Writing content for your community

by Martin Reed on 12 May 2007 in Articles

As regular readers of this blog will now know, I constantly harp on about the importance of creating content. Without content, you have nothing. With a community site, your members will hopefully be creating most of your content for you. If not, you need to step to the plate and get the job done yourself.

Always write with a clear head

I am not just talking about writing when you are sober (although this is preferential!) – online communities will often debate subjects which many people feel passionate about. You will not always be immune to this passion, and if you decide to get involved and contribute, you must ensure you keep a clear head and remain professional (or at least inoffensive!) at all times.

Remember that although you may like to consider yourself as just another member of your community, your members see you differently. You are the human side of your site, and people will often look to you for direction as to what is and what is not acceptable.

Be clear about what you want to get across

Before you start writing, be clear in your mind just what you want to say. What are the main messages you want to get across? It may help to jot down some bullet points on paper, or write some brief notes on ‘Notepad’ or a ‘Sticky’.

By being clear on exactly what message(s) you want to get across, your writing will be clear, concise and informative.

Adapt your writing style to cater for your audience

Always write for your audience. If you run a community based on comedy or humour, then reflect this in your writing style. If you run a technical forum then feel free to use technical terminology. If your community caters to a general audience then ensure your writing style is natural and easy to read.

Your writing style often determines the personality your community will adopt – so understand your audience and ensure your writing caters to them.

Always proof read

I cannot emphasise the importance of proof reading enough. Sure, it may matter less if you are posting messages in an informal forum but it is always preferable to at least skim over what you have written to ensure it is a fair reflection of the message you were wanting to get across, and that it is largely free from errors.

If you are writing a blog, I would say that the quality of your writing plays an important part in determining your success. People will feel far less inclined to repeatedly visit a blog if it is full of errors, and individual articles are hard to understand.

Has this article been useful for you? What do you do to ensure your writing is valuable and effective for your community? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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{ 14 comments }

Tim May 12, 2007 at 4:13 pm

Yeah, but “not getting involved too much” tends to be a problem when a large part of your community is part of the bible belt, and you’re a liberal :P

Martin Reed May 12, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Hey Tim, thanks for your comment! Ha, I like the example you give; it does go to show just how important it is to remain as detached, neutral and professional as possible towards the more ‘passionate’ subjects of discussion within your community!

Dave May 12, 2007 at 10:49 pm

I agree with your whole post but the section on writing with a clear head is right on. My posts are seriously 5 times bigger when I am in my “zone”.

Martin Reed May 12, 2007 at 11:18 pm

Hi Dave – ah yes, the zone! When you’re there it is very easy to write and write but it’s still important to proof read.

I find that at times, longer messages written when in ‘the zone’ can be a little convoluted and can lack clear direction so it is still important to read things through before adding the content.

Cade May 13, 2007 at 7:08 am

I feel that proof reading is so important. I find so many errors and it catches your eye and can take your focus away from the good content that is being offered. I have done it numerous times because at times I post just to get content out there. I have realized that there is a lot more to it then that and if you want consistent readers then it has to have grammar flow as much as anything else.

Martin Reed May 13, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Hi Cade – welcome to the blog, and thank you for your comment. How many times have we read an article, but the first thing we remember is its poor grammar and spelling as opposed to the information it contained?

It is so important to proof read before publishing content – when I post on this blog, I read the content before saving it. I then save it and preview the post sitting in the blog’s theme, and read it again.

Only then will I hit the ‘Publish’ button. It’s amazing how many small mistakes I find. Sure, some will always slip through but the majority are taken care of before they see the light of day.

I think it’s also important to immediately correct any errors you find after publishing content – there is nothing wrong with going back to an article that may be a month old and correcting a typo or poor grammar.

Biscuit May 13, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Proof reading is spot on, however Iím dyslexic and very often and despite how many times I proof read there is always a, IS when there should be a WAS or THAT. Often I miss whole words but because Iím in the ďZoneĒ I read them when I proof read, however everyone else is having to fill in the blanks without knowing what it was I was trying to say. As you said the community should be posting most of the content but Iím still in the early stages so for now it hard work getting the post right!

Good post Martin. I like you CSS layout.

Martin Reed May 13, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Hey Biscuit – thanks for your comment, and welcome to the blog. I took a look at your site and thought your content was really well written.

Not all of us are gifted writers (myself included) – however, we should proof read in order to remove as many errors as possible. Sure, we will still miss the odd error from time to time but we should still be able to catch most of them before they are published.

Thanks for your feedback – I hope to read more of your comments in the future.

Shane May 14, 2007 at 7:16 am

The Zone is important. It’s where the best stuff comes from.

The secret is to write with your heart first. And then come back and do the rewrites with your head.

Martin Reed May 14, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Hi Shane – That is a good tip. I often just get everything written out, then go through it afterwards to correct any errors and make sure it all makes sense.

It’s amazing how easily it all comes out when you just concentrate on writing and nothing else.

Alberghi October 19, 2007 at 10:13 pm

I’m not surely agree with this section that say “Always write with a clear head” … is not really the same.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 23, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Alberghi – Why do you not agree with this? Do you think it is preferable to write content when you are emotional or fired-up?

Richard Abelson May 10, 2008 at 8:39 am

I personally think its great to write when your fired up.. Although you must double check your writing after you cool down :)..

I recommend a good 24 hours before posting anything you wrote at 3:00 in the morning in a crappy mood :)

..
Just my 2 cents..

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 12, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Richard – Well, writing when fired up can certainly be motivational but I wouldn’t post anything until you have cooled off!

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