Across your content ecosystem, you’re probably sharing a plethora of messaging. And, you’ve probably tried to create the most engaging content you can in order to attract and keep interested audiences. However, do you know if you’ve built fluff traps into your ecosystem that’s dragging your content down — and your audiences along with it?
No matter the industry you work in or the content you’re sharing, even the sharpest writers can fall into these traps. So, being aware that they exist is crucial for creating clear, compelling messaging.
A fluff trap happens when content loses its focus and gets too wordy, too confusing, and too full of unnecessary details. Sometimes, these traps are difficult to spot — you might think you’re providing helpful background information, but you’re actually leaving your audience confused. And a confused reader is never an engaged reader.
Let’s explore two of the sneakiest but most common ways content creators can find themselves in fluff traps. And don’t worry! If you find yourself trapped, check out our editing tips that will help you get your fluffy content back on track.
Fluff Trap #1: Overexplaining complex ideas
Some content creators are communicating technical, complex information, often to an audience without a highly technical background. These writers ― correctly ― try to stay away from industry-speak and jargon, but often end up using too many words to explain an idea. Or worse, they end up talking around the issue instead of getting to the meat.
Unpacking complex ideas can take practice (and multiple drafts). If you’re a financial advisor or attorney, you may be wary of oversimplifying a multifaceted issue. The trick is to think small. Instead of explaining the whole issue, try to provide enough information to answer one small question. Once you’re done, invite your audience to learn more through further engagement.
The best way to create content that expertly breaks down complex ideas is to have a crystal-clear understanding of who your audience is and their specific questions. Ask yourself:
- What’s their reading and education level?
- Are they native English speakers?
- What specifically do they need to know?
If you’re not sure exactly who you’re addressing, you won’t be able to simplify information for them. And if you’re unsure of their needs, meeting them becomes much harder. You’ll be amazed how helpful it can be to picture your reader before you begin to explain sometime to them.
Fluff Trap #2: Providing too much context
The second easy way that fluff sneaks into content is when the writer attempts to provide context or details that just aren’t necessary.
Imagine someone types in a Google search wondering “how to change a flat tire.” The search results include a tire company that has a roadside assistance blog series with a page specifically on “how to change a flat tire.” Great! But, instead of providing the simple list of directions you need, the post explains how tires have evolved in structure through time, plus a section on various unsafe road conditions. While the topic still relates to tires, the content explains too many unnecessary details that don’t relate to how to change a flat tire.
Tangents like these are the enemy of direct, helpful content.
Sometimes content creators get wordy, because they want to help as much as possible. So, the answer becomes to give them all the information we know — rather than only the information that’s relevant in that exact content moment. While the tire company may have wanted to encourage stranded motorists to exercise caution, what they did instead was talk about (relatively) unrelated matters. If you find your content filling up with long-winded descriptions or tangents, you’ve fallen into a fluff trap.
Imagine each piece of content as a step-by-step set of directions with a destination of fulfilling their specific need. To build your roadmap, try listing out the specific questions you want to answer. As you read through your content, evaluate whether each sentence is a helpful step. Does it help the reader get closer to a better understanding of the issue? If not, you might need to cut some language. Keeping that destination in mind will help you spot extraneous information.
Creating fluff-free content requires diligence and some ruthless editing. But, the end result is well worth the effort: clear and effective content that invites your audience in, teaches them something, and leaves them wanting more.