5 Tips to Help you Refine your Writing for Online Use
Gain More Audience Engagement By Refining Your Writing
If you keep up with the Pinckney blog, you’ve probably noticed I usually write about content strategy and how you can become a better marketer.
However, I’ve gotten a few requests to go a bit deeper. To get down to the “nitty-gritty” of what makes good campaigns great.
So I’ve decided to write about something so fundamental to marketing, it can literally make or break your campaigns – Writing.
Think about your online marketing as a whole. Go ahead – close your eyes.
How much of it uses writing as a medium to tell a story? To encourage an action?
Right off the top of my head, I can rattle off: emails, PPC text, display, and remarketing ads, video content (scripts), website content, blog posts, eBooks, social media copy, landing pages…
Charles Duncombe, director of the Just Say Please Group, said it best when he stated “…when you sell or communicate on the internet, 99% of the time it is done by the written word.” (Source)
Let’s take a few moments to contemplate the implications of that statement.
When the success of your online marketing depends largely on writing, you have to pay due diligence to the words that scroll across your audience’s screens.
That means developing a writing style that’s fresh, easy to understand and relate to, and formatted specifically for online use.
If you don’t know what the above statement entails, keep reading and check out the tips I’ve outlined below.
Attraction or Delivery?
When I think of writing for online use, I break it up into two purposes and categories: attracting your audience (copywriting) and delivering information (content creation).
If you’re interested in delivering your content in a way that keeps your readers engaged, let’s get started.
1. Write conversationally
Try to think back to your college classes. You had to write in a very specific and strict style, correct?
Well, writing for online use is not like college writing. An online-friendly writing style moves away from traditional writing and uses different techniques to encourage ease of reading.
One of those techniques is to write conversationally. This entails asking questions to engage your audience. For example:
Writing conversationally also entails injecting your personality into your piece. Meaning, write like you’re having a conversation with a close colleague or friend.
If you’re trying to teach your friend something new, you wouldn’t just rattle off a bunch of info like you’re a living sales brochure.
You would add humor, meaningful pauses, and customize your tone for who you’re speaking to and how they best receive information.
2. For heaven’s sake, press the return key
As someone who reads a lot of online content, I’m sincerely turned off from pieces that feature those never-ending paragraphs.
But, considering I’m always thirsty for knowledge and I dedicate time to read what’s trending, I may suffer through a piece like that…or five.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn’t going to.
They’re not going to be as forgiving of your huge blocks of words and won’t hesitate to move on to the next piece that makes it easy for them to get the info they want.
This makes the simple technique of pressing the return (enter) key crucial.
Whenever you make one to two complete thoughts in your writing, go ahead and press the return key.
Creating these short paragraphs will make your writing easier to digest.
This is especially important because a huge percentage of your content is read on a mobile device. Do you know what an impossibly long paragraph looks like on a mobile screen? It’s not pleasant.
3. Take a detour from your strict grammar rules
This concept may be difficult to accept, but truly engaging content doesn’t follow strict grammar rules.
While your spelling should always be correct, don’t be afraid to break traditional grammar rules to make your writing more clear and conversational.
Examples include using coordinating conjunctions (but, and, or, so, yet, for, nor) to begin your sentences (YES, it’s ok for you to begin your sentences with ‘and’). You can also use incomplete sentences. Simply to emphasize a thought.
Another great tip is to vary your sentence structure. Just like with paragraphs, no one wants to read the sentence that never ends. Use medium-sized and small sentences throughout your writing to keep your readers engaged.
4. Keep readers on track with sub-headers
This is relatively easy to do.
Take what I’ve done in this post as an example.
There are several elements of writing that I wanted to highlight so I used sub-headers to give you a quick glance at what to expect.
This focuses your writing and also makes your piece easy to scan. Mobile readers are sure to appreciate that.
5. Develop a content style guide
Just like brand guides are important to make sure your message is the same across all mediums, content guides are important to ensure your writing style is the same for anything you publish.
A content style guide includes standardization of voice and tone, in-page formatting, creative elements like blog images, and what makes content approved vs. unapproved.
If you’re interested in creating a content style guide for your company, check out this HubSpot post.
Well, I hope you consider integrating these tips into your writing. If you do, you’ll be well on your way to creating content that will keep your audience engaged.
But what happens next after you refine your online writing style?
I would suggest testing out some content marketing strategies that will put your amazing writing to good use.
However, if you already have content marketing down and you need a way to integrate it into your overall online marketing strategy, download our inbound marketing success guide and it’ll give you some amazing campaign advice.