gone are the days when you could hire subpar content writers who were just writing to get to a certain word count and expect people to WANT to read your website posts.

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  • Profile picture of the author AC683
    Also get them to add bullet points where possible. They help make the article easier to read.
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  • Profile picture of the author Karan Goel
    I would add this:

    Use media
    If you are writing a blog post (or any article) use
    media like pictures, videos, music etc. to make your
    content more compelling and inviting.

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  • Profile picture of the author JCorp
    I agree with Karan. Nothing breaks down the monotony of words other than a nice, eye catching or relevant picture or graphic...

    Also hate it when they use "youR" when they really mean "you'RE" (you are)...not everything is possessive people...
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  • Profile picture of the author GSMarketing
    Nice post but i'm not sure on the grammar comment you make. Surely the correct use of grammar is essential in order for the article to read correctly?
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  • Profile picture of the author WakondaMarketing
    I would also like to add:

    Create enticing or interesting title for your article.
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  • Profile picture of the author JennyBizz
    Great thread! Writing for the web is different from other types of writing. Each paragraph needs to be a short, digestible burst of information. Using bullet points can help, but they must be used correctly. If you use bullet points and then make each point a page long, it defeats the purpose. Believe me, I've seen it all!
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  • Profile picture of the author angela99
    My 2 cents...

    Have something to say, and say it TO SOMEONE

    As Charity puts it: "One thing that drives me nuts as a writer is when I see content that is obviously FLUFF."

    When you're working with writers, ask them to send you titles and descriptions of the articles they intend writing before they write them. Getting them to describe WHAT the heck they're talking about prevents waffle.

    A writer also needs to be writing for a specific audience. Viz: not "everyone". So in their descriptions, ask them to include who the article is for, viz: "dieters who've failed every single diet they've ever been on."

    Make a promise and keep it

    Readers need a reason to read; an article (or whatever). This is an implicit or explicit promise.

    Make a promise in an article, and then ensure that you keep the promise.

    If you don't know what a word means, look it up

    There's a big difference between "affect" and "effect", for example.

    And as Mark Twain said: "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

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  • Profile picture of the author Robbie B
    I would add about proof reading.

    One thing I'm bad for is missing words out. If I write the article, I can go over it 3 times and think everything is fine and then submit it...only to find that there's still words missing.

    It's because the article I just wrote is still fresh in my head. I know what I'm trying to say and for some reason my mind just fills in the blanks as I'm going over it.

    So what I do now is close the article down and come back to the content to proof when it's not fresh in my head.

    If I can understand me then...chances are good that the article is finished.

    I know that sounds kinda weird, but I think with any writer, they'll have their own wee things that make them unique. Some folk will use "there" when it should be "their". If you follow someones blog like that, you get used to it.

    I just don't want to be known as the guy that puts out decent content but to understand it you've got to fill in the blanks here and there.

    The more writing you do, the more in tune you get to how you write. What your strengths are and the weaknesses.

    So proof reading. A MUST!
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