I’m not a native English speaker and here’s my confession:
- I’m a trained translator with a degree in my pocket.
I speak English fairly well, but I never thought I would ever create content on my own.
When I got to the English-speaking world of content marketing, I was lost, frustrated, and paralyzed with insecurity. I strongly doubted if I could ever enter a league of those smart guys who create killer content.
To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I could write anything high-quality at all.
If you’ve ever been in my shoes, this article is for you.
I’m going to share the tips and tricks that have worked (and still work) for me.
To begin with, there are only two points you need to consider when writing content.
- Most likely, you will never be able to speak, think, or write like a native speaker.
Being fluent isn’t all about vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and all of the other ‘technical’ aspects. The trickiest and most complicated part is the cultural background. It may take years of living in the country before you really “fit in”.
- You can’t know everything, but you can be an expert in your niche.
Digital marketing is global.
And it accepts people from all cultures and nations. Many of those who create TOP content aren’t native speakers.
Just try to be as good as them.
If you’ve decided to accept the challenge, here are some tips to help you out.
8 Tips To Help You Create Top Quality Content
1. Idea over spelling
When I first tried guest posting, I focused on grammar, wording, and spelling.
I checked and weighed every single word as if I was writing a novel.
But my posts got rejected quite often. I blamed it all on my ignorance and poor English.
Strange, but the idea of simply bad or irrelevant content never passed through my mind.
But here’s the fact:
- In most cases, it’s the content itself that makes editors reject posts, not grammar.
Accept it, and concentrate on looking for good ideas rather than pretending to look native. I promise your writing will be more fun.
And remember, an idea has no nationality.
- “But where do I take those ideas from?”
That’s a good question.
Here’s my starter pack of sources:
1) Your or your team’s cases
If there’s anything worth trying that you or your team has made or tried, go ahead and write about it.
Case studies are popular and usually get a lot of likes and shares. What’s more, describing your own experience can be less complicated than writing about someone else’s.
2) Steal an idea from other blogs/forums/etc.
I love reading stories about how writers find ideas for their books. In many cases, their inspiration came from rumors, news, or various talking points.
In a similar way, you may find content ideas in forums, blogs, discussions, or on Q&A resources like Quora.
If people are always talking about something that really worries them, why not use it to create your content?
3) Resource articles
This type of article doesn’t require polished writing skills, but it needs lots of research and background work.
The good news is that a resource article is a great way to get lots of traffic and shares.
There was recently a wonderful post that described clever ways to create resource articles. I highly recommend taking a look at it.
2. Read a lot of QUALITY content
It’s always a good idea to learn from the gurus.
One of the most stunning abilities of the human mind is to absorb information and adapt to it. That’s why quality reading may improve your writing as well.
But it’s important to filter what you read.
After I first faced digital marketing, I started digesting every single article I could find. It didn’t play to my advantage.
Instead, my mind turned into a massive trash bin.
Since then, I have radically changed my attitude to reading.
Here’s a step by step guide I have developed for quality reading:
1) Make a “TOP-5” list of quality blogs, magazines, newsletters
Mark my words, you won’t be able to read more than 5 regularly without getting lost.
To find the best content quickly, use Google:
- “TOP bloggers in /your niche/”
- “Best /your niche/ blogs”
- “Best blogs about /your niche/”
2) Subscribe to newsletters to get updates directly to your email
This is optional and I know a lot of people who don’t like it.
However, in my case, it helped me develop a habit of regular reading and helped me to greatly organize my work environment.
3) Use tools to organize your content
There are various automated tools that allow you to keep all of your content in one place.
What’s more, you can filter, sort, bookmark, and customize what you read.
I ignored automated tools for a long time. Then I started drowning in information.
I like Feedly, Flipboard, and Instapaper apps, but you are free to find your favorite one.
4) Learn phrases and expressions
It’s all about writing, isn’t it?
Try to taste the language of experienced content marketers.
I’m sure you’ll notice that they use lots of phrases and expressions that make their writing creative and entertaining.
Why not use them in your articles?
- You can use apps like My Words to store and memorize words.
3. Native speaker ≠ proofreader
If you have a native English speaker in your team, consider yourself lucky.
If you can hire a professional native English proofreader, consider yourself twice as lucky.
Anyway, many of us don’t have access to such luxuries but we still have a lot of international friends.
If you decide to ask your friend or colleague to review your post, keep in mind two important things:
1) Not all native speakers are qualified to proofread texts
I often proofread texts in my native language for my workmates. They make lots of confusing mistakes.
We are all native speakers, but we also all have a different language expertise.
That’s why you should keep in mind that sending a copy to your overseas friend doesn’t guarantee he or she will correct all of your mistakes.
2) However, a native speaker CAN detect cultural and language inconsistencies
The good news is that any native speaker will immediately point out bad wording. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase:
- “We don’t speak like this”.
They’ll also point out cultural mistakes. In many cases, these mistakes are far more critical than poor spelling.
So, take your friend’s helping hand, but do so wisely.
4. If you write guest posts, write for quality blogs
When you are a beginner, it’s hard to get published in a respected blog. However, nothing is impossible.
Most quality blogs and magazines have great editorial teams.
Write something worth publishing and pitch your idea in a clever way. Editors will help you improve bad wording and correct spelling mistakes without changing the main idea.
How to find quality blogs? Refer to point #2.
5. Use automated spelling tools
Don’t underestimate the power of automated tools like I used to.
Sometimes a simple built-in spellchecker isn’t enough. Automated tools can detect grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes, find overused words and cliches, and alert you if your sentences are too complex and hard to read (like this one).
Of course, you cannot fully rely on these tools. They are not human proofreaders, and you’ll have to double-check your writing yourself.
But they still can help you avoid many of the typical and most painful mistakes.
Here are my TOP-3 grammar apps:
- Grammarly – Detects typos, grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors; finds cliches and overused phrases; scans texts for bad wording. They also offer a human proofreader service for premium users.
- Ginger – Works in a similar way to Grammarly; it has fewer functions but detects more spelling mistakes.
- Hemingway – This app highlights long, complex sentences and common errors.
6. Communicate with natives
The best way to catch professional slang is to talk to natives.
Try to contribute to discussions on Inbound.
Google and find popular forums related to your niche and talk to its members.
Try to answer questions on Quora.
In a couple of weeks, you’ll notice how your vocabulary has enhanced.
(You’ll also find new connections and ideas.)
7. Practice writing
Writing is like sport.
You need to workout regularly to stay fit. Challenge yourself to write at least a couple of pages every day.
This practice is called free writing.
It was described by Julia Cameron and Mark Levy. They encourage people to start every day with writing at least 3 pages. The topic doesn’t matter.
According to them, this helps free the subconscious.
If you don’t like handwriting, you can use web-based tools like 750 Words or Written? Kitten.
750 Words also provides analytics and charts for every piece you write.
When developed, this habit will help you write more, quicker, and better.
8. Detect typical errors
We learn a foreign language by means of our native language.
Each language has its specifics and affects the second language in its own way.
That’s why our mother tongue will strongly influence our English.
You can detect the most typical mistakes from people who speak your language and avoid them.
Google (in your own language):
- “The most common mistakes in English”, or “The most typical mistakes in English”.
Read and learn.
For example, the Russian language has no articles (like ‘a’, ‘the’, etc.)
So, Russians often omit them when speaking or writing English. I know this and pay special attention to using articles when writing my posts.
You can find the same tips relevant to your own language.
So now it’s your turn to tell me how you overcome the language hurdle:
- Are there any tips you use for writing content? How do they work for you?
Let me know in the comments!