5 facets of compelling copy

To make your content resonate with more readers, craft scintillating headlines, vary sentence length, answer pressing questions, and respect their time.

Your content deserves recognition, but how do you grab attention when there is a staggering amount of competition for the same eyeballs?

The answer is to make sure everything you produce is energetic, enticing and useful enough to cut through the clutter. Your content should compel readers to take notice and take action. Of course, you also want them to want to return.

Here are five tips to help you in that endeavor:

1. Write a compelling headline.

Headlines and subject lines often make or break your content. As Larry Kim writes on Medium:

Your headlines shouldn’t be an afterthought. Content that has a catchy headline is more likely to be clicked on and read. A boring headline pretty much guarantees nobody will read that piece of content you spent so much time writing.

Kim makes the case for emotional words and phrases in headlines. “Emotions make people click and engage,” he writes, and he uses data to make the case for specific phrases, including “make you cry,” “melt your heart,” “give you goosebumps,” and “can’t stop laughing.”

2. Use sentence length to vary the rhythm of your writing.

“Short and broken sentences add energy to your writing,” writes Henneke at Enchanting Marketing, who compares writing to composing music:

To change the mood in a musical piece, a legato playing style can be interrupted by a few notes of staccato. The same is true in writing. When you only write long sentences, you slowly lull your reader to sleep. By interrupting a calming flow with a few ultra-short sentences, you attract attention to your point. You wake your reader up.

3. Use active voice.

Phil Jamieson, on Business 2 Community, provides a vivid example of how perilous the passive voice can be:

‘You are loved.’ Writing that in a valentine to your beloved instead of ‘I love you’ likely will have a similar effect as giving a bouquet of roses with petals that are curling and turning brown—the thought may be there, but the desired effect loses some of its impact. That’s what can happen with passive voice.

In addition to being a romance destroyer, the passive voice kills energy. Passive voice makes it unclear who is performing the action (or feeling the emotion).

The passive voice does have a place in writing, though. “Sometimes you want or need the subject to be ambiguous or want to emphasize the object, in which case passive constructions make sense,” Jamieson says, “but too often writers use passive voice unconsciously, leading to awkward, vague or bloated sentences that make the meaning harder to understand.”

4. Envision your reader as being extremely impatient.

“It’s easy to think your readers are browsing for fun and enjoyment,” writes Hassan Ud-deen at Problogger. “That they’ll read every word of your post, but that’s just not true.”

Ud-deen suggests picturing a reader “who is juggling a screaming baby on his lap, has dozens of tasks to finish, and is ready to click on that big red ‘X’ button the second your post doesn’t provide the solution to his problems. This simple mindset shift will help you create more reader-friendly content from the get go. You’ll be sure to keep his pains and problems in mind, which means you’re less likely to have fluffy, bloated writing that bores his ear off.”

5. Provide answers.

According to Zach Bulygo and Sean Work, writing on the Kissmetrics blog, people consume content for the same reason they read nonfiction or use search engines—to find answers to their questions.

“Read any title and subtitle of a non-fiction book or article. Ultimately, what it leaves the reader with is a question or a sense of curiosity,” they write. “It is then the author’s job to deliver answers and have supporting information.”

They advise content creators to write with their visitors’ questions—and answers—in mind.

“When people are reading a blog post, viewing an infographic or watching a video, they want an answer so they can gain knowledge,” they write. “Make your content easy to scan so people can pick up the juicy, important bits quickly.”

Kristen Dunleavy is the senior content marketing manager for Moveable Ink. A version of this post first appeared on Moveable Ink’s blog.


Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.