We writers love to shoot the breeze about how to pace online business writing, but the key point to remember is to make text as easy and pleasant as possible to read. Sentences need to vary in length, paragraphs need to be short, and there are various other techniques you can use to enhance the reader experience.
Here are 10 Quick Tips based on my own experience
1.With social media, shorter tends to be better if you’re just into commenting. On platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and even LinkedIn along with various others, people’s attention spans tend to be not much longer than those of a gnat’s. Keep the pace of your posts very crisp with short sentences.
2.With social media where longer posts work, however, feel free to expand. It’s interesting to see how many people are now using what were previously thought of as short post platforms, to post long-form articles that roll on at a leisurely pace. And why not? But bear in mind all that will be shown in the first instance is the first sentence or two of your post, so if you want people to click through and read on, make sure those first couple of sentences really are worthwhile for readers.
3. Don’t waste time on irrelevant preambles that slow the pace down. Much as you feel it’s essential to introduce your article or post with its back story, remember that readers are only interested in what’s in it for them and want to get to the point. Start with that, and fill in the back story later.
4. Write entirely with the reader’s point of view in mind. Unless your blog or other writing platform is an entirely personal trip, you need to write stuff that will grab your readers by the throat and keep them on your site or blog forever. Boring, self-indulgent or up-yourself material will have the opposite effect.
5. Think not only about what the reader will want to know about your issue, but in what order. This is something I bang on about in my workshops and also to direct clients: you may know overall what your customers want to know, but not which specifics when. Serious role-play on your part may well reveal that although you’ve got the content right, you haven’t answered the ensuing customer questions in the right order, leading to an inappropriate pace.
6. Write using a variety of sentence lengths. I know I have said that the occasional long sentence can be helpful, and that’s true – it can. Varying the pace can be very useful. But what really matters is that the majority of your sentences are not too long and above all, do not convey more than one essential idea each.
7. Online, especially, keep paragraphs short. Long blocks of solid text are hard enough (and tedious enough) to read in print; online they are even worse. I always try to break to a new paragraph at least every 3 sentences to keep the pace flowing.
8. Use cross-headings to break up the pace of your text. Online cross-headings (or sub-headings) are useful not only to break up the text visually: they also allow you to tell the bare bones of your message so people “scanning” get the basic picture. And a bonus – they’re a good place to put your keywords…as long as the overall effect makes sense.
9. Use images to break up the pace of your text, too. There are plenty of sites that offer copyright-free images and with a little imagination you can illustrate your message effectively. In business posts and articles, avoid slapping in cliché images of arrows pointing upwards and £££ or $$$ signs – there’s always something better! And unless the image consists of words or figures, always write a short caption; people like reading them.
10. Edit your text but don’t strangle it. I know many famous authors and writing gurus often say you should edit your work ruthlessly to within an inch of its life, etc., etc., but personally I think you can go too far. Rather as when you’re pruning a shrub, if you cut too much off you end up with a skinny little twig that dies after a few weeks, the same can happen to your writing. Edit out the excess, but leave its personality intact. More on editing here.
What other tips on how to pace your business writing would you include in this list? Please share!