In this overcrowded online world, do you ever wonder why people would listen to your advice?
I used to feel the same way.
I didn’t understand why people would read my writing tips when the web is awash with writing advice from people more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more authoritative than me.
Why would anyone listen to me?
I’ve learned that mindset was flawed.
When I learned how to write well, a new world opened up. I connected with people across the world. I built a thriving blog. People started listening to my advice — and more importantly, they acted on it.
Can you make an impact with your words?
As writers, our toolbox may seem limited. We can’t shout. We can’t use body language. We can’t even bang on a table to add weight to a message.
We only have our words to communicate with passion and power.
But written words are enormously powerful. You know that. When was the last time words made you smile? Or cry? Or inspire you to take action?
Once you learn how to write with power, readers start listening to your ideas, acting on your advice, and buying your products and services. You can inspire change — even if you feel you don’t have the required clout or authority right now.
Want to learn how?
Step #1: Write with clarity and substance
Weak writing rambles, rattles, and prattles.
Powerful writing, in contrast, is simple and to the point.
Many writers misunderstand this …
Writing with substance is not about writing longer articles. It’s not about word count. It’s not sharing as many tips as possible. The opposite is true. Often long articles lack substance; too many superficial ideas that compete for the reader’s attention weaken the content.
Substance is not about the breadth of your ideas; it’s about the depth of your arguments. Even an email of 100 words can have substance. A nugget of wisdom. A super-practical tip. A spark of inspiration.
Substance is about adding value, exceeding your readers’ expectations, and moving beyond the echo chamber.
“If you’re not adding value, you’re taking up space. The more space you take up, the more difficult it becomes to continuously earn your spot, and the more likely you are to become ignored and irrelevant.” – Sally Hogshead
So, how do you write with substance?
- Have a clear purpose for each piece of content — how will you help your readers?
- Create a list or mind map of what you want to include in your article.
- Review your ideas and narrow down your topic — an initial mind map is often too unwieldy, so cull irrelevant ideas that lead readers astray.
- Revisit your content’s purpose — will your content deliver on your promise? Will you solve a problem?
Becoming an authority is not about you. It’s about your readers. About their lives, their worries, their challenges, and their dreams.
Powerful writing starts with empathy, generosity, and a passionate drive to help your readers.
Step #2: Boost your authority with these content tricks
Focusing on a narrow topic may feel scary. Can you write enough? Will your article seem flimsy?
And don’t start adding irrelevant ideas and semi-related trains of thought.
Instead, use the three content tricks below to turn flimsy writing into persuasive and authoritative content.
Authority content trick #1: use specific examples
My favorite way to boost authority is using examples. They are an undervalued tool in your authority tool box.
Examples demonstrate how you translate theory into practice. Examples breathe life into your content by making abstract concepts concrete. Readers can visualize your ideas, and you show you’re not just talking the talk; you know what you’re talking about.
- Earlier this year on Copyblogger, I wrote a fun post with seven tips for conversational writing — I demonstrated each tip with a before-and-after example; the post currently has more than 3,000 social shares.
- Using Apple’s web copy as an example, I wrote a guest post for KISSmetrics explaining how to write seductive sales copy; this post launched my freelance writing career.
- My post about turning 31 measly words into a valuable blog post shows the steps I take to turn a teeny-tiny idea into solid content.
Each post discusses one narrow topic (writing in a conversational tone, writing sales copy, writing with substance) with a series of examples.
Authority content trick #2: add compelling statistics
Statistics are not my favorite type of content. I find numbers boring.
But it’s a mistake to ignore numbers.
Because numbers add substance to an argument. They show you know your field. They instantly make your content more factual.
For instance, for my own Enchanting Marketing blog, I wrote a post about 10 proven headline formulas. First, I present figures to explain how important headlines are:
“The average click through rate on Twitter, for instance, is only 1.64% (source, 2012), so 98 out of 100 people may read only your headline, and fewer than 2 of them click through.”
Then, for each of the headline formulas, I provide examples of popular headlines and support my points with facts:
“The ‘Burning Question’ formula is probably the most underused formula on the list. But its attraction is undeniable: the third most popular post on Moz (8.2k shares) and the fifth most popular post on HubSpot (13k shares) use this formula. We also know from research that questions get more clicks on Twitter than statements, and that subject lines with question marks get 44% more opens than those with exclamation marks (source).”
Statistics boost your credibility and appeal to rationality. But be careful: Don’t let the numbers undermine the clarity of your message. Only add research results and other numbers if they help clarify your ideas.
Authority content trick #3: support with quotes from experts
Can’t find any statistics to back up your argument?
Try using quotes from well-known experts. A quote demonstrates you’re familiar with other work in your field. Notice how I quoted Sally Hogshead earlier?
Strategically selected quotes support your claims. They help you “borrow” other people’s authority to grow your own.
Step #3: Inject power into your words
Does power make you think of dictators, bullies, and other dominant personalities?
As Sally Hogshead explains in her book How the World Sees You, power lives on a spectrum. Power’s gentle side manifests itself in the parental nudge and in the sports coach who motivates you to train harder.
Powerful writing inspires readers to take action. An effective sales page, for instance, encourages readers to click and buy. Strong social media updates make people click to read more. And authoritative blog posts motivate readers to implement your tips.
Embrace your inner bossiness by using the imperative form and shorter sentences.
For instance, read this paragraph aloud:
Your job as a blogger is not simply to write tutorials that share tips, facts, and advice.
A useful tip that’s not implemented is like a riveting book that’s never opened. It’s forgotten and useless.
Instead of acting solely like a blogger dishing out your tips, you should become a mentor for your readers, a chief of your village, a leader of your tribe. You should fire up your tribe and jump-start their actions because your readers are waiting for you.
It feels a little flat, right? That’s because the sentences are long and the final sentences use “you should” instead of the imperative.
The alternative version below (from A Rabble-Rouser’s Rules for Writing Kick-Ass Closing Paragraphs) is more inspirational because it uses shorter sentences and the imperative form (“Fire up your tribe” instead of “You should fire up your tribe”):
Your job as a blogger is not simply to write tutorials.
Your job is not to share tips and facts and advice.
A useful tip that’s not implemented is like a riveting book that’s never opened. It’s forgotten and useless.
You’re not simply a blogger. You’re a mentor for your readers, a chief of your village, a leader of your tribe.
Come on. Fire up your tribe. Jump-start their actions.
Your readers are waiting for you.
Does that inspire you more?
The magic of writing
When I started writing, I didn’t think of myself as a writer. I doubted my skills. I didn’t know whether I had enough ideas.
But every time I had to write an article, I learned more about writing. I followed my curiosity. I discovered what I’m passionate about, and I learned what resonated with my audience.
You might think you don’t have enough to share. Or you might doubt your writing skills.
This is what I’d like to tell you:
You’re unique. You have unique experiences. And you’ll discover your voice and your passions when you write more. Writing brings clarity, deepens your understanding, and strengthens your ideas.
So, commit to writing. To creating valuable content. To being helpful to your readers.
Start making tiny ripples.
That’s how change begins.
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Reader Comments (57)
You know what sucks about being “just a writer” is that’s all I have ever been known for. I mean, I can do video work, some digital marketing, graphics, etc. But when it comes down to it, all I’m ever known for is being just a writer. No promotions, first one to go when layoffs come around….maybe it’s my personality. But I definitely feel like a nobody in this industry.
I hear your pain, Alex. It really differs from company to company how much writers are valued. I only became a writer in recent years, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much clients appreciate the impact of good writing. I’ve been lucky.
For me, writing has become an immensely valuable skill for connecting with people and for expressing my thoughts.
Jared Chan says
Don’t let those ugly-hearted people get to you. You are not a nobody. They don’t understand you and how creative you truly are! THEY ARE THE NOBODIES! They are nobody because they failed to understand and cultivate your creative gifts.
Sounds like you’ve got a lot to offer. We need you around.
Your skills are reflecting your talent. Of the 60 emails I wake up to daily I read 6. When I see your name I read what you have to say regardless.
Guess it’s not always about the headline – sometimes it just the brand and the right amount of scarcity – both of which you’ve mastered.
I wish you well and look forward to the next time I see a post of which you are the author.
Thank you for your lovely comment, David. I appreciate it.
Soon Wah Lim says
You are unique-st!
Thank you, Soon. 🙂
Abid Kunda says
Whoa! That was something. You know I kept scrolling back and forth while reading this. All the advice that you doled out so freely was implemented all across your work. It was so self-explainatory. I’m soaking it all up and hope to have something to show for it soon
Ha yes! I do my best to walk the talk 🙂
Alison Beere says
I relate to your question “why [would] people read my writing tips when the web is awash with writing advice from people more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more authoritative”?
I’m sure everyone does – unless they have a colossal ego, of course ;).
It reminds me of Paul Wolfe from how-to-play-bass.com. He often says that he knows that as a bass player, there are legions of musicians who surpass him. But as a teacher, he has this incredible system and ability to shift absolute beginners much closer to their goals.
I use that to encourage myself in my own niche whenever I look at the ‘more experienced, more knowledgeable and more authoritative’ competition out there.
Thanks for you post. You inspire me. I’m proud to be part of your tribe :).
We all have our own uniqueness even when we don’t see it or don’t know what it is. I didn’t know what would set me apart when I started to write, but over time I found and nurtured my own uniqueness – with the help of readers like you. Thank you for being part of my tribe 🙂
Jasper Oldersom says
Lovely to see you on CopyBlogger again!
It’s amazing how much impact we can make as writers and the process you laid out in this post is a surefire way to write powerfully.
I especially like your tip “writing with substance”. Sometimes a long blog post lulls me to sleep, while a snappy email from one of my favorite marketers can makes such a deep impact on me that I end up dreaming about it.
I love to add quotes, statistics or specific examples. It does add more punch to my articles. The other advantage is that I learn a lot while doing my research. ?
Amazing how “you should” can rob a sentence of all it’s power. Excellent example, Henneke!
Thank you for sharing your expertise with us. I do not take it for granted.
Enjoy the rest of your week!
p.s. Sally Hogshead’s book sounds interesting. I’ve heard lots of great things about her so I might have to pick it up. Thanks for the tip. 😉
It’s good to be back again 🙂
I can highly recommend Sally Hogshead’s books. I learned a lot from her!
And yes, eliminating “you should” from a text makes a real difference. I find it crazy how such tiny tweaks can make a big impact.
Brian Robben says
Excellent reminder for me to use more examples in my blog posts. Specific examples establish credibility, offer better clarity, and let readers get a look into my life. Love this write up!
Thank you, Brian. Examples are amazingly powerful 🙂
Dave Nevue says
Henneke, thank you for a great article. When I first started writing it was painful. I was never a writer but I knew that I had to learn to get my views across to be able to help others artists like me succeed with there dreams. After time went by and hundreds of articles I have learned my voice and have learned to share my message quickly and to the point. One thing I always remember when I am writing is that I am writing for the reader not for me.
I enjoyed all of your points from this great article.
Yes, that’s an excellent point – always write with your reader in mind.
Paul Thornton says
Great advice. Clear and actionable. Every blog helps me improve my writing. Thanks.
Happy writing, Paul!
Julian Sakanee says
Hello, Henneke. 🙂
Great post. I always love reading your stuff. 😀
Thanks for sharing this 3-step writing guide.
Thank you, Julian 🙂
“I didn’t understand why people would read my writing tips when the web is awash with writing advice from people more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more authoritative than me.”
I tell you why, Henneke. It’s because your writing is friggin awesome. Why else would I still read your blog after 4 years?
(Some might say it’s because I’m a simpleton, I still haven’t put half of what I read to good use.)
I can’t tell you how much advice I don’t implement because it’s too overwhelming or too cumbersome or too difficult.
I feel lucky having readers like you, Kerstin! Thank you for your lovely comment.
Hi Henneke! Great article! Yet another for my files. I love your point about learning from your own writing. It’s not only about the writing of a blog post, but expanding your own understanding of a topic. And that allows you to bring more value to the table.
Yes, good point. I find that is the fun of blogging – you have to challenge yourself to dive deeper and deeper into a topic. So you learn while sharing your newly acquired knowledge.
Whew! This arrived JUST in time, Henneke!
I finished writing a how-to that several people have requested and it was LONG. I knew it was too long. And now I know why: too many “should” statements, and too many how-to’s in one post.
I was just about to post it! Thanks so much for this helpful piece! 🙂
I find it a pity that so many blogging experts advocate that we write longer more in-depth content because quite often long content becomes overwhelming for our readers.
I’m glad my article helped you out!
Michael LaRocca says
When I taught Advanced English Writing at a university in China, I assigned essays for my students to write. They always asked “How many words?” and I replied “As many as you need.” After the classwide laughter (it never failed), they realized I was serious. You make many excellent points in this article, but I just felt like commenting on your observations about clear, direct, simple writing without a bunch of wasted words trying to pad the word count.
Yep, so true. The perfect word count doesn’t exist 🙂
Ron Bauer says
Excellent points Henneke, thank you very much.
Down to earth, down to business.
I will have to work on exposing my bossiness, though.
Go for it, Ron. Discover your bossiness! 😉
Don Keller says
Really great article Henneke!
Anna Ross says
Clearly your writing advice works as this already has 1K shares and you had me engaged from the get go. Thank you so much for the advice Henneke.
I’m glad to hear that, Anna. I appreciate your comment.
Great article! Looking forward to your FREE 16-Part Snackable Writing Course.
Happy snacking, Akhil! 🙂
Anwar Hossain says
Excellent advice! Thank you very much for the post.
Harry Page says
Thanks Henneke for such wonderful article. You have mentioned effective points and everyone should follow these points while creating a powerful content. Really helpful information.
Micky Stuivenberg says
Your posts may not always teach me something new, but I really enjoy reading them. Why? Because they’re so well written. You’re the perfect example of someone who practices what they preach. Your posts also often contain useful reminders. This particular post reminds me to try to use more specific examples in my content writing. Thanks Henneke.
Thank you for your lovely comment, Micky. I appreciate it. I do my best to walk the talk 😉
Icy Sedgwick says
This was a really timely post for me. I write fiction and I also do academic writing, so when I sit down to write an article for my blog, sometimes I forget that I need a different writing style. But I also struggle with low confidence around the fact that I’m just this tiny little figure – why would anyone care? But I have skills in lots of areas that could be useful to other people – I just need to learn to express myself better.
I bet you have a lot to share, Icy.
Many of us (me, too!) tend to focus on what we do NOT know and what others DO know. It’s better to turn it around and focus on the knowledge and ideas we can share to inspire the people who know less than we do.
Happy writing, Icy! Thank you for stopping by.
Robin Khokhar says
what an inspirational post you have crafted. I really enjoyed reading it and learned some new things.
thanks for sharing.
Sherman Smith says
You’re one of the first people I ran into that emphasized writing with authority. And I also liked the fact that you explained it well.
This is what helped me along my blogging journey. I wrote longer sentences to explain myself “better”. But all I had to do is keep it short, sweet and to the point.
Great share Henneke! Have a good one!
I might have been inspired by the Copyblogger team who talk about Authority a lot, too 🙂
thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing again. With your help I’ll become a great writer.
Being at an advanced age, I have tons of stories to tell. But its hard to get them on paper.
You inspire me.
Take your stories one by one, Andrew, and you’ll get there.
It’s always nice to find your articles here as it’s where I discovered you for the first time :-).
I like the idea of a narrow topic and working on the depth of our arguments.
It is so tempting to give as many tips as possible to our audience as we want to make sure that we give them enough value. I still need to make sure that I don’t overwhelm people with a firehose of information.
Yes, I know, I have the tendency to try and cram a lot in a blog post, too. After blogging for a while, I realized the only way to keep blogging was to start addressing one narrow topic a time. I now enjoy writing those narrow posts a lot.
Good to see you here, Thuy!
Anh Nguyen says
A very inspirational read. I can see that you implemented what you preach into your own writing, it’s very powerful.
“Why would someone listen to me?” Is a question I often ask myself as well, and this post helped me realise that everyone has something valuable to share, that you can actually write with authority and power if you are willing to learn (both about how to write and what you are writing about).
As Alison mentioned in the comments, Paul Wolfe didn’t have to be the best bass player to be a great teacher.
Thanks for sharing!
Yes, exactly. Everyone has valuable experiences and knowledge to share, and stories to tell.
Happy writing, Anh!
Anh Nguyen says
Aww, thanks Henneke!
Great article Henneke, I hope you break 3K with this as I really enjoyed reading it.
Matt Rose says
I used to tend to wonder quite a bit why people would read my material over others. I enjoyed this a lot, thank you for sharing Henneke.
Yay, it’s been a while since you wrote for CopyBlogger.
Anyhoo, I’ve been thinking the same way – why write about a certain idea/topic when it’s been written before?
Thanks for this reminder, Henneke!
Bob Berry says
Henneke, thank you for the motivation and insight. I signed up for your Snacks series a couple months ago, and I now use them as a checklist and a framework for my own writing development. Your guidance is gold.
With that guidance from you and others, I’m also learning to rely on my audience to determine what is ‘powerful’ and what is ‘authoritative’. I don’t get to decide that. And the best way to learn that is to ASK them. With the number of shares, likes, and comments you have here, you clearly subscribe to the same philosophy!
All the best! Keep the writing gold flowing.
Jayne Bodell says
I read your article for the second time today as I needed a boost. I kept the original email as I knew that I would need this in the future, just didn’t realize that I’d need it so soon. 🙂 As a fairly new blogger it’s tough to keep going when you think no one is listening. Thanks much for the info.
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