I grew up in the writing world and learning about the various writing styles. For as long as I can remember I loved to craft stories and messages and share them with others — whether they wanted to read them or not! It is something that admittedly comes naturally to me (though writing a full-length novel, however, feels far beyond my reach). It holds my interest and is an art I’ve devoted a fair amount of time and study to.
Because I’ve spent so much time dedicated to communicating my thoughts and feelings on paper (or rather, on the computer at this point), sometimes I take my knowledge of the styles of writing for granted and don’t think about what I’m doing while composing. This became clear recently while discussing writing with a client. As we discussed their writing style and ours and how to best merge them, it suddenly struck me that we had completely different writing styles in mind for the piece. We had been using an expository style of writing, while they were looking for a more descriptive or narrative piece. No wonder our goals weren’t aligning!
Content marketers are tasked with creating an immense amount of writing each day for a variety of different clients and industries. It can be difficult to keep track of them all! One thing that can help, however (and save a lot of headaches in the process), is to have a clear understanding of what style of writing your client is looking for. In this blog post we discuss the four different styles of writing and when each should be used in content marketing.
The Four Styles Of Writing
Ideally, your writing style, voice (think of this as your writing’s personality) and tone (the mood of your writing) should change for each client you work with. The style you choose will largely depend on what type of platform you’re writing for, who the target audience is and your client’s specific needs and goals. Creating posts for social media, for example, will always have a different process and tone than a full-length blog post. Additionally, writing for social media for a clothing brand will look vastly different than posts for a technology company. It is your job as a content marketer to identify what your client is looking for and adapt your writing to fit their needs.
In addition to incorporating the client’s desired voice and tone into their content, there are generally four main styles of writing you need to be aware of:
- Expository: Expository writing is exactly what it sounds like — explaining a topic or idea to provide information to the reader. This is the style you want to use when your goal is to educate your audience. Expository writing includes technical guides, business writing, essays, textbooks, news stories and more.
Grammarly provides us with further information, sharing with us that expository writing is:
- Usually presented in a linear format
- Always presented in a logical format
- Clear about its purpose
It is not:
- The author’s opinion
- An attempt to change the reader’s mind or shape their perspective
- Nonlinear or otherwise unconventional in how it presents content
While there are many ways to organize expository writing, some of the most common tactics to employ are:
- Compare and contrast: Describing the similarities and differences between two or more ideas or subjects.
- Definition: This is where the writer’s goal is to define a subject. For example, this blog post by Three Girls Media defines what content marketing is, and this one discusses what a target audience is.
- Classification: In a classification piece, the author writes about the characteristics of multiple subjects within one category. As an example, this blog post discusses common SEO mistakes businesses make. The main topic is SEO, but each mistake is broken down and explained.
- Problem and solution: A problem and solution piece will identify a problem and provide a solution. (Shocking, isn’t it?) This format is often found in persuasive writing, but when used in an expository style it’s generally in a troubleshooting guide.
- Process: In this type of expository writing the author explains the steps or the process of something. A guide on how to put a computer together, for example, would be a process document.
When To Use Expository Writing In Content Marketing
This style of writing is most common in content marketing pieces. Expository writing delivers factual, objective information to the reader and is invariably the best way to explain various ideas and concepts. When using expository writing in content marketing, the goal is to get the reader to learn something about a product, service or idea. This style of writing often includes visuals, statistics, charts, graphs or quotes and is presented without including opinions or biases. While it may be tempting to try and persuade your audience when using this type of writing (and at times some persuasive techniques will bleed through), educating your audience about a specific topic without trying to convince them of something helps to build brand trust and establishes your business as an expert in your field.
Key ideas to keep in mind for your expository content marketing are to utilize the entire writing process (brainstorming, researching, outlining, THEN drafting), be creative and always check your facts.
- Descriptive: This next style of writing is once again exactly what it sounds like. When using descriptive writing, figurative language and sensory details are included to allow the reader to easily picture something in their head. Descriptive writing is often found in poetry, but there are many uses for it beyond that. You are not likely, however, to find descriptive writing in technical writing, academic writing or professional emails.
Once again, Grammarly comes to the rescue to help us understand descriptive writing a bit more. They show us that descriptive writing is often found in:
- Metaphors: Likening one thing to another. The popular phrase “Time is a thief” is a metaphor, for example.
- Similes: Comparing one thing to something else using the words “like,” “so,” “than” or “as” to make the comparison. An example of a simile would be “as busy as a bee.”
- Sensory writing: Description based on the five senses. Grammarly gives the example of, “When the cool water splashed my face, the contrast made me realize just how red-hot my skin had gotten.”
- Hyperbole: Using an extreme statement to make a point. The age-old exclamation “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse!” is a great example of hyperbole.
- Personification: Describing inanimate objects using human qualities. “The story jumped off the page” is a fitting description for this writing strategy.
- Onomatopoeia: Words for specific sounds like “Pop!” and “Bam!”
When To Use Descriptive Writing In Content Marketing
The best times to use descriptive writing in content marketing are when you need to describe products or services, events and experiences and before and after results. Your goal is to describe just enough to pique the curiosity of your readers so that they want to continue reading and clicking. This style of writing lends itself to longer forms of content (think blog articles), but a few carefully crafted descriptive sentences for social media can be used to entice the reader to read more. In descriptive writing the author focuses on descriptions based on what things look like, taste like, feel like, sound like, etc. The idea is to provide your reader with anything they need to picture what you’re describing in their mind.
- Narrative: In narrative writing the author tells a story. This style of writing includes such elements as a main character, setting and plot. Though narrative writing is fictional the majority of the time, authors employing other styles (typically descriptive) will often weave some elements of narrative writing into their content.
Narrative writing can be:
- Linear (chronological order)
- Nonlinear (nonchronological order)
- Told with a viewpoint narrative (told by the narrator’s perspective)
- Descriptive (where the focus is on how the setting, characters, objects, etc. feel)
Additionally, narrative writing will have:
- Descriptive language (evoking feelings rather than facts)
- Characters (usually including a protagonist and antagonist)
- Narrative structure (beginning, middle, end)
When To Use Narrative Writing In Content Marketing
True narrative style is unlikely to be used often in content marketing, as it is mostly a fictional style of writing that involves characters, plot, etc. However, there are times when you can weave together narrative writing and descriptive writing for a content marketing piece. The most likely example of this would be when creating a client testimonial about their experience with your business. It’s also seen in more traditional forms of advertising like television commercials.
- Persuasive: Persuasive writing is used to communicate your opinion to influence the reader. This is the style traditionally found in marketing, though it can also be used for things like cover letters, editorials and speeches. In persuasive writing, the author’s goal isn’t just to inform. It’s to convince.
To effectively persuade their readers, authors should establish their credibility, use logical arguments and appeal to emotion. Writers of persuasive pieces should:
- Choose their words carefully. Words matter, especially when you’re using writing as a way to build a relationship and trust with your reader. In persuasive writing in particular, the use of strong language shows you believe that your opinion is right. This in no way means to use rigid, unfeeling language. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Use words that evoke some sort of feeling — this will encourage the reader to develop a strong attachment to your brand.
- Ask questions. Asking questions in persuasive writing serves several purposes. It engages the reader in critical thinking, prompting them to think about the topic and search for their own unique position on it. If posed correctly, questions can also be used to allow the reader to come to the author’s conclusion on their own. Persuasive writing, when done best, isn’t about badgering your audience with your opinion. It’s inviting them to think critically so they come up with an opinion of their own … and hopefully it’s one that’s the same as yours.
- Use a clear opening sentence. Your target audience’s attention span is short and rapidly declining as the years go by. You need to hook your reader right away, so they’ll remain interested and stay to read the entirety of what you have to say. The best way to do this is to make sure your opening statement is clear and to the point. This is an important piece of the persuasive writing puzzle as it helps to avoid any sort of confusion right away. It’s difficult to convince your reader of something if they’re not sure what you’re talking about.
- Speak directly to the reader. Your relationship with your customer is extremely important. It helps to build brand trust and loyalty. Let your target audience know you care about them by speaking directly to them and using words like “you.” This helps to make your audience feel like they’re part of the conversation. This feeling of belonging lowers their defenses and makes them more openminded about the topic.
- Repeat your main arguments. The biggest reason for this repetition is that it can serve as a memory aid for your audience. State your opinion and state it often to help your readers remember you and what you are asking of them. This repetition can also influence your reader’s thinking and reasoning.
When To Use Persuasive Writing In Content Marketing
Persuasive writing is a helpful writing tool for content marketers, especially when trying to convert potential clients into loyal customers. Persuasive content marketing can be seen in product reviews, emails, ad copy, customer testimonials and sales funnels. It is a highly effective form of writing when trying to convince someone to buy your product or service, though it is one of the harder writing styles to employ without being too heavy handed. Take a look at our previous blog post for more about persuasive writing and how to use it in content marketing.
When done correctly, expository, descriptive, narrative and persuasive writing can all be used in your content marketing. In fact, it’s an excellent strategy to incorporate many styles of writing into your content (keeping the same tone and voice) so that it doesn’t become stale and boring to the consumer.
Do You Need Help Incorporating The Four Writing Styles Into Your Content Marketing?
If you’re struggling to identify which type of writing style to use for your content marketing, our team of expert content writers at Three Girls Media is ready to help! Contact us today for a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with our CEO, Erika Taylor Montgomery.