In case you didn't know, 2016 is a leap year. So why not make it the year your writing leaps off the page? It’s easier than squats and the juice diet and an awful lot more fun.
Here are three ways to do it.
1. Be relevant
Before you do anything, decide why you’re writing, who for and what those people need to know. For example: your boss has asked you to launch the new Miracle Fat-Melter (why). So you want to tell everyone on your mailing list (who) about the benefits of using the product and how to order it (what).
A word of warning about the ‘what’: we often think people need to know much more than they actually do. So we over-share. To avoid this, make a list of all the points you’d like to make. Now go back and choose the 3-5 things people really have to know, right now. Write them down, with the most important point first. And leave it there. If people want to know more, they’ll ask.
2. Be clear So you’ve got something relevant to say. To say it in a way that’s simple, to the point and free of corporate blah:
Break it up. Use short sentences with no more than one idea in each. And use subheadings to break up longer sections of text. It’ll be easier for your readers to take in what you say, even if they just scan the piece quickly.
Use natural, everyday language. If you’re not sure what this means, think about how you’d explain the Miracle Fat-Melter to a friend in the pub. Would you say it ‘assists in eliminating fat on the anterolateral flank’? Or that it ‘helps you to lose your love handles’?
Use the active voice to make it clear who’s doing the action in each sentence. (‘We’ve tested our Miracle Fat-Melter’, not ‘Our Miracle Fat-Melter has been tested’.) It’s much easier to understand and makes you sounds more honest and straightforward. Even when you're flogging a product called the Miracle Fat-Melter.
3. Be lively So far, so plain English. Now’s the time to add some va-va-voom. Try these tricks:
Inject some personality into your writing. Go back to your friend in the pub (not literally – you’re at work). How might you tell them about the product? Describe how it’s transformed someone’s life? That’s storytelling. Refer to something that has similar characteristics? That’s metaphor. Think about how you could work these techniques into your writing.
Draw the reader in. You can’t beat an eye-catching headline for making people want to read on. (I’d still defy anyone not to read The Sun newspaper’s 1986 article, ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’.) Follow it up with quirky subheadings and you’ll keep your readers with you until the end.
Have fun. Writing lets us play with language like children in a sand pit. We can make puns (like this one about an outdoor retailer that went bust in January: ‘Now is the winter of our discount tents’). We can repeat ourselves (‘Education, education, education’) and alliterate (‘Getting the most out of your Miracle Fat-Melter’). We can even make up brilliant new words (omnishambles, lumbersexual, askhole). So get creative and have fun with language. Your readers will thank you for it.
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