How to write words that grab your readers by the throat

How to write words that grab readers by the throatOften I hear people say they’re worried that although their writing for business, social or other purposes is accurate and grammatically correct … is it tedious? Does it lack snap, crackle and pop? Will it inform people adequately but fail to inspire anyone? Here’s where you can stop worrying…

For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume that you’ve done your research and especially if the project is for marketing purposes, you’ve got the thinking behind the project absolutely right.

Now, you’re about to write up the final text.  Here are my tips on how to make sure what you write grabs your readers by the throat and keeps them spellbound right until the last sentence…

Write as people speak, but don’t just write down a conversation. Write in terms of “we” and “us” or “I” and “me,” but don’t use a pompous “royal we” approach. Use “Plain English” wherever possible and especially when writing for audiences whose mother-tongue is not English.

Make every sentence relevant to the audience – “what’s in it for them?” And wherever possible, write to “you” – not to 3rd-person “customers,” “staff,” “suppliers,” etc.

Don’t just get to the point – start with it, and phrase it so it will grab the audience’s attention. Say what you mean and don’t procrastinate with fuzzy language, and be informal but be careful not to be overly familiar.

Use go words, not slow words – sharper nouns, stronger, shorter verbs. Use active rather than passive phrasing (“go now,” not “it’s time you went.”) One-word or verbless sentences are useful for pacing and effect, but only if you use them sparingly.

Although simple is usually better, don’t over-simplify – it can seem childish or patronising. Don’t go into more than one idea per sentence, and write so that one sentence flows logically into the next. Where possible start new paragraphs with links like “Of course,” or “However,” to keep the audience hooked.

Use a list or bullet points to put across more than two or three items in a sequence.

Keep jargon to a minimum and be sure your audience will understand what you do use. Avoid meaningless clichés because they make your writing seem unoriginal. Learn the difference between poor clichés and your business’s commonly used terms, and use the latter intelligently.

Avoid adjectives and superlatives that smell phoney, e.g. “best,” “fastest,” “exciting.” Use the most visual adjectives and adverbs you can think of – they’re powerful.

Especially with online text but with print too, avoid long blocks of text because they’re uninviting to read. Visually break up continuous sections of text by peppering them with cross-headings or emboldened key points.

Check for small grammatical and punctuation goofs – they make you look amateurish, and check for spelling mistakes. Don’t rely totally on your spellchecker – it misses a lot! Proofread your work backwards – it sounds crazy but you don’t miss spelling mistakes that way.

If you have questions about these tips  – or want to add to them, criticize them, whatever – just leave me a comment here. I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

In the meantime, happy writing!

Now, make sure  everything you write grabs your readers by the throat:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

photo credit: peyri via photopin cc

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