People don’t usually think of the term ‘fluff’ as a negative element, but when it comes to writing, it's not your friend. In fact, it’s probably your worst enemy.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of writing fluff, but if you want to salvage the quality of your content, you’ll need to break out of those bad habits as quickly as possible.
What Is Fluff In Writing?
Fluff writing consists of details, information, and general language that adds absolutely no value to your content.
It’s often used to add length to content and make a piece seem more elaborate. However, the overall effect is negative – it often bores the reader and drags your piece out for longer than necessary.
Imagine you’re pouring maple syrup on your pancakes – the more maple syrup, the better, right? Wrong. Even if you’re a passionate lover of maple syrup, it is possible to have too much.
If you’re not careful, you can quickly get to a point where your breakfast is drowning in maple syrup – your pancakes get soggy and you can’t taste them anymore. Welcome to the breakfast equivalent of using fluff in your content.
Fluff writing can drown out the real message and purpose of your content and can quickly turn a reader off.
Where Fluff Writing Fails In the Marketing World
There's a chance you've been adding fluff in writing without even knowing it. And honestly, even the best of us slip up with it sometimes.
But bad fluff can make for a bad reader experience, and that's likely to hurt your content marketing efforts in a multitude of different ways.
To help you spot what fluff writing looks like, here's a few examples:
Full of Filler Words
It's no surprise that the most impactful advertisements are those that are emotional. Research has proven that buyers respond to emotion when making decisions, and that an emotional response to an ad impacts their decision far more than that of the actual content of the campaign.
Were you counting? In this single sentence, there are five filler words. “That” is used four times, and “actual” is used once.
The overuse of these elements makes the sentence choppy and thus disrupts the reader’s experience. Let’s see how well that sentence works when we take out the majority of those filler words:
It's no surprise that emotional advertisements are the most impactful. Research has proven buyers respond to emotion when making decisions, and experiencing an emotional response to an ad impacts their decision far more than the content of the campaign.
I've talked to tons of people who believe that there's some kind of elusive magic trick to successful content marketing. As if there's some secret formula or algorithm to hack into and get it just right.
Let me tell you a secret: during my time as a private content marketing consultant, I worked with a lot of powerhouse companies, who on average brought in tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue. I helped them with their content strategies; blogging, email marketing, you name it.
From this, I learned one key takeaway: there is no elusive magic trick to successful content marketing.
Take a look at this lengthy quote – how long does it take for the author to get to his point? This piece of writing engages in what we call padded content – it includes extra information that doesn't contribute to the point being made.
The opening lines use flowery language that is indirect and unclear. Additionally, extensive professional backstory is used to try and put weight behind the statement being made at the end, but it ultimately adds very little value overall. Let's rewrite these paragraphs to make them a little better:
"Many people seem to believe there is a magic trick to successful content marketing. However, throughout my many years of experience within the marketing industry, I've found there is no magic to it."
Better, right? It still gets the point across, but with a fraction of the content.
Cutting all that excess fluff out of the writing made for a much smoother, faster reader experience. When visitors aren't bogged down by unnecessary fluff content, they're much more likely to continue reading.
3 Tips for Avoiding Fluff Content
Fluff writing habits are easy to develop and get stuck in, but the good news is they can also be easy to break. There’s a few simple steps you can take to cut it out of your content.
1. Avoid These Fluff Words.
The first step in breaking your fluff-writing habits is by eliminating filler words. Filler words are usually adjectives and adverbs that don't add any valuable qualifiers to the content – they're simply there to...well, fluff.
To help you look out for them, we’ve compiled a list of common fluff words that you should avoid using. We’re not saying you should never use these words – just use them sparingly, and only when they serve a valuable purpose in making a point.
Fluff Words to Avoid:
2. Read Content From These Companies.
Fortunately, there's just as much good content out there as there is bad fluff content – you just need to know where to find it. Take a look at the work of these three companies to better understand what counts as quality content.
Founded by Barry Feldman back in 1995, Feldman Creative is a leading marketing consultancy agency focused primarily on content creation. His writing is clear, concise, and direct, providing valuable information to help boost your content marketing strategy.
This is a great hub for learning the ins and outs of content marketing best practices, as well as studying a great example of thorough, no-fluff writing.
Vertical Measures is a digital marketing agency that provides an abundance of resources for professionals in the industry. Their resources and blog alike are well written, valuable informational assets.
While their blog covers a wide range of marketing topics, they also provide static content marketing, SEO, and PPC resources and training.
If you’re looking to gain a knowledgeable edge within the marketing industry, make sure you utilize Vertical Measure’s resources.
Founded by serial entrepreneur Julia McCoy, Express Writers is a content agency that boasts a staff of almost 100 writers. McCoy herself is a best-selling author and was named a thought leader by Forbes, so she only hires the best of the best amongst writers. You can bet your bottom dollar that their content is a no-fluff zone.
With such a large staff, Express Writers produces an abundance of content and resources for content marketers, including frequent blog posts, podcasts, and a regular twitter chat under the tag #ContentWritingChat. All of their content is fun, engaging, and informational.
The mission statement on their about page sums it up: “We’re a content writing agency committed to excellence.”
If you’re looking for examples of top quality content, as well as how to improve your own writing practices and styles, you’ll want to keep up with their work on a regular basis.
3. Practice Being Concise.
The best way to kick your bad habits is by practicing being concise. In general, this is the number one best practice for all writers creating content.
Cutting out filler words is a good start to keeping your writing concise. But there are further steps you can take.
When you’re trying to be as concise as possible, revision is your best friend. Going back through your content with a fine-tooth comb will help you identify a lot of the fluff that you may have not noticed during your initial writing process.
Ask yourself if particular words and phrases contribute to the value of the sentence, or if they are valuable in making your point. If the answer is no – cut it!
Now That You Know...
The more you practice cutting fluff out of your content, the easier it will become.
Don't let yourself slip back into those bad habits – don't use filler words in your writing, and don't pad your content with unnecessary phrases.
And even if you do unconsciously slip up once in a while (don't worry, we all do), that's what the revision process is for!