Are Your Readers Yawning? Fix It.
The exercise of writing can often feel more like an act: you go through the motions, you produce something, it’s readable, and it kind of communicates one or more points in the English language. But you weren’t really there while it was being formulated. You were probably rehashing often-used one-liners that somewhat connected with a fraction of your audience, and then sewed together the body by throwing in one or two ill-placed (and often unfunny) jokes or references. The conclusion, needless to say, is a mess of boilerplate and boring. We’re all guilty of it, of writing below our abilities, producing content that is not only dull and without inspiration, but often also fails to really communicate the lesson we’re trying to teach or the idea we’re trying to convey. Our language is expansive, and if used correctly, can offer amazing benefits to our businesses. But how do we get to the summit whereupon our content is at least nearly as strong as it should be? We’ve got a few tips to help you shake the old, smelly coat that is bad writing.
STOP USING CLICHES.
Be original. Search your brain for better words, catchier phrases, and fresher language. People will know it’s better writing, even if only subconsciously.
Know your audience.
Cater your language to what your audience can understand.
Do they like humor?
Do they like straight forward information?
Be straight-forward and informative.
Check your coherence.
Check it often. Re-read every paragraph and ask yourself, “Does this make sense?”
Writing should flow.
Make sure the ironic humor in your non-sequiturs and awkward transitions is apparent.
Don’t be sentimental.
Syrup belongs on your pancakes, not in your writing.
Re-read your long sentences…and shorten them.
Reading that requires as much energy as running a half marathon is no fun; your reader will abandon you halfway through the first sentence. For additional information, see this quote by Kurt Vonnegut: “Start as close to the end as possible.”
Stop using overzealous punctuation.
We’re talking to you, guy-who-always-uses-three-exclamation-points-instead-of-just-one.
Don’t be condescending in your language.
Don’t be afraid to play Devil’s Advocate; take a strong stance on your topic, even if it’s controversial, and deliver your reasons in a way that compels your reader.
Make your writing scannable—by “scannable,” we mean make sure each and every section houses a relevant, meaty point about your topic.
Headings, subheadings, bullet points, numbered lists, bolding, italics and underlining can help make dense content more skimmable.
Be engaged in what you’re writing about—that’s the only way the writing will be inspired and thus, more attractive to your reader.
Get engaged by doing research, having a conversation with someone about your topic, or making a list of everything you know about it.
Learn the power of the comma.
Use it wisely.
Learn the power of the semi-colon.
Use it sparingly.
Pithiness is an art; perfect the art.
Titles are important; a weak title paired with strong content is the same as a weak title paired with weak content.
Why? Because you have to catch the fish before you can eat it.
Always brainstorm titles.
Once you settle on a title, ask someone what they think of it.
If they aren’t enthusiastic, consider changing it.
Avoid cheesy word usage, unless you’re using the word ironically.
If you find yourself with writer’s block, consider re-imagining your content as a nothing more than a conversation between you and someone who needs the information you’re trying to convey.
Don’t use jargon.
You want your language to have a universal quality; jargon micro-focuses your language and will inevitably alienate at least some of your readers.
Don’t be afraid to utilize images.
People react faster and more strongly to visual content than to text alone.
Don’t be afraid to utilize videos.
Don’t shy away from negativity; readers tend to react more strongly to a headline that smacks of negative press than positive.
We’re sensational creatures, after all.
Understand that your first draft is exactly that—a first draft.
Perfection isn’t attainable anyway, so dismiss it as a goal.
Equal doses of flash and substance do better with readers than too much of either one.
Don’t rely on spellcheck to catch everything.
If you aren’t sure about a word’s spelling and spellcheck isn’t giving you any feedback, “give it a Googs.”
Don’t be afraid to be memorable, but not at the cost of being grammatically correct.
Compel your readers with noticeable wordplay when you can.
The chances of them coming back to your blog when you’ve interested them or made them laugh is higher than if you simply informed them.
Check your sources and check them twice.
Be watchful of your tone.
You never want to be the writer that is associated with “yellow” content.
Remember that you are representing your company with your content.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.”
What copywriting tactics have you learned or applied to your content marketing strategy?
image credit: michal marcol/freedigitalphotos.net