Content Writing Tips from Oscar Wilde

If you’ve never read Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, I guarantee you that you’ll find it more amusing than whatever re-runs are airing on TBS tonight. Otherwise, blame me for stealing five minutes of your time with this blog post.

I’d like to embark on a little series here for content writers and business bloggers where we’ll cover content writing tips from the literary greats. It’s partly to indulge the literary geek in me, but mainly to offer you some food for thought. So, let’s wrangle some literary quotes, and see what we learn.

From the Mouth of Mr. Wilde…

Here’s what Oscar Wilde had to say:

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

Oscar Wilde was… a wild fellow. His witticisms and flamboyant dress make him something of a 19th century Andy Warhol. Also (like Warhol) Oscar Wilde was incredibly creative. He was always working on something fresh. New. Innovative.

For Wilde, “consistency” was the worst thing that could happen.

And, for content writers? Well, the answer’s two-fold.

In one sense, you have to have some degree of consistency. After all, that’s why we take the trouble of gathering voice documents from our clients.

But, most of my clients tend to be happier when I use more of my imagination. When I inject content with new ideas and approach subjects from new angles, three things happen

  • Clients are happier.
  • Readers are more informed and/or entertained.
  • Search engine rankings are better.

“The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster.”

All content writers have been here before… You turn in a brilliant piece of content. Seriously, you say to yourself, this shouldn’t go in so-and-so’s blog. I should have this published on the back page of the New Yorker!

And, then there’s the rejection. Your beautifully worded CTA page is covered in the dreaded Microsoft mark-up text. Relax. That’s what the content writing process is about. There’s a little give and take; there’s especially a lot of “give” when you’re on the writer’s side of the deal. Work out the kinks, learn the clients voice, and you’ll have more success next time!

“There is no such thing as moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written.”

Once in a blue moon, I’m asked, as the writer, to type up something that we all know isn’t entirely true. Now, it’s not often. But, sometimes a client will give me the nod to “spice things up a bit.” Call it a white lie, if you must.

In these instances, the client isn’t going to accuse me of going too far over the top. I won’t get any remarks about delivering an ‘immoral’ piece of content. But, if that content isn’t written well… then I’ll definitely be hearing a quality complaint!

The lesson for content writers? When you’re writing for a client, you’re writing for the client. In the eye of the public, the content comes from the client’s desk, not yours. It’s just your job to make sure it’s well written.

“Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

My boss, Amie, believes writing for the web is a skill – not a natural talent (see point number three). And, while content writing is definitely learned (I’ll present myself as an Exhibit A), it takes lots of experience in order to get it right. In fact, it’s a constant learning process.

Content writers are more important now in 2012 than ever before. However, the great ones are learning by doing. Take on all the different types of clients you can, pitch like crazy, and push yourself to the limits with word counts, creativity, and drive.

You can’t learn these things in a book or from a blog post. Then again, if you could, they wouldn’t be worth knowing. That’s Oscar Wilde’s two cents, at least!

Oh, and I’ll leave you with this one:

“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”

I’m pretty sure Oscar Wilde is telling you to tweet this blog post. Just my interpretation.

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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Comments

  1. Wilde loved clever and witty wordplay, which is why some of the best Twitter users are really popular . See any of the debate tweets last night? 🙂

    I can definitely see him having a lot of fun with Twitter, using it as an exercise in creativity.

  2. Hi Ben,

    What a post! I am a literary geek too, but I couldn’t have combined Wilde and online content! Or maybe I could have 😉 But you have written an extraordinary post, no doubt. Where else do you write, or do you restrict your writing to content equals money dot com?

    Please let me know. Will be awaiting your email or reply here.
    Nikhil Khandekar was just talking about…How to Improve Discipline at a Software Development CompanyMy Profile

  3. Haha, yes, Mandy, I would agree that the Twittersphere would be quite the wonderful, celestial realm for Mr. Wilde were he alive today!

  4. Ah, Oscar Wilde. Love the lessons that you were able to glean from his wonderful quotes. My favorite point is definitely to have the well-written content. You’re right – you can be forgiven for extrapolating a little, but you can’t be forgiven if it’s a terrible piece of writing.

    Side note: I feel like Oscar Wilde would absolutely adore Twitter. All of these people posting their thoughts because it’s fashionable, but most of them not adding anything relevant? That sounds right up his alley.
    Mandy Kilinskis was just talking about…The Power of Pouch Packaging: Drink Pouches Are Making a ComebackMy Profile

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  1. […] writing by Ben 0 Comments Ernest Hemingway. Now here’s a man who could write. I liked Oscar Wilde, but I really like Hemingway. From his brilliant word economy to his ability to drive at powerful […]

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