What Makes an Article Authoritative?

Here’s a problem we see all the time in business writing. How often must you read a memo or an article filled with long sentences, big, jargony words and, ultimately, no point?

These missives are examples of writing that lack authority.

We think people write this way because they actually feel they have to. If they use small words or short sentences, people fear they’ll come off as unintelligent or unprofessional. In fact, the opposite may be true. It takes confidence and authority to boldly state an idea in a few words (The Gettysburg Address was 272 words long).

And you need to write with authority if you want your audience to consider you the expert in your field whom they can turn to for help with their problems. That means you need to be confident when you write (and speak), but you can’t be phony about it. You must earn that authority.

Here’s a look at some common elements of authoritative writing:

1. Relevance

Make it resonate with your audience. (Do you know who your audience is?) That means first identifying what they’re interested in: what they need, what they want, and what problems and pains they’re facing. This process alone can take some time, and some trial and error.

2. Perspective

Don’t just regurgitate something interesting you’ve read. Instead, ask yourself this before writing a single word: What can you tell your readers that they don’t already know – but that they need to? This is where your own unique perspective, opinion and insight will come in handy. You’ve gained it. Now share it.

3. Bring in an Expert

There will be times when you want to talk about something you know is important to your audience, but you’re lacking in expertise on the topic. This is where you can leverage the authority of others. Find an expert on the topic and use that person as a source for your content.

4.  Simplicity

Unless you’re writing a how-to book on a complicated topic, or you’re writing for a peer-reviewed journal of other experts, keep things high-level and easy to explain. It means you might have to smooth out some of the complexity in a topic in favor of clarity. Always go for clarity.

5. Real-World Examples

When it comes to consulting, you’re not selling a tangible product, which can make writing about what you do difficult. To keep things clear and drive your points home, use real-life stories or analogies. They’ll help bring your concepts to life and demonstrate your first-hand experience with a particular topic.

6. Practical Tips

Buyers read content because they’re looking for answers. So give your readers what they want. That doesn’t mean you need to give away your services and solutions for free. But it does mean that when you offer practical advice that resonates with your audience and establishes you as a thought leader, they will be much more likely to trust you and buy from you down the line.

7. An Active Voice

Favor active language over passive language.  Look here for a good tutorial on what that means.

8. Good Grammar

Typos are one of the quickest – and dumbest – ways to destroy your credibility as a writer. One isn’t going to kill you (unless it’s really ridiculous, or you say “it’s” when you mean “its.”) But more than one typo in an online article and you’re going to look careless, and it will erode your credibility. Always ask someone you trust to proofread your content before publishing it.

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