At only 23, I can safely say like a man twice my age and experience, I’ve seen some bad writing out there, both on personal blogs and business copy. It’s easy to understand why. Anyone can create content – it takes 10 minutes to set up a free blog, where one can write to their heart’s content, with their social media networks acting as a ready-made audience. For many this can feel like a bit of a catch 22 situation – you feel your business can benefit from the power of content, but you’re not confident in your writing abilities. No need to worry.
Let me show you 5 killer ways you can quickly improve your copy, fast!
Pulp Fiction: arguably Quentin Tarantino’s best work, undoubtedly one of the greatest pieces of cinema ever made (rated 5th by Empire) largely accreditable to its non-linear storytelling brought full circle over a 2 hour period.
The end, beginning, middle, end of the beginning, middle-middle, end of the end which is technically the beginning. It’s truly nothing short of a masterpiece that turned pre-established norms of chronological storytelling on its head. If I ever write for Empire, I’ll come back to Tarantino’s genius. Anyway…
Your writing can’t follow suit.
Good copy has a clear, logical structure.
Intro, main body, conclusion.
I’ll give you a general idea of how the customer’s journey can go:
The individual discovers they have a problem and they need an answer.
Google search: I have a problem, please give me an answer, now.
Results promising enlightenment…
Option 1: an article waffling in and around the actual question, not really getting to the actual answer.
‘Jeez, I didn’t ask for your life story, pal’. The customer leaves the site, frustrated.
Option 2: a clear, concise article telling the reader what they’re getting, giving it to them and then a quick summary of the experience to finish.
Elsewhere in life, this might be considered disappointing, but when it comes to online content, it’s exactly what your readers want.
Why? Because people lead busy lives and get bored.
They don’t have time, nor the interest, to be wading through the sea of waffly thoughts to find the answers they need.
Your focus should be on making the process as simple as possible for the reader. If you find it difficult, you should begin by planning out your posts in advance. By organising your thoughts; you can determine which points are crucial to delivering your message, get rid of the ones you don’t need, find ways of interlinking your paragraphs and order them in a way that makes the most sense.
Beginning, middle, end.
2. Command Your Audience
Have you noticed I keep referring to you, as in the you that’s reading this right now? It’s important.
When someone talks directly to us we can’t ignore it. Good copy is no different – it grabs the readers attention, makes it a personal conversation and provides a call to action.
Look at these examples, here:
“a business owner looking to produce copy should probably look at commanding their audience”
It sounds like a Tannoy announcement: ‘a business owner looking to produce copy, please report to the customer service desk’. It’s wishy-washy, long winded and lacks confidence.
I could ignore that, walk straight out the front door. No action taken, no advice listened to.
It should read more like this:
“you need to command your audience”
This is the same sentence. However, I’ve made two major changes.
First, I’ve removed the addressing of the audience and replaced it with ‘you’. Why? Because the reader is on your blog, reading. If the post didn’t concern them, they could just leave.
But if it does concern them, now they know you’re talking to them, and only them. You’ve got their undivided attention.
Second, the wishy-washy language has been replaced with an imperative.
It adds confidence to your writing, which informs the reader that the solution to their problem depends on your call to action. And without it, they will fail.
3. Evidence Your Authority
So, now you’re in command. But people are funny creatures: they still need convincing.
‘What makes you so right, eh?’
This is where you need to demonstrate to your readers you’re not trying to pull the wool over their eyes using facts.
Facts serve 3 purposes:
- Raise your authority in your area of expertise
- Build yourself a reputation as a trustworthy source
- Strengthen your argument by providing supporting evidence
Basically, facts are hard to ignore (unless you’re a flat Earth supporter). They remove any lingering questions and worries a reader may have about your call to action.
However, if your facts are not sourced, from credible sources (that means no Wikipedia), or they’re out of date (or if you’re tempted to make them up) then you shouldn’t use them at all.
Unreliable facts can damage your writing and in that case, it may be much better to use other persuasive methods; like illustrating your points with hypothetical examples, asking thought provoking questions and appealing to their emotions.
good killer headline
Your headline is as important, if not more so than your posts themselves. Honestly.
I’ll tell you why.
80% of readers will never read past your headline. (Source)
And your readers must click through before they will even see your content! The headline is all you have to convince them that they should invest their precious time in what you have to say.
Clickbait websites do headlines better than just about anybody else. The articles themselves are usually dross. An arrangement of words, stretched out to delay the delivery of a more than underwhelming message. But that doesn’t stop you from clicking to find out, does it?
A great headline plays with your curiosity, by planting an idea in your head which you cannot yourself answer and make it irresistible not to find out the answer. They create a paradigm of power between the reader and the writer with the promise of lifting you to their position in exchange for a click through.
Now, I’m not encouraging you to adopt the clickbait method – far from it. I believe it can hurt your content more than it will benefit it. However, they’re a great example to illustrate how headlines can leverage curiosity to gain clicks and readers.
Here are a few pointers on how to create a catchy headline:
- Use numbers; 36% of readers said these were most successful feature determining their interest in an article (Source)
- Use punchy adjectives; amazing, epic, important, incredible, kick-ass, killer, simple…
- Don’t forget to address the reader
- Leave them in suspense
- Put yourself in your readers’ shoes, and think, does this make me want to read more?
Spend some time brainstorming different headlines you can create for your post, and see which ones catch your attention most.
5. Let Your Personality Shine Through
You, yourself, the voice in your head, are all human.
You are a human being after all. You have; likes, dislikes, pet peeves and guilty pleasures.
And your writing will be at its best when it reflects you.
Now, I understand this may feel like a daunting task for two reasons.
First, writing is a skill. It comes easy to some people, less so to others – but, like with anything, with practice, you will see improvement. The more you write, the easier it’ll become – you’ll settle into your own voice and be producing content with ease in no time.
Second, writing is often a personal experience and the idea of spreading it across the cruel, unforgiving, Mad Max wasteland that we call the internet can wreak havoc with your nerves.
It goes a little something like this:
Thoughts: What if I’m not funny? Am I trying too hard? Does this make sense? Is that really how it’s spelt? What if people don’t like it?
The perceived solution: Write like a robot. No mistakes can be made there, right?
Unfortunately not, no. People crave emotion – to love, to hate, to laugh, to cry, – and your personality has the power, simply by the virtue of them laying their eyes on your thoughts, to create a personal experience that appeals to their basic human instincts.
Good copy creates the illusion that you and your readers have an intimate bond and will make them want to read your posts again and again, and again. Being stiff as a board will bore your readers into finding their answers elsewhere.
Don’t be afraid. Naturally, you can’t please everybody no matter how hard you try. But everybody isn’t your target audience. By plucking up the courage to let your personality shine through in everything you write is the best way to create a genuine, loyal audience who care about what you have to say.
Take it from me, I’ve been in your shoes before.
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