If you’ve ever had the pleasure of purchasing a diamond, you’re probably familiar with the four Cs that determine its value: Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat.
As the Editor of a national online publication, I’m faced with the task of assessing the “value” of articles that are submitted to me every day.
The value of an article depends on its ability to resonate with readers.
Any editor will tell you that predicting what will strike a chord with an audience is an inexact science. But, over the years, I’ve developed my own system of three Cs that help me effectively evaluate the quality of an article.
I check for:
And the beauty is, you can also use the three Cs to decide whether or not your work is ready to be published.
Let’s break down how to use each of these factors when reviewing your own writing.
Sometimes I read an article and can’t pin down exactly what the writer is trying to say. What idea is he trying to communicate? If it’s not clear, the writer hasn’t spent enough time creating a precise message.
Similarly, a writer may begin an article with one idea and then veer off on a related, but separate, tangent halfway through the text. We’ve all done it — even me.
For instance, my last post on Copyblogger was about getting comfortable with throwing away your words. In the first draft of that post, I also covered self-editing. Those two ideas are related, but the introduction of that additional idea weakened my main message. In my second draft, I deleted everything related to self-editing to bring clarity back to my primary message.
After you’ve written a first draft, here’s a three-step process for bringing clarity to a piece of writing:
- Communicate one big idea. If your article contains two big ideas, save the second one for another piece of content.
- Craft a magnetic headline. Your headline must make a strong promise based on your one big idea. If it doesn’t show how a reader will benefit from the article, rewrite it.
- Cut extra text. Eliminate every word in your article that does not deliver on the promise made in your headline.
Once you’ve brought clarity to your article, you can move on to the next C.
This C improves the structure of your article. Now that your headline makes a strong promise and you know the big idea you’re trying to communicate, it’s time to ensure your article takes the reader on a logical journey.
Here are three elements that promote continuity:
- State your premise. For example, the premise of this article is that it’s helpful to have a framework to evaluate the quality of your content before it’s published.
- Introduce and support your big idea. The big idea here is that measuring Clarity, Continuity, and Connection will help you create high-quality content. Use subheads and bullet points to reinforce your message.
- Give readers a payoff. Highlight how the big idea will make their lives better and motivate them to take action now.
In short, your blog post needs to be structured in a way that naturally leads the reader to your desired conclusions and delivers a genuine payoff for them: a big “aha” moment.
This final C is the key to creating an article that readers will be inclined to share. It doesn’t matter how clear your ideas are, how well-structured your article is, or even how informative it might be … if your readers don’t connect with it, they won’t feel compelled to pass it on.
The fastest path to connection is showing vulnerability. The easiest way to get vulnerable? Share a story. It doesn’t need to be long, but the story must be honest — just like my confession above about the mistake I made when writing the first draft of my last Copyblogger post.
Speaking of that post, I told a longer story in that article about getting critiqued by a writing teacher who told me my work was completely vanilla. That made it very easy for readers to feel connected to me because we’ve all had a cringe-worthy experience like that, right?
Use the 3 Cs to transform the quality of your content
The three Cs remind you to remain audience-focused when creating content, and you can use them when you write content for clients as well as when you’re promoting your own business.
They’ll help you produce useful content readers will engage with and share.
What techniques do you use to evaluate your writing?
Share in the comments below.