As an author and writing coach, I'm a big fan of good writing. I love a well-structured sentence and the perfect choice of word. But writing isn't rocket science—and there are a few simple writing tricks you can use to write blog posts that are much more powerful and engaging.
Before we get into those nine tricks, though, here's the why behind it:
Fully engaged readers are more likely to remember your blog posts. They'll get real benefits—they'll learn something new, solve a problem, or feel inspired. When that happens, readers keep coming back again and again—and they'll tell their friends about your blog.
So try these nine tricks, and see for yourself what happens:
Writing trick No. 1: Use "you"
Yes, you probably know this trick already—but are you using it? Far too many blog posts and pages of Web copy are "I" or "we" focused like this:
In this post, I'm going to teach you…
We are a prize-winning company…
Some "I" language is fine. In fact, it's a good thing, as you'll discover in trick No. 2. But the balance of your post should focus on "you."
Want to see what I mean? Here's an example of how I could have written the previous paragraph, with the differences italicized:
Some "I" language is fine. In fact, it's a good thing, as I'll cover in trick No. 2. But the balance of the post should focus on "you."
This isn't bad writing, but there's a good chance you found the first version more engaging.
Writing trick No. 2: Use "I"
Don't get the idea that you should never use "I" (or "we" if you're writing on behalf of a company). Your readers are interested in you and your life—and in your qualifications or expertise.
Some writers think that using "I" is somehow forbidden. Although it's often discouraged (especially in academic writing), there's nothing wrong with "I" in blog posts or Web copy—and if you try to avoid it altogether, you might end up writing weak, passive sentences.
Here's an example:
The tests were conducted on several websites… (passive voice)
I conducted tests on several websites… (using "I")
It's often a good idea to throw in an "I" sentence near the start of your post or page, especially if your audience doesn't necessarily know who you are. (If you scroll back to the beginning, you'll see that the first sentence is, "As an author and writing coach, I'm a big fan of good writing.")
Writing trick No. 3: Use contractions
We use contractions all the time when we speak. "I'm" for "I am" and "don't" for "do not," for example. So in writing, contractions help you sound more conversational and friendly.
You might have been taught to avoid contractions in essays or other academic writing. Forget that—it's absolutely fine to use contractions in blog posts, pages of Web copy, sales copy, and so on.
Compare these examples:
If you've been taught that you shouldn't use contractions, give them a try—you'll find they give your post a different tone.
If you have been taught that you should not use contractions, give them a try—you will find they give your post a different tone.
Try reading those sentences slowly or even aloud. Does the second sound a bit stilted to you? By using contractions, you can instantly make your blog posts more engaging.
If you don't naturally write using contractions, use the "find and replace" tool to search for phrases like "I am" and "you will."
Writing trick No. 4: Use adjectives
If you've ever taken a fiction-writing class or read a book about writing fiction, you've probably been told to cut out the adjectives. And that's great advice—for fiction writers.
In your blogging, adjectives have a definite place: They're great in titles/headlines. They also work well in sales copy and can be handy in subheadings. Here are a few examples:
Your Sneak Peek Behind the Writing Course Doors
How to Write Massive Quantities on Demand
The Biggest Secret of Stellar Copywriting
Would those titles be as effective if you took out the words in bold? Nope.
Next time you write a title, add an adjective or two. This goes double for sales page headlines.
Writing trick No. 5: Use examples
When you add examples (or screenshots or case studies or whatever's appropriate) to your post, you make it easier for the reader to "get" what you're talking about. Concrete examples help readers apply what you're saying to their own situation.
Don't worry if you know that your example won't apply to most (or even many) of your readers. They'll still find it easier to learn from than an abstract description.
Here's an example of an example (meta, huh?) from Do You Have Useless Website Content?
Want an example? That first sentence used to read "every single word." Since 'word' is singular, saying 'single' was redundant. That's what you're looking for.
Writing trick No. 6: Use the imperative
The imperative is the tense used to give instructions. I sometimes think of it as "the recipe tense":
Weigh out 8 oz flour… Mix well… Stir in chocolate chips…
The imperative is a quick and powerful way to get your readers to take action. It's the difference between writing, "Why don't you try one of these tips today?" and, "Try one of these tips today."
Imperative tense makes you sound confident about the value of your content.
Next time you read a piece of sales copy, look for how often the imperative is used. You'll usually see examples like, "Click the button below to sign up," or, "Join now"—not, "You can click the button below to sign up," or, "Why don't you join now?"
Writing trick No. 7: Use repetition
Repetition can be tough to get right, so if you're trying this tip out, get a fellow blogger to glance at your post and see whether it's working.
In speech, we often use repetition to help a message stick. We also often combine repetition with the trick of using three things—called the "triad" in rhetoric. (In the U.K., a famous example is former Prime Minister Tony Blair's "Education. Education. Education.")
In a blog post, you won't use repetition quite as much. Because readers can easily go back and re-read, it doesn't make sense to repeat the same point over and over, but you can still use some repetition.
Here's an example—see the subheadings from James's post Your Sneak Peek Behind the Writing Course Doors.
You'll learn how to get readers to take action.
You'll learn how to get past the mental writing blocks.
You'll learn to find your writing voice and use it loud and clear.
You'll learn how easy it is to recycle for results.
Writing trick No. 8: Use patterns
Whenever your post contains several similar elements, like multiple subheadings or a list of bullet points, look for ways to make a pattern. (Repetition can come in handy here, as in the example for trick No. 7.)
Patterns help your writing seem organized and thought-out, and they add flow. This is especially important when you're writing a list of items. Take a look:
My top tips for blogging are:
- Post regularly but not daily.
- You can borrow the audience of bigger blogs by guest posting.
- Planning your posts before you write.
Can you see the problem? The three items in the list use three different formats. The first is in the imperative; it's an instruction to the reader. The second is a statement starting with "you," and the third begins with an "-ing" verb form.
The list looks messy and confusing. A better list would be:
My top tips for blogging are:
- Post regularly but not daily.
- Borrow the audience of bigger blogs by guest posting.
- Plan your posts before you write.
The content is exactly the same, but the pattern makes it flow more easily.
Writing trick No. 9: Use numbers
You probably already know that popping a number in a title makes it more engaging—but you can also use numbers throughout your post.
Using numbers, especially in lists, helps your reader engage with your content. Numbers let readers know how far through the post they are, and it gives them an easy reference to use if they want to say, "I really like No. 8," in the comments.
Numbers are also a great way to strengthen your claims. You could write, "I've seen an increase in subscribers since I changed my theme," or you could write, "I've gone from 200 subscribers, gaining two or three a day, to 700 subscribers, gaining around 15 a day, since I changed my theme."
Try at least one of these easy tricks your next blog post (or edit a recent post and work a trick or two in), and see the difference for yourself.
If you've got a favorite trick you use—or a new one to add to the list—then let us know in the comments.
This article first appeared on Men with Pens.