4 Must-reads for content marketers

September 20, 2018

For those who call themselves “content marketers” on their resumes but “writers” in their hearts, it’s no secret that there are only three ways to get better at your profession, no matter which label you put on it: 

  1. Write every day.
  2. Find a good editor and trust what she tells you.
  3. Read everything. 

“Everything” covers a whole lot: email newsletters, brand taglines, sponsored content, your kid’s homework assignment and more. 

When you have time for something meatier, there are an endless number of books written by and for writers about writing that are worthy of the time it takes to read them. Following are a few on our bookshelves – the kinds of books that offer up something new every time we return to them. 

“On writing,” Stephen King
Read this, and you’ll learn there are things far scarier than clowns in storm drains, telekinetic outcasts at the prom or vampires in idyllic Maine towns. For example, adverbs. Adverbs can be terrifying. King writes, “Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind… [Adverbs are] like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then, you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s – gasp!! – too late.” 

“How to write short,” Roy Peter Clark
Roy Peter Clark was a senior scholar at The Poynter Institute, where he trained journalists. He’s also written a bunch of books and has earned a reputation as “America’s writing coach.” This is one of his more recent titles, in which he focuses on the matters that concern those of us writing for short-attention-span readers. Clark focuses on things like surprising readers with brevity, varying hard and soft words and changing your pace. The (short) chapters end with actionable tips, like this one about collecting writing to inspire your work: “You will run into great short writing in the most surprising places, from restaurant menus to restroom walls. Record these in your daybook or snap a photo with your cell phone.” 

“Eats, shoots & leaves: The zero tolerance approach to punctuation,” Lynne Truss
Nerd alert: This book is about grammar (although the author would disagree), and we think it’s hilarious. Why does punctuation matter? As Truss writes, “The reason it’s worth standing up for punctuation is not that it’s an arbitrary system of notation known only to over-sensitive elites who have attacks of the vapours when they see it misapplied. The reasons to stand up for punctuation is that without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning.” 

“Writing down the bones,” Natalie Goldberg
This one is geared toward creative writers. If your day job is to write about SaaS or adtech or disaster recovery, “Writing down the bones” might seem like an out-there guidebook. However, tip No. 1 above about writing every day means you should also do different kinds of writing. The occasional personal essay or short story will make the writing you do in your day job sharper and more palatable to the human readers you need to engage. Goldberg’s book is a classic, and she’ll have you taking short walks to notice things that are pink and then write about them, or grabbing a line out of a book of poetry and writing “off the page” from there, or setting a goal to fill a notebook a month with writing. She’s convincing in her advice. 

Got a favorite book that keeps your content creation sharp? Let us know what we should add to our library.   

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