4 Writing Tricks That Immediately Set Your Web Copy Apart From the Crowd
The thing about web content is that no matter how great your writing is – it’ll always be ignored if it isn’t optimized properly.
Note how I wrote optimized instead of formatted.
Formatting your content for the web is so 2012. It’s no longer enough to write short sentences, use sub-headings, bullets, lists etc. It’s gotten a bit more complicated and requires a little more effort to stand out in the web content crowd.
Below are four writing tricks that have the power to immediately set your web copy apart from the crowd.
1. Telling stories
Who doesn’t love a good story?
A gripping tale catches the attention of readers and makes them care.
Whether you’re writing for a blog or for a corporation, everyone has a story to tell. Find a way to relate your story to your audience.
For every piece of online content you create, follow this simple procedure:
Entertain -> Engage -> Educate
Mess with the above order and you’re going to lose your audience. Nobody is going to listen to you if you don’t engage them. And they won’t be engaged with your content unless you entertain them.
Perhaps the best example of online storytelling is Brian Clark’s Copyblogger post The Snowboard, The Subdural Hematoma, And the Secret of Life:
Even after almost six years, this story has the power to put you on the edge of your seat.
Of course, no one can write such moving stories all the time – nobody’s life is that happening.
Instead, find a happy medium. Instead of life threatening scenarios, draw inspiration from everyday life. Maybe you overheard something at your local Starbucks, or someone left a comment online that made an impression. Maybe you saw an ant trek around a rock rather that over it or a child overcoming his fear of water.
Lessons and stories are everywhere. You just need to find a way connection.
Just a tip: Always start your story from the middle or the climax – whichever comes first.
The hero hanging off a mountain edge is a lot more interesting than the hero starting to climb one.
2. Opening with a short sentence
Now I know conventional web writing advice already says you need to write short sentences. However, there’s one trick that makes the most use of this advice and that’s opening with a short sentence.
They can vary in length but generally, the shorter the better.
They’re unexpected, easy to read and if left in a paragraph of their own have the power to grab the reader by the throat.
Seven to ten word sentences are great. Five word ones are even better. But do you know what really packs a punch? Three word sentences.
Here’s one by Pamela Wilson of Big Brand Systems:
Look, I know it’s tough.
You want to create a recognizable brand for your business. But you don’t have:
Darren Rowse of Problogger uses the same technique:
Do you have an inner critic? That little voice in your head that whispers in your ear as you write… chipping away at your confidence…
Then there’s Danny Iny who’s made this technique his signature:
- So you’ve got a brand-spanking new blog.
- A lot of entrepreneurs have a problem with marketing.
- Writing is a noble pursuit.
The above are examples from the guest posts he’s written. Take a look at any of his posts on Firepole Marketing and you’ll see that he almost always starts with a single sentence paragraph.
This one simple trick can set you apart from the crowd – and that’s all you need in this badly optimized world of web content.
3. Using soundbites
I learned this trick from Henneke Duistermaat of Enchanting Marketing. She’s a big believer in making concepts bite sized.
To quote Henneke:
A soundbite communicates the core of your idea.
You weed out irrelevant details and exceptions. You strip out cumbersome trains of thought. You force yourself to prioritize and find just the one sentence that’s the essence of your blog post. If your readers would remember one thing, then this would be it.
A sound bite is anything that can be said in a small sentence.
The last sentence is a perfect example of a soundbite.
Granted, this isn’t an easy trick to learn. It takes a lot of practice. But if you can strip your message down to one short sentence and give it rhythm, you’re well on your way to writing killer content.
4. Injecting personality
I can almost hear you groan. Injecting personality into writing has to be one of the toughest (and vaguest) tasks ever.
When I think of personality filled writing, I always think of Ash Ambridge.
Ash embodies everything I could ever hope to achieve as a writer in terms of personality. Pick any one of her posts and you can tell she’s fearless, outspoken, and even confrontational. She’s a force of nature.
Here’s an example from her post Get Yourself Some Enemies:
As outlandish as some of her writing is, it’s also very genuine. You can hear her talk to you when you read her blog. You can imagine her saying every single word she’s written.
She personifies the age old “write like you talk” adage.
But instead of being intimidated by her personality (and her writing by extension), learn from her.
Get out of your comfort zone a little. Record yourself having a conversation. Play it back and make note of any terms or phrases you use a lot. How long or short are your sentences? Do you run off on a tangent or do you stick close to the topic at hand?
Once you’ve picked up on all your little idiosyncrasies, style your writing accordingly. Granted, the first few times will be hard but with a little effort, you’ll be a pro in no time.
Writing Well and Standing Out in a Crowd
Both of these things are extremely hard to do. There’s just so much content out there!
But it’s not impossible. With a little effort (Okay, a lot) you can do it.
The good news is that if you achieve one, you automatically get the other.
So what’s it gonna be?
Learning new writing tricks and attracting the attention you want? Or comfortably swimming in the sea of mediocrity with no results?
The choice is yours.