700 Middle Schoolers Taught Me to Write for “Boring” Industries

Over 1500 people shared this boring blog post I wrote about thermostats. How many people are sharing your “boring” content? Could that number be even bigger?

thermostatOf course writing about air conditioning or software isn’t as sexy as writing about fashion, food, or travel.

But that’s no excuse to create snoozeworthy content. In fact, content for “boring” industries can be highly engaging and shareable.

I taught 7th and 8th grade science for 4 years, so I know a thing or two about making “boring” stuff interesting (rock cycle? *yawn*).

In this post, I’ll show you how I write content for “boring” industries.

1. It’s not your job to be exciting. It’s your job to be relevant.

Much like middle schoolers, your customers don’t care what you have to say — even if you sing and dance — unless it’s relevant to them.

Take thermostats for example: thermostats are excruciatingly boring. No one reads about thermostats to be entertained. People read about thermostats when they get a $200 electric bill. That’s why my article on “Making the Most of Your Thermostat” was shared over 1500 times.

But don’t take my word for it: this study from the New York Times Consumer Insight Group found that “entertainment” was the least common reason people shared content.

So how do you make your content relevant? Whether I’m writing for a B2B or B2C company, I always steal content ideas directly from my audience. Here are some of my favorite sources for content ideas:

    • Quora: find popular questions your audience is asking
    • Industry Twitter chats: hot discussion topics make great articles
    • Amazon reviews: address common complaints about products in your industry
    • Google autocomplete: see what people are searching for
    • Blog comments: use your content to join in on the conversation

2. Pick a fight.

Unless you want to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, you need to find a new angle on your content. Instead of saying the same things as everyone in your industry, pick a fight with a commonly held belief you disagree with. Be sure to back up your opinion with lots of proof. (Remember, controversy is good — but don’t be controversial just for the sake of it.)

Here are a few controversial headline ideas to get you started:

    • The Shocking Truth About [Your Topic]
    • The Worst Advice on [Your Topic] We’ve Ever Read
    • 5 Mistakes Most People Make When [Your Topic]
    • 7 Little Known Ways to [Your Topic]
    • 10 Common Myths About [Your Topic]
    • 21 Lies About [Your Topic] the “Experts” Made You Believe

3. Explain like I’m 5.

Industry jargon doesn’t make you sound smart. It doesn’t make you look like an “expert”. It makes you sound obnoxious. Next time you find yourself writing gobbledygook like “incentivize”, head over to Unsuck It to translate your business babble into plain English:


4. Use pictures.

65% of people are visual learners. So visual content — like videos, infographics, images, and charts — is helpful when it comes to making your content stick. (On the other hand, if your visual content is rotten tomatoes, it can do more harm than good.)

Fortunately, it’s not hard to create stunning visuals in a snap. Here are some of the best free tools:


Colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%. (Source)

5. Give concrete examples.

Most “boring” industries (like HVAC, software, and finance) are also highly technical. The easiest way to make your writing simpler? Give concrete examples. Don’t just tell your readers your product will “save money”. Show them in dollars how much money they’ll save, and what that means — like in this example:


6. Break up walls of text.

Even if your writing is engaging, no one will read it if it looks like a giant essay.

Make your content enjoyable to read by breaking up large blocks of text with headlines, paragraphs, images, and special formatting:

How often should you break up your text? As a rule, I don’t like to go more than 4-5 lines without adding some breathing room.

7. Be brief (or be ignored).

The average American consumes 34GB of content every day — enough to fill up an iPad. With attention spans as long as this sentence, stick to the 5W’s (who, what, when, where, why) and use an editing tool like Hemingway to remove the rest.

So here’s the recap:

    1. Be relevant by answering the questions your customers ask.
    2. Pick a fight with a commonly held belief.
    3. Explain it like your reader is 5. Use human speak instead of jargon.
    4. Use pictures, infographics, and video in place of (or alongside) text.
    5. Give concrete examples to support your point.
    6. Break up walls of text into readable chunks with headlines, paragraphs, and images.
    7. Be brief and edit out the fluff.

Do you work in a “boring” industry?

How do you keep your content interesting?


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