Whatever you’re writing, getting people to notice it is always the most important part.
As advertising legend David Ogilvy famously said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.”
So, once you’ve compelled people enough to read further than your advert headline, or move onto the second paragraph of your Linkedin post, or click into your email, job’s a good’un, right?
Nope. Get your feet off the coffee table. This is where the hard part begins.
After hooking people in with a big promise, a dash of intrigue or some creative wordplay, your words need to work hard for their money to keep your reader’s attention all the way to your call to action.
Because if they don’t, people will abandon you quicker than my Uncle Graham left my Auntie Carol when he found out she’d been sending sweet nothings to her former boss Gordon via a secret Facebook account. Oh Carol 🙈.
So, here are a few easy ways you can write in a more engaging way, to guide your readers gracefully from first word to last…
Write to one person
Think about your target audience. Pick one person from that audience. Give them a name if you like. Picture them in your mind’s eye.
Now, write directly to them, as if you were writing to only them. You’ll find yourself using a more familiar tone with more personal language than if you were writing to 10,000 strangers, all judging you.
Less “We”, more “You”
Have a look on LinkedIn today, and you’ll see companies saying: “We’re delighted to announce…”, or: “We’re proud to reveal…”, or the worst: “We believe…”
This is very bad practice if you want your readers to feel included.
People are selfish. They don’t really care about you as the writer, or even as the subject matter expert. They’re reading your ad, article or email because they want to get something out of it. They only want to know what’s in it for them.
As a rule of thumb, try writing “You” and “Your” five times as much as you write “My”, “We” or “Our”.
You know the personal language I just mentioned? I’m talking about the type of conversational lingo you’d use in a face-to-face chat. Like using conjunctions such as ‘and’ and ‘but’ at the start of sentences, because that’s what us humans tend to do in real life.
Look at the way I’ve written “You know” at the start of the last paragraph too. When you make your language less formal, it can feel a lot more like two friends having a gab, rather than a sales pitch.
Even switching formal words like “requirements” and “obtain” for “needs” and “get” can crank your tone down a bit, making your piece much easier to read.
Ditch the buzzwords
The moment you write a word that your reader doesn’t understand is the moment that they’ll begin to gloss over, because what you’ve written will seem irrelevant to them.
So go through your copy with a fine-tooth comb and question whether everybody who reads it will immediately “get” what you’re saying. You might be using words that are commonplace to you and your company, but gobbledegook to your audience.
If you’ve written a buzzword or concept that could cause confusion, you could explain it easier by using a relatable analogy.
Let’s say you’re writing about gut health and you’ve mentioned ‘prebiotics’. Rather than taking it for granted that every reader knows what these are, you could add: “… which help the good bacteria in your gut to grow, like a fertiliser inside your tummy.”
Make more breathing room
Just like you went hunting for buzzwords in the last point, you should read your copy back to see if it feels like a slog to read.
By slog, I mean, long waffly sentences and whopping great paragraphs that look like a wall of words. ‘Cos if you’re struggling to climb that word wall, imagine how your readers are feeling?
If your writing’s too hard to swallow, you should chunk up your text to make it more digestible…
• Mix up longer sentences with short ones.
• Keep paragraphs to no more than 50 words.
• Use numbered lists and bullet points (like these 😉).
Let people in on secrets
Everyone loves getting something for free. Especially when they feel like the only one on the receiving end of your generosity.
So, if you’re revealing new research or fresh insights, shout about it. Tell your readers that this information is exclusive, and never-before-seen, and they’ll find more value in what you’re writing.
And there you go.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to keep people interested in what you’ve written. Just a few tweaks to your body copy, and they’re way more likely to stick around.
Unlike Uncle Graham.