Is Your Freelance Writing Timeless?

timelessIs your writing timeless?

By timeless I mean, will your content be meaningful to readers ten or twenty years from now?

An example of writing that is already losing its meaningfulness would be an article about how to program a VCR. Or going back even further, a magazine article about how to operate an eight-track tape player.

Since most people now use DVD players Since most people now listen to music through streaming services and even fewer people use DVD players or eight-track tape players, these topics now have a limited audience (although there was a time when they may have been popular). (Updated post in February 2014) In five or ten years, articles on these topics will have an even smaller audience.

If you’re like me, most of what you write will be dated at some point in time.

That’s okay, as long as both you and your client understand the difference between creating content that will become obsolete and content that is timeless.

Just in case you don’t, here are some ways to avoid dating your writing:

  1. Avoid product references. Products come and go. Features change. Example: Rather than write an article about a specific money management software, write an article with general tips about managing your money.
  2. Avoid references to current personalities. Quickwho lost the presidential election of 1988? Do you remember? Neither do most other people. Unless a celebrity has been a household name for at least five years, using their name will date your piece.
  3. Avoid using too many slang words. Every generation has its own unique way of communicating. Sometimes slang words catch on and become mainstream. More often, they slip from usage and become meaningless.

Here are some tips to keep your writing timeless:

  • Focus on universal aspects of your content. Some human problems never change. Write about those. Ignore problems that are likely to be specific to a particular time period.
  • Picture your audience. Would your child understand this article? How about your grandmother? The more people that you can envision reading and getting something from your writing, the more likely it is to be timeless.

Other great posts to help you write timeless articles and posts:

Contents (c) Copyright 2008, Laura Spencer. All rights reserved

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  1. Pingback: All Freelance Writing: Your Freelance Writing Resource: » Freelance Friday - August 29, 2008

  2. Great advice, Laura!

    A good part of our content should be of this type, because though people do appreciate info on things that are popular here and now, the things that last are those that never change–the truths that we can continue to appreciate down the road.


  3. Excellent reminder, Laura. We often live too much in the moment. Today’s “value-added proposition” could be tomorrow’s “exceptional add-on,” etc….

  4. Hi Jeanne and Lori!

    First of all, thanks for being genuine comments and not spam. 😉 (I’m getting far too much spam these days.)

    I do understand that some clients need dated writing, but I think it’s less often than most would suppose.

  5. Kind of agree, yet kind of disagree. I don’t think writers should get too hung up on making their writing timeless. Writing can still be relevant for a long time even if it was written for a particular time and place.

  6. I agree in some respects. I believe these are all useful tips. Part of why we can read a classic book or watch a timeless movie and have them still resonate with us comes from the elements you describe.

    However, in my own writing, I don’t like to make it a priority to write something that’s what one might consider timeless. After all, to address current issues that are in the here and now (and which may eventually become obselete) is equally important. Sometimes a ‘moment’ is more important than an ‘eternity’.

  7. Hi Cmdweb, Salwa, and Janine!

    You make interesting points. However, the problems at the core of most “current” issues are issue timeless. That’s why we can still relate to novels written over a hundred years ago.

    Of course, there will always be some dated writing and a market for it. If I client wants me to write that way, then I probably would.

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