"Teaching Not Preaching" with Laura Belgray of Talking Shrimp (Content Lab, Ep. 3)
By Liz Murphy
People in our industry talk a lot about wanting to be thought leaders, which makes sense.
You don't want to sound like your competitors. You want to differentiate yourself with bold ideas and opinions that challenge convention.
But when it comes time to put the proverbial pen to paper, it’s not uncommon for one of two things to happen:
- You freeze and write something utterly boring. Even though you want to stand out, you're also worried you'll alienate parts of your audience -- and you end up playing it safe to avoid the controversy.
- On the other hand, you might go all in with your ideas, but you do so in a way that's pushy and abrasive -- you're so over-the-top, no one wants to listen to you.
Regardless of which category you fall into, I think we can all agree there’s a very fine line between teaching and preaching. So, how do you effectively teach your audience and share big, hairy, audacious ideas without turning them off?
I’ve invited Laura Belgray, the copywriting queen behind Talking Shrimp, to help me answer that question in this episode of the Content Lab.
Listen to the Episode
Resources & Articles
One Thing: Kiss Passive Voice Goodbye!
My conversation with Laura is crash course on what it means to create meaningful and genuinely helpful content in a way that stands out.
But there’s one bad habit that is guaranteed to undermine your authority and credibility in your writing -- one that I’m 100% guilty of myself -- that is the subject of this week’s one thing -- the one thing that will make your content immediately so much better.
You write in passive voice, instead of active voice.
“You need to write like a human.”
“Your writing should sound human.”
The first version is in active voice, where I am telling you directly that you need to take action.
The second version is in passive voice, meaning instead of you being the party taking action, we’re shifting the action (and often the responsibility to act) to the inanimate object -- your writing.
I know I slip into passive voice when I’m concerned -- even at a subconscious level -- that I sound bossy or pushy. It's essentially me allowing my fear to leak into my writing.
If you want to put big bold ideas out into the universe, you need to watch your use of passive voice. By shifting the responsibility of action to the object of your sentence, you are no longer creating a one-to-one connection with your reader with a clear call-to-action that speaks to them.
Instead, you’re making a polite suggestion that may land more softly. You won't ruffle any feathers, but you'll also make less of an impact with your audience.
So, the next time you see yourself slipping into passive voice, stop yourself and try writing the same idea in active voice.
With that one little trick, you’ll easily add more power to your writing.
Weekly Awesome: WordCountTools.com
I learned a long time ago that's important to edit your own work in phases, instead of trying to catch everything -- narrative issues, grammar errors, spelling mistakes, style problems -- all at once.
So, after I put my work through its readability test with Hemingway App (my weekly awesome from last episode), I turn to WordCountTools.com.
Not only does this website tell you how many words your composition has overall, it also targets one of my biggest writing “quirks” -- redundancy.
There’s a keyword density box below the word count area, which will tell you how many times a "non-grammar word" shows up in your composition.
On top of that, you can search for repeated key phrases instead of words by selecting the two- or three-word options.
Connect with Laura Belgray
You can find Laura on Twitter and Instagram, but also, don't forget to check out her 60-Minute Makeovers Copywriting Mini Course. (I loved it.)
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