5 Tips on 21st Century Writing

Learn 5 useful writing tips to strengthen your ads, articles and website.
Latest posts by Steve Wyrostek (see all)

Since so many small business owners write their own ads, articles, marketing collateral and website copy, below are five writing tips to get your writing in sync with the 21st Century customer.

5 Writing Tips

Write Strong Beginnings   

Allegedly, you have four seconds to hook a reader. If that’s true, the beginning of your copy has to be the strongest. This means the headline.

The following two headline writing tips may help you craft something that will entice your prospect to buy:

  • Appeal to your reader’s self interest. This means they will gain an edge, solve a problem or avoid a loss by reading further.
  • State a benefit. Be very clear about this. What will the reader gain by reading this piece?

Here’s an example: Before you swallow another diet pill, you must read this free report.

This appeals to the reader’s self interest (that diet pills may not be good for you) and focuses on an immediate benefit to the reader (a free report).

More material exists on headlines (I even took an entire class on the subject!), but these two are the most relevant.

Be Active

With your verbs, I mean. Stay away from the state-of-being verbs “is” and “are” as much as possible. You may not realize it, but they can lull the reader to sleep. Passive sentences should comprise less than ten percent of your writing piece. (Note: This piece has 6% passive sentences.)

Informality Works

It’s the trend of the world. Have you noticed it on text messages? LOL (lots of laughs or laugh out loud), thx (thanks), kwl (cool) and G2G (got to go).

For many written pieces it’s ok to begin a sentence with “and,” “but” or “because.” It’s ok to use contractions. They reduce formality. Actually, in many writing situations the closer you get the writing to your talking style, the better they read.

Writing like this connects you to the reader. And that’s what you want.

Subtlety and Cleverness Decrease Effectiveness

Many examples of this can be found in advertising. Where you remember the commercial but forget the product being sold.

For example, what if I used copy that began with: Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

Not only is it a cliché, but what does it mean to the reader? There may be some kind of connection with your product or service, but why make the reader think about what that might be? Make an obvious connection between what your reader wants and what you offer.

Being direct works.

Avoid Clichés

I’m not just saying this because it’s my company name. Clichés are boring.

Have you ever heard the saying that everything after eighth grade is a rerun? That’s the way I think of clichés. You’ve read or heard them so much over your lifetime, they begin to wear you out. I’ve read copy where almost every line is a cliché. I’ve seen company slogans that are clichés (Our Secret is Our Service, No Job Too Big or Small, etc.).

But to really hear cliché-ridden comments, just listen to any football player’s interview before a playoff game. That’s a cliché clinic right there.

I’ll tell you though, clichés are tough to avoid, even when you’re conscious of them. They seep in.

Work at It, and Reap the Benefits!

All five of these tips require attention, awareness and work. The results, though, can increase your revenue and improve your company image.

That’s worth deleting a few clichés, don’t you think?

Want more writing tips? Check out Rich Sloan’s recent interview of Steve for some quick-hitting website copy do’s and don’ts.

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