Welcome to Compose.ly’s writer community! We’re excited to have you here.
As part of Compose.ly’s mission to deliver quality content to clients, we strongly value helping and training writers to improve their craft. No writer is perfect, after all.
Below, you’ll find our Writing & SEO Style Guide, which includes best practices for both writing and SEO. We advise reviewing this guide in its entirety before taking on any writing projects at Compose.ly, regardless of your years of writing experience.
Even if you already know everything covered, it never hurts to review these guidelines. High satisfaction from Compose.ly’s clients ensures that the platform can continue running smoothly and that you’ll receive a regular stream of projects.
Table of Contents
Writing Best Practices
The practices below are common issues clients have observed and brought up. Please keep these in mind when drafting or reviewing your work.
Do not duplicate content for the same client or different ones.
Remember to produce original content for clients. Even if guidelines for multiple projects are similar, do not duplicate your work.
If you feel that some work can be duplicated acceptably (e.g., a disclaimer statement at the end of an article), clarify with your client. It is ultimately on you, the writer, to communicate any questions or confusion about assigned projects. Proceeding without a client’s input may raise questions about plagiarism or deception.
Use active voice.
Writing in an active voice tends to be more engaging than sentences written in a passive voice. Take a look at the following examples:
- Passive: There are many best practices for the writing process.
- Active: Follow these best practices to improve your writing.
Can you see how the second sentence sounds more actionable? Meanwhile, the passive sentence above reads rather blandly.
That’s not to say that every sentence in your project should be active, of course. Do not force active voice when it may result in awkward phrasing, but avoid clustering passive-voice sentences together, e.g., four consecutive passive-voice sentences.
Use descriptive language.
Rather than repeating “good” or “great,” aim to use more detailed descriptors in your writing.
After all, generic words like “good” and “great” do not offer much information to readers. Try to find words that provide more specificity. Consider the differences here:
- Good writing vs. articulate writing
- Bad speech vs. incomprehensible speech
Using more descriptive language strengthens the visuals created by your writing, and it can also enhance clarity.
For help with finding more descriptive vocabulary, check out Thesaurus.com as you write. However, just remember to double check that a new word and definition fit the context of your piece.
Keep continuous tense to a minimum.
For a quick review, continuous tense (also known as progressive verb tense) refers to actions that are, were, or will be in progress. There are three main types, as shown below:
- Are going (present continuous)
- Were going (past continuous)
- Will be going (future continuous)
Using continuous tense is appropriate in certain contexts—for instance, when describing ongoing actions. However, it should not be used in excess.
Consider the two excerpts taken from the same CNN article.
Excerpt 1 uses past tense to describe what has already occurred. This is more effective than using past continuous tense, e.g., “locals in the tiny village of Kulusuk, Greenland were hearing what sounded like an explosion.”
Meanwhile, Excerpt 2 uses continuous tense to describe ongoing research. It would not be appropriate to use past tense in this sentence, as the investigation is not yet complete.
Use a mix of sentence structures.
Here’s a quick review of the different types of sentence structures:
- Simple: A sentence consisting of one clause (a single subject and predicate)
- Example: We should go out for lunch.
- Compound: A sentence consisting of two or more independent clauses, connected by a conjunction or through punctuation
- Example: We should go out for lunch, and then we should stop by the ice cream shop.
- Complex: A sentence consisting of one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses
- Example: Since it’s already past noon, we should just go the place next door for lunch.
- Compound complex: A sentence consisting of two or more independent clauses as well as one or more subordinate clauses
- Example: Since it’s already past noon, we should just go the place next door for lunch, and then maybe we can stop by the ice cream shop.
Using just one type of sentence structure will make your writing sound repetitive and even choppy. Aim for a variety to improve your writing’s “rhythm and flow.”
For an example, compare the two paragraphs below:
Unvaried Sentence Structures
The movie Titanic was directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. It is a fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Cameron’s inspiration for the film came from his fascination with shipwrecks. He felt a love story interspersed with human loss was essential for conveying the disaster’s emotional impact.
Varied Sentence Structures
The movie Titanic was directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, it is a fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. According to Cameron, inspiration for the film came from his fascination with shipwrecks, and he felt a love story interspersed with human loss was essential for conveying the disaster’s emotional impact.
Can you see how varying the sentence structures changed the flow of the paragraph? If not, try reading the two paragraphs aloud to better observe this difference.
Give details and specific examples.
Avoid general statements or “fluff.”
What exactly counts as fluff? Sentences that don’t give the reader much value. While they help reach your target word count, they read as pointless statements. Clients are quick to see through these and demand edits (or refunds) if you’ve written them in excess.
To avoid this, aim to provide rich detail and specificity that will benefit the reader. For an idea of how that might look, check out the two paragraphs below:
The Chinese language actually refers to a group of related language varieties, many of which are not mutually intelligible. About 1.2 billion people (around 16% of the world’s population) speak some form of Chinese as their first language.
Many people around the world speak Chinese as their first language.
Link to your references.
Enrich your writing with facts and statistics—but also remember to give credit where it’s due. This means linking to any sources you’ve pulled information from.
When it comes to choosing sources, look for well-established sites, like universities, government offices, and companies that have demonstrated expertise in a subject. Avoid using or linking to unusual domain URLs (e.g., www.freewifihotspotservicez.info) that are more promotional in nature.
Formatting & SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial part of content writing for the web. Keep the following tips in mind to make your work more search-friendly.
Use line breaks generously.
When it comes to formatting your writing, remember:
Writing for the web ≠ writing for print
Though print articles and books often feature lengthy paragraphs, their online counterparts tend to avoid these.
Check out the difference between the two articles below. Which do you think reads better?
Use line breaks throughout your writing to make it more visually friendly. It’s okay to even insert a line break after a single sentence, as Neil Patel does in the example above.
As a general rule of thumb, avoid paragraphs with over 100 words; these tend to overwhelm readers.
Incorporate bullet points and numbered lists.
Like the aforementioned tip, web content should be easily skimmable. Incorporating lists into your writing will do this and ultimately make your work more visually friendly.
However, this does not mean lists should be forced into your article. Use them when relevant, such as when providing:
- Steps to take to complete something
- Pros and cons of a point
You can optimize your writing for better search engine performance by using headings to break up your text. This also makes your writing more scannable and easy to read.
For SEO purposes, aim to include your client’s specified primary or secondary keyword(s) in your article’s headings whenever possible. This should be done naturally, however—do not force keywords when a heading does not call for it.
Choose stock photos selectively.
Incorporate stock images into your writing with prudence. Not all clients expect images—in fact, it’s best to ask about this directly if your project guidelines do not mention a need for pictures.
If you do include images:
- Choose relevant images and graphics that reflect the concept or emotion you’re trying to convey.
- Opt for natural-looking, candid photos. Posed and airbrushed photos come off as artificial and even cheesy.
- Use only well-lit, high-resolution photos.
- Avoid pictures that look “busy”—for instance, those with cluttered backgrounds or foregrounds.
Optimize your anchor text.
Anchor text refers to the clickable text used in a hyperlink. Remember that you should include links to sources in your writing—and these links should be well-optimized.
To do so:
- Make your anchor text relevant to the page that is being linked to. Avoid generic anchor text like “click here”—this is also generally inappropriate when writing articles for clients.
- Keep your anchor text on the shorter end. A full sentence should not be anchor text.
- It’s fine for anchor text to be a single word when referring to a company or brand name.
Examples of Acceptable Anchor Text
- According to a new report from the United Nations, the rate of species extinction is rapidly increasing.
- Last year, Target had some nice Black Friday deals.
To improve your writing and SEO knowledge further, we encourage you to check out the following resources.