Write more effectively in just 10 minutes

If you’re responsible for sending out important emails, writing online articles, or crafting important documents for your employer then we have some very useful tips for you to consider.  These tips are tailored primarily for writing web articles, but will be just as useful for traditional print publications.  The ten minutes you spend reading this will help you to create documents and online content that will have a positive impact on your readers.

Bulleted and Numbered Lists Are Easy to Read

If you are writing an article that is convincing an audience to take action, consider using bulleted or numbered lists.  Lists can enhance the impact of your writing by:

  • Grabbing attention - eyes are drawn to lists!
  • Highlighting action items
  • Increasing comprehension
  • Driving home your main points

You might consider writing a paragraph to your audience about each of the points you are presenting.  However, remember to keep your paragraphs concise and topical so you don’t lose the attention of your readers. 

Keep it Simple

Remember that most people don’t have the time to read lengthy and complex articles.  Try to keep your sentences short, and refrain from using complex words whenever possible.  Remember, you are not trying to impress your audience; you are trying to get the point across.  Whenever you are writing something for the web, it’s often a good idea to adopt a conversational style.  It’s ok to break some grammar rules occasionally if it helps to get your point across, but don’t overdo it!
Keeping things simple will make your content easy to digest for your readers.  You’ll never hear anyone say, “That article was too easy to read!”

Headline Graphics

The purpose of graphics and images above your article is to get your audience to read the first sentence.
Headline graphics are often the first thing the audience will see.   This will give you a chance to grab their attention and get them started on reading your article.  It should engage your readers and hopefully trigger some sort of emotional response.

The Article Title

The purpose of your article title is the same as the graphics, to get your audience to read the first sentence.  The title is as important as your article’s content; if not more.  No one will read your article if you have a poorly chosen title, no matter how good your content is.  The title is critical.  Many writers recommend that more than half of your time spent on writing an article should be devoted to the title.  For some types of writing this could be an overestimate, but the critical thing to keep in mind is that titles are very important.
To determine what your headline should say, you may want to review the most common types of headlines:

  • Direct Headlines – get directly to the point “ Mocha Cappuccinos 30% off ”
  • In Direct – might be a more subtle approach to a topic - “ Drinking Mocha Cappuccinos May Save You Money”
  • News Headline  - Announces something of value – “ The New Mocha Cappuccino Exclusively Available Here”
  • How To Headline – My favorite headline, how to do … -  “How to Make Your Own Mocha Cappuccino”
  • Question Headline – Pretty obvious - “Want to Save a Ton of Money on Your  Mocha Cappuccinos?
  • Testimonial – Get an experts opinion - “I Drink A Mocha Cappuccino Every Morning – CEO of Starbucks”

After you have some ideas of how to represent your title you need to figure out how to phrase it to convince your audience that your article is worth reading.  Do not settle on your first title, write several of them and review each one.  Determine what you like and refine it until you get it just right.  You should ask yourself:

  • Does my headline offer the reader a reward for reading the article?
  • What could be added to make it more believable or engaging?
  • Does it cause an emotional response for the reader?
  • Will the reader start nodding their head after reading it?

You have to explain to the reader that your article is worth his or her time right away.  Once they know what’s in it for them, they will make the decision to read on.

Title Length

A good rule of thumb is that an article title should be 8 words or less.  There may be cases in which a title can be longer, but 8 words is a good target.

How Much Copy Do I Need?

Your copy should be as short as possible while still achieving your objectives.  Here are a few tips for writing articles related to actual products:

  • The more expensive a product is the more copy you will usually need to explain and justify it
  • Unusual items need more copy to explain unique features and benefits
  • Convenience items that fulfill immediate needs for the consumer only need short copy
  • If the reader is shopping around, comparing products, then longer copy maybe required
  • Products that are new to the reader or products they may not have been actively seeking often require longer copy.

Creating a Swipe File

A copywriting “swipe file” is a physical or electronic folder where you keep highly effective or award winning ads.  These should be ads that you can look back upon for inspiration or if you need a general framework for some new copy. 
Most industries do not start from the ground up each time they need to accomplish a task.  Web Ascender uses a specific platform and a general programming framework to get websites up and running quickly.  Similarly, a swipe file allows writers to quickly layout a framework that has been proven to be effective for other companies.

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