I was taught to write by a tabloid journalist. It’s not something I always share with people because tabloid is a bit of a dirty word. (Journalist can be too, for that matter).
But, as much as I disagree with some of their reporting methods and their content, the fact is that tabloid journalists can write. Not like Shakespeare or Virginia Woolf, but hard-hitting copy for a fast-paced world.
Yuk, you might be thinking.
And I guess if that is your response this blog might not be for you because I’m going to talk about how to “sex up” your content, how to give it pace and punch, how to make your reader want to keep reading.
This last bit is the killer. Because whatever you’re writing about, if your reader doesn’t keep reader, all of your efforts are a bit of a waste of time. So, what is it that makes a reader keep reading?
- Hook your reader
In journalism (and in PR) we talk about hooking the reader. Imagine a bit fat fish swimming around in a pool with lots of other fish. The only way a fish is going to end up in your net is if you hook it out of the pool. And the only way it’s going to do that is if there is a big fat juicy worm wriggling on the end of your hook.
So, when you write your first paragraph, stop to think “is there a big, fat, juicy worm that I’m dangling in front of the reader that is going to make her bite?” If not, it’s worth giving a bit more thought to your intro. Tell them what the article/blog/webpage is all about at the beginning so they can decide if it is for them or not.
- Keep it short
Have you noticed how life just seems to keep getting busier and busier? As well as all of the demands on our time that people have always had – family, children, work, friends – there is now a kind of information overload that comes from living in an online world. That’s why it’s essential to keep your copy short.
Even the most interested reader probably won’t have time to wade through pages of text. If they like what you say and how you say it, the chances are they will come back and visit again. If you can get them to leave their contact details so you know who they are, so much the better.
- Use the rule of three
Until it was pointed out to me I was unaware of the power of three. But now I know about it, I see it everywhere. Our brains like things arranged in threes and the number three is surprisingly ubiquitous right from when we are young – A,B,C; 1,2,3; Father, Son and Holy Ghost, bronze, silver and gold, and so on. Listen out for it and you will hear powerful speakers, writers and politicians use it a lot:
- I came, I saw, I conquered (Julius Caesar, 47BC
- “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.” (Obama victory speech 2008)
If you look at paragraph three (spooky!) of this blog, I used it here. You will notice that there are three “rules” presented here. The power of three is working away behind the scenes in much of what you read and hear.
It’s worth being aware of it and using it where you can, without forcing it of course.
In conclusion, there are many ways of sexing up your copy, these are just three. I am following my own advice and keeping it short. But, if you’d like to know more sign up for my newsletter. I’ll be giving regular content writing tips and also developing short, invaluable ebooks for anyone who needs to know how to write great content.
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