Gloria Estefan understands it. So do most popular musicians. But it’s a practice some writers—even highly successful pros—don’t always execute well. I’m talking about rhythm. If a song doesn’t have a recognizable rhythm or motivate people to sway to the…
Everyone wants their content to stand out in the crowded marketplace. But it’s tough to rise above the din if the copy comes across flat and uninspired. Here are a few ways to give your writing some spark and an appealing personality.
- Make it conversational
The most engaging content uses everyday language and a conversational tone. This is in contrast to “corporate speak” and “mission statements,” which are best suited for formal business documents.
Consider your target audience, then write as if you’re speaking directly to them (just make sure the grammar is tidy once you’re done editing).
Put the conversational tone to the test by reading your work aloud. Stumbling over a particular phrase or sentence is a sign that you need to do some close editing. Sentence restructuring or word substitutions can help the writing flow more smoothly.
- Get rhythm
Although some people are long-winded, we don’t usually don’t speak in Shakespearean soliloquies. When we have conversations, our sentences tend to be short.
This is also true for good writing, with some variety to gently propel the reader forward. In general, aim for a sentence length of about 18 words and paragraphs of three sentences.
Mixing short and long sentences will help your writing sound natural and rhythmic to your reader’s inner ear. Check your document’s Flesch-Kincaid’s Readability Statistics to find ways to shorten and simplify your work.
- Add some color
If you’ve ever read a police report, you’ve probably noticed they’re rather bland and impersonal documents (“Just the facts, ma’am”).
To avoid copy that covers all the bases but sounds dull and lifeless, take a close look at areas that might be improved by inserting more descriptive or colorful language that appeals to the senses. Practice “showing” instead of “telling” to make a point.
For example, I recently interviewed an oncology nurse about his profession, which he clearly loves. He could have just told me, “I love my job. Wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.” Instead, he said, “Oncology nurses don’t look for greener grass on the other side. We’re already on that patch.”
You can bet I used the latter quote to show readers his passion for his career.
- Craft a hot headline
There’s a big difference between news headlines and marketing headlines. Consider these examples:
“Diet is associated with risk of depression” (ScienceDaily.com)
“Junk Food Blues: Are depression and diet related?” (MayoClinic.org)
Since the headline is the first thing readers see, it’s important to make it as attention-getting as possible. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Science Daily headline, the Mayo Clinic header is more likely to make readers wonder if there’s something in the fridge they should toss. They’re hooked and want to know more.
The Mayo Clinic headline also uses language playfully. That’s one of several headline writing methods that can entice readers to dive into your content.
- Avoid editing by committee
We all know the phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth.” A writer might say “too many editors spoil the content.” When multiple editors add their two cents by making edits or additions, the writers’ voice becomes diluted.
Over-editing is like adding water to whisky—a few drops might enhance the palate, but pouring water in by the spoonful only spoils the drink. And readers can usually spot changes in flavor.
While it can be hard to limit the number of people who need to approve copy, encourage them to look at content for accuracy, not style. That will help preserve the personality of the piece.
How do you insert personality into your writing? What are some of the strategies you use to make your content stand out? Let us know in the comments section below.