Writing compelling content intimidates people. For many, it seems out of reach. I’ve been writing content for 28 years, and through a lot of successes and failures, I’ve learned a few tricks to make my content more approachable.
Here are 5.
1. Keep it simple.
One habit that hinders compelling content is superfluousness. For some reason, we feel it necessary to say more than we need to. For compelling copy, keep it simple. If you need to say something, say it; don’t fill it with weak words that slow down the reader and dilute your message. Don’t say “I took many quick, long strides” when ”I ran” does a much better job.
2. Take ownership.
Avoid the passive voice. When you write something like “The apple was eaten”, it weakens the message. No one is taking ownership of the action. If you’re the subject, then make that clear (“I ate the apple.”). Bold copy is compelling copy.
3. Be descriptive.
This advice may, on the surface, seem to contradict point #1, but you can be descriptive without being wordy. Compare “I was very hungry” and “I was famished”. Or how about “He was quite taller than Sue” and “He towered over Sue”. Make it easy for people to picture the point you’re trying to make.
4. Use variety.
Avoid using the same words. I’ve edited hundreds of business documents, and a common issue that crops up in business writing is repetitive use of certain words. Visit thesaurus.com and use some of their suggestions. For example, why use “innovative” in every paragraph when you can use “leading-edge”, “state-of-the-art”, “pioneering”, “groundbreaking”, “original”, and a host of other synonymous. Heck, for that matter, why not bring back “radical”?
5. Consider parallels.
Readers love patterns. Particularly, they love patterns where the constructing components match. It’s why these words of Martin Luther King inspired so many:
[Let] freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
Notice the similar structure. Each sentence begins with the same five words. The words that follow them use the same pattern: descriptive adjective, noun having to do with mountains, and an American state. This is parallelism, and it’s what makes copy memorable. So, the next time you’re tempted to write “I like painting, running, and books,” remember what it lacks and what can improve it.
These are 5 of the tricks I use to write compelling content. What tips do you have? Share them in the comments below.
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