Why words matter in the digital world

Updated: Oct 27


This article was featured in issue #1 of my monthly e-newsletter Kynde Mail.


A few weeks ago, I reached out to my friends in Asia, Europe and North America with this question:


“Does writing still matter in a digital post-COVID world?”


This question was inspired by an article I read on The Economist about why writing matters to remote work. Having specialised in content marketing for half a decade and now offering copywriting services as a solo entrepreneur, I couldn’t help but wonder if, and how, words still matter in our post-COVID digital world.


When I began conceptualising content for Kynde Mail (subscribe here), I wanted to write about copywriting and content marketing that reflected, not just my thoughts and opinions, but also yours. I am blown away by all of you who have generously shared your personal thoughts with me whether you believed writing mattered or not.


 

Some of you believed that the role of writing or word-heavy content has diminished since video became the king of content. Word content also tends to communicate more serious or complex topics (think news and information-based content), providing less entertainment value, therefore less engagement and attention from the audience willing to spend time reading long-form pieces.


And I agree. Although I love to read and I always have a book next to me out of habit, watching cat videos is just pure joy! Depending on the client/audience/industry I work with, videos can yield better results and ROI than text. In fact, understanding your audience is vital to determine what type of content works for your brand, be it writing or videos.


On the other side of the coin, many of you strongly believe that writing still matters, if not, is just as important as video content. Here are some of your thoughts:

  • “Writing will always be crucial for any creative team."

  • “With COVID, much joy can be amassed through words with loneliness and sorrow shared is halved."

  • “Good writing can connect people and connect brands with people.”

  • “Going forward to be relevant means one has to write succinctly and powerfully as well as creatively.”

  • “The digital world can be more literal at times and can make everything simply visible. Writing and the digital worlds need balance and should coincide.”

 

Most of the time, when we think about writing, we think about literature, fiction, poems, books – you know, actual writing – writing as an art form. But writing, like most artistic practices, also serves as an essential tool for communication.


Writing emails, reports, marketing strategies and such are all part of the spectrum of writing. The difference is the intention and purpose. Just like how music serves a different purpose when played in a concert hall vs. a shopping mall.


But whether we are writing a short story or website copy, writing is crucial for us to communicate our thoughts, ideas and critical information with each other. What’s more, writing, like drawing or dancing, remains a distinctly human thing to do.


When we read someone’s writing, we are also connecting with that person through words – just like how I am connecting with you through this article now. Words help us bridge the human experience gap, especially when the digital world becomes the only channel for us to stay connected with each other.


In content marketing, words offer a human touch to our digital content and connect brands with people. While an image can convey a thousand meanings, words can precisely communicate our ideas, messages, values and emotions. Images and videos expand our visual horizon, indulging our eyes to wander around various colours, patterns and textures. Words help us focus on what matters.


As content marketers, we are constantly competing for a few precious seconds of our audience’s attention span to spark their interest in our content and branding. Publishing eye-catching images and videos can capture their attention, while good writing provokes their interest and thinking.


But I’m not saying that writing is the fairest of them all. Rather, the role of writing has changed and shifted as our culture and technology progress. The role of writing now weaves interchangeably between a creative practice, a form of self-expression and a functional tool.

 

Currently, there are different types of writing involved in content creation that borrow the art of storytelling with the practicality of communicating ideas in an authentic and concise way. Together with other skills like SEO, writing in the digital world has evolved to a hybrid creative practice that combines creative and functional skills, such as cleverly peppering keywords in online articles that:

  • Talks about a specific topic written and structured creatively

  • Allows more people to discover your content and brand on Google Search

Even when video is the king of content, writing is still the queen. The combination of words and visuals, when done correctly, creates a compelling online content experience. Rather than favouring one over the other, content diversity is the key for brands to forge meaningful connections with their audience and offer a human touch that many of us crave in the endlessly isolating digital world.


The importance and value of good writing have not changed. Whether spoken, typed or handwritten, the role of writing will continue to shift together with our needs and desires.


What do you think about the role of writing in the digital world? Share your thoughts with me and let's start chatting!