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 the​saurus​.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.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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