The world of communications rarely stays still. The way content is created, shared and consumed is constantly changing as technologies advance and people become more sophisticated in how they approach information.
One thing never changes, however: Great writing always shines through. I’d argue engaging and entertaining prose is more important now than ever before.
We are being inundated with more information than ever before, but we still have the same amount of time on our hands to process information.
The result is content shock
. Because we have a finite ability to consume data, we are becoming much less tolerant of mediocre content. We can afford to be a lot pickier.
The simple fact is that sub-par writing is one of the first signs of ignorable content. The question is, can writing be easily improved? Can a writer adjust a piece to ensure it jumps out and enthralls readers? And can they craft content that is sure to drive real shifts in mindsets with key audiences?
The answer to all these questions is yes, but there’s no single quick fix to getting it right. After all, writing often is a highly personal and subjective activity.
Here a few top tips that could put you on track to drafting prose that makes people stop and take notice.
1. Start with an outline.
Before you start writing, set out a structure that lays out what you want to say from start to finish. It will help you develop a flow and avoid unnecessary diversions.
Also, ensure you mark out the narrative journey to readers with subheads and bullet points. It will make it easier to navigate and also help people pick out your key takeaways.
2. Vary sentence structure.
To reduce monotony when reading copy, people require variety in the sentences they are absorbing. Mixing up sentence structure keeps content lively and interesting, it also makes what you’re saying sound more human.
Vary length between points. Also, start with a short sentence to draw people in gently. Be sure to switch between simple, compound and complex structures regularly.
3. Avoid common grammatical errors.
This may seem obvious, but typos often slip in and can be missed in editing, as people often read sentences out loud in their head. Always watch out for those sneaky you’re
, and are
Tricks such as changing font type and text color can really help. Also, make sure you distinguish between editing for sense and editing for errors.
4. Cut wordiness…
In the age of content shock, "snackable content
" rules. Make your point succinctly, and then move to the next.
I once received a great piece of advice regarding the ideal length of a piece of copy: it should be long enough to get the reader to take whatever action it is you want them to take, and not one word more.
5. ...and cut again
You can often edit down further still if get you tough on those all-too-common unnecessary prepositions (whether small: for
; or big: beneath
Simple things such as replacing a prepositional phrase with an adverb can really help. Instead of “the child grabbed her coat in a hurry,” for example, why not try “the child hurriedly grabbed her coat”?
Cutting prepositions creates a more active, engaging voice and improves sentence flow. This article
has some useful tips.
6. Tailor tone to geography
This tip is important, but often ignored. Use the terminology and tone that is expected in the territory you are targeting. Don’t “reach out” to audiences in the United Kingdom, for example. Conversely, don’t be too formal when writing for audiences in the United States.
There is a whole host of rules for other territories across the globe that you should consider before you even think about translating a text. Take time to understand the tone people prefer in the market you’re targeting before you start drafting.
Here’s hoping these few tips help you take your writing to the next level.
Barry Maginn is an account manager at Barrett Dixon Bell (BDB), a B2B global marketing communications agency.