This guest post is by Marya Jan of Writing Happiness.
Let’s face it; most blog posts that are currently being put out are simply b-o-r-i-n-g.
Dull. Unexciting. A big fail when it comes to keeping our attention.
The blogger is writing about a worthwhile topic no doubt, but the writing does nothing for the reader. It fails to engage, or draw you in. Even when you are supposed to be paying attention, you really aren’t. You keep on thinking about what else is out there. Your mind is wandering.
The writer is unable to form a connection and you end up clicking away. Hardly surprising, is it?
A tiny number of people are getting it right, though. They open their posts with a bang. They are spot on with their calls to action. Before you know it, you have read every single word and you wonder what happened to logging off for the day.
People like Jon Morrow, and Sonia Simone, and Darren himself. They are masters of engagement. They are talking directly to you. Only you.
How on earth do they do it? How do they make you stay put even though your pots are boiling over and your kids are screaming for dinner? Turns out they have quite a few tricks up their sleeves.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Write like you talk—only better
You have probably heard this advice before, but we will take it up a notch here. Dig a little deeper. What does exactly it mean to write like you talk?
1. The most important word in blogging is “you”
Address you audience. Imagine you are sitting across the table from a really close friend, and write your post for them. You are allowed ask rhetorical questions, but cut down on ums and ahs. It makes for poor talking and appalling writing.
2. Mirror their responses
Say things like, “so you feel like nobody’s paying attention …” or “I know crafting effective calls to action can be really hard.”
What have your readers been telling you? Use some of their language to reflect that you are paying attention.
3. Use contractions
Some people hardly ever use any. They stay proper, but that’s not how you talk to a friend. Use don’t, isn’t, it’s. Make it less stilted. Make it flow better and sound like human speech.
4. Be bold with exclamatory phrases
By this, I mean things like “Oh no!” and “Holy cow!”
Psst! Watch some reality TV or reporting shows. See how they keep you glued to the set with exclamations.
5. Ignore your high school English teacher—within reason
Your old English teacher was right when she told you to choose the right word, make it vivid and interesting and add adjectives to your prose.
This is not something you should mess with. You can, however, get away with breaking some rules of grammar. You just need to know which.
5. Use fragments
Like this one. Believe it or not, it is fine to use them even if you are not actually saying them out loud.
6. Start your sentences with a conjunction
But that is not grammatically correct, you say. Well, this is one of those rules.
7. Stay away from adverbs
On most occasions that add nothing to your writing. Most of them are redundant like scream loudly, sigh sadly. Use sparingly.
8. Don’t be afraid to use a bit of slang, but don’t go overboard
9. Use exclamation points when necessary
Cut back on the usage though. Dramatically.
10. Write at an eighth-grade reading level
Reader’s Digest does it. So can you. Keep it simple.
11. Avoid being formal
Instead of saying however, moreover, or furthermore, say but, so, or then. We are aiming for conversational here. Get a dialogue going.
12. Avoid jargon
Corporate lingo, marketing speak, gobbledygook. Call it what you want, if it is unintelligible, it has no business being there.
13. Use short words
Leave the thesaurus alone. Stephen King suggests picking the first word that comes to mind (in most cases). That’s gold.
14. Don’t be wordy
Notice how eyes begin to glaze over when it happens in face-to-face conversations?
Same is the case in the virtual world. Keep it tight; nobody likes people who ramble.
15. Don’t use the passive voice
Consider these options:
- A decision was made vs. I decided.
- Your email has been received vs. we have received your email.
- Your response is appreciated vs. we appreciate your response.
Which sounds better? You decide (or, it has to be decided by you)!
16. Avoid monologue (keep paragraphs short)
You are not really having a conversation, we get it, but does it have to come across like a lecture? Keep your paragraphs short. Talk to readers, not at them. Don’t preach.
17. Forget about being politically correct
“He or she” is fine. Nobody will say anything, I promise.
18. Show off your personality
Pretend you are writing an email to a close friend. What’s different about this writing? It’s more authentic, more genuine, more you.
19. Don’t use words that you won’t use while talking
Is it something you’d say to somebody’s face? If not, it might be a good idea to skip it.
20. Use phrases that only you would use
Put your unique stamp on all your writing.
21. Ask hard-to-answer questions
Exercise tough love. Make their brains hurt!
22. Watch your tone
Snarky, inspirational, flippant, self-deprecating, tough … how do you want to come across? Carry it throughout your piece. Be consistent.
23. Take a stand
Say what you mean. What’s the point otherwise?
You are writing for the most important person there is—your reader. Do you want to be clever or engaging? The choice is yours.
Marya Jan is a blogging coach for solopreneurs, small business owners and start-ups. Find more of her stuff at Writing Happiness. Don’t forget to grab her free ebook ‘9 NEW RULES OF BLOGGING – How to Grow Your Business with Little traffic, No connections & Limited hours’.