Would you like to become a better writer?
Would you like to create content that people will remember, tweet, and plus?
How about content that inspires your audience to click, subscribe or buy? That’s the Holy Grail, right?
It may sound difficult, but it really isn’t.
You’re about to become a writer that’s incredibly persuasive and completely unforgettable.
Let’s start with structuring your content so your message becomes irresistible.
How to streamline your content creation
Are you forever chopping at and changing your text?
Use the following tips to structure your writing up front, so your message isn’t buried deep in your post:
- Write your headline first. Include a compelling reason why anyone should read your content.
- Then write your subheads. These will help structure your post.
- Don’t forget captions. People are more likely to read your captions than your copy, so don’t miss this opportunity to communicate!
- Delight with your opening paragraph. Remember, your opening paragraph has to draw your readers into your story. Each sentence has to make them want to read the next.
- Energize with your closing paragraph. Make sure you write a few kick-ass lines that inspire your readers to take action or change their beliefs.
- Create fascinating bullet points. Most people won’t read every word of your content. They’ll scan the headlines and the bullet points.
- Don’t disappoint. Remember the compelling reason in your headline? Make sure you deliver on it.
How to write headlines that convert
You know that — on average — only 2 out of 10 people read an article beyond the headline, don’t you?
If you don’t write irresistible headlines, even fewer people than those 2 will read your content.
Use the following seven foolproof steps to avoid obscurity and boost your reader numbers:
- Present a benefit in your headline. Everyone’s time is precious — so how will you reward your readers for paying attention to your content? How will you make them feel better?
- Command attention. You have less than a second to grab someone’s attention. So tickle the right brain and gain interest with power words such as doomed, failure, and lies (or more positive words such as inspiration and breakthrough).
- Be specific. If your headline is generic, nobody will be interested. Get to specifics and people will react.
- Don’t try to be clever. Clever headlines are difficult to write, and even the good ones often fail.
- Don’t try to be original for its own sake. Take your cue from professional copywriters, and use strong, proven structures to build your headlines around.
- Keep practicing. Write several headlines for each post. Study headlines of popular blogs, magazines, and newspapers. Practice. Every day.
- Write with a purpose. Make sure you know what action you want your readers to take. Doing so will help structure your content.
How to write content your readers will remember
You’ve made so much effort.
You write, and write, and write. People are reading your content, but your message doesn’t stick. Your readers are forgetting it, and fast.
The following nine simple tactics will make your message unforgettable:
- Use sound bites. These are easy-to-remember, easy-to-quote nuggets of wisdom, just like proverbs. And haven’t generations of people remembered proverbs?
- Avoid routine common sense. You won’t win reader loyalty with your breathtaking grasp of the obvious.
- Surprise your readers. An element of the unexpected will make your reader pay attention. And when they pay attention, they’ll remember.
- Add concrete details. They’ll help your readers picture your story.
- Use vivid adjectives. Use adjectives and adverbs that are specific, sensory, or emotional. And ditch the bland adjectives that don’t add anything.
- Use stories. They bring your message alive.
- Make your readers feel something. Emotion makes people care and remember.
- Use metaphors. They’ll help people understand what you’re trying to tell by relating it to something they know.
- Use the rule of three. Our brains are wired to remember three things more easily. Why do you think we have three little pigs, three wise men, and three musketeers?
How to become a more persuasive writer
Why are you writing?
Do you want people to buy something? Or believe in something? Or subscribe to your newsletter?
You have to choose one objective.
Whatever you want, use the following 12 steps to writing credible and convincing content:
- Use the word because. You should always give people a reason why they should take action, and using the word because is the most powerful way to do it.
- Anticipate objections. No matter whether you are selling a product, a service or an idea, you have to address all objections of your readers.
- Create incentives to read on. Joe Sugarman calls these seeds of curiosity — short phrases like Not only that … and But here comes the best part will keep readers moving through your content.
- Use statistics. These add credibility to your story.
- Sell with true benefits. True benefits connect with readers’ desires. Beware of fake benefits — they’re the antidote to persuasion.
- Be passionate. It’ll shine through. If you’re not passionate about your ideas or products or services, why should your readers bother to take action?
- Show your readers the gap in their knowledge. Get them to pose questions that you’ll answer one by one. Each answer should lead them to pose the next question.
- Beware the curse of knowledge. Don’t assume readers know everything you do about your topic. Try to get back into that beginner’s mind.
- Write about what you know. Being persuasive is much easier when you know your stuff.
- Engage the left and the right brain. Follow facts with stories or quotes. Use a blend of logical and emotional approaches.
- Don’t sell before the prospect is ready. Educate your readers, inform them about your cause, and help solve their problems. Become a trusted source of information and your readers will more readily buy from you.
- Have an impeccably clear call to action. Tell your readers exactly what you expect them to do next, and remind them why it’s in their best interest to buy, click or subscribe.
How to enchant your audience
If you try to sell right off the bat without building trust, the sceptics will quickly click away.
If you delight your readers with your product or idea, if you provide real solutions to their problems, they’ll want to find out more.
Use the following tips to engage, delight, and ultimately sell:
- Understand your readers. Know their fears, dreams, and desires. How can you engage with someone you don’t understand?
- Don’t write for a large audience. Choose one person, picture him, and write to him as if he’s a friend.
- Use a conversational tone of voice. Nobody wants to chat with a company.
- Be engaging. Using the word you is the most powerful way to be more engaging.
- Be remarkable. So much content is out there, how can you stand out? Disclose your point of view, tell your personal story, and develop your own writing voice. If your readers feel they know you, they will connect with you.
- Use familiar language. Check Twitter, Facebook or Google’s Keyword Tool — and find the wording your readers use.
- Avoid jargon. Always choose the simplest possible expression of your idea. Avoid obscure words.
- Don’t insult your readers. Being clear doesn’t mean you have to tell your readers things they already know.
- Be likeable. Do great things for your readers, help them out, and be generous. It’s obvious isn’t it?
How to self-edit so you don’t look dumb
Whether you are a good writer or not doesn’t matter.
Does this surprise you?
The only way to become a master writer is to become awe-inspiringly good at editing. Advertising great David Ogilvy says this:
I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft.
The following tips will make your potentially crappy content great:
- Plan ahead. Give yourself time to let your first draft rest.
- Read your text backwards. This is the best way to spot typos.
- Use a spell checker. You do that already, don’t you?
- Proofread on paper. You’re less likely to skim the text.
- Read your text aloud. You’ll find where you stumble.
- Simplify. Remember your purpose? Cut all ideas that are irrelevant.
- Know the common mistakes that will make you look silly. Check your there’s and theirs, your complements and compliments, and your thens and thans.
- Scrap vapid clichés. David Meerman Scott calls these gobbledygook: Words or phrases without a real meaning, such as synergistic, best-in-class and too good to be true. Each word should have a meaning that adds to your readers’ understanding.
- Shorten your first sentence. Short sentences are more likely to draw readers into your content. And don’t forget, the only purpose of the first sentence is to make people read the second sentence.
- Scrap redundant sentences. If a sentence doesn’t add to your story, it’s unnecessary. Remember, saying the same thing twice in different ways is needless. Don’t repeat the same thing using different words. (See how boring and irritating that is?)
- Cut excessive words. Read each sentence carefully and delete each word that isn’t necessary. Words you can almost always delete include: ought, perhaps, in my opinion, just, actually, truly, and very.
- Replace complicated words with simple words. Do you want your content to be difficult to read? Cut long words and replace them with shorter ones.
- Check your engagement level. Is your content focused on your readers? Count the number of times you’ve used I and me versus you.
- Now, go back to your headline. Have you delivered on your promise? Will your readers benefit from reading your content?
The harsh reality of becoming a very good writer
You’re smart. You have good ideas. And to spread your ideas you need mind-blowingly good content, because too much information is out there.
I’m not saying you can become a remarkable writer instantly. You need to practice each day. You need to focus. And you need to be prepared for criticism.
But if you persevere, if you focus on becoming enchanting, persuasive, and memorable, you can succeed.
Set your goals. Just do it.
And let us know in the comments — which of these techniques has been the biggest help in your own writing?
About the Author: About the author: Henneke [Heh-nuh-kuh] is a UK-based marketer who loves copywriting, good food and content marketing. You can connect with Henneke on Twitter.
Reader Comments (68)
Practice, practice, practice, seems to be the only way to get good at anything! My favorite tips are those that make the reader remember- gotta rock those adjectives.
Hector cuevas says
Talk about creating valuable content.. This post is jam packed. I’m bookmarking it for later. Thanks for sharing.
Paul Profitt says
The plan ahead tip, or Number 45. Stands out to me because I am a lazy writer by default. And tip Number 51 will always catch me out. As it will for most of the readers of this blog post. Good thing that I’m not planning to become an English teacher.
Sharon A says
Thanks for so many helpful ideas, wish I had this earlier before I tried to “be clever” in a heading and great post fell flat.
The Real Jerusalem Streets
Trung Nguyen says
Great list on tips to write killer content, however, most important is how we use it effectively. I just can say thanks and Google + for this post.
Joshua Black- the Underdog Millionaire says
I’d like to add a #59
Entertain first, then educate and sell.
Your customers aren’t just sitting around waiting to read that next, huge tome that you spent 12 hours writing if it doesn’t contain a little controversy or a little spice.
…just look at how many hours people spend forwarding and Facebooking silly jokes- how many hours we spend watching ‘reality’ TV.
This doesn’t mean that you have to shell out crap, but you need to focus on catching that reader’s attention with a little entertainment before you expect her to spend 15 minutes reading your “7 tips for conquering World Hunger” blog post.
Look at how much we pay movie stars and sports figurs vs. teachers. This is NOT a mistake. This money translates most other businesses as well. Those that entertain us as they teach us are the ones that get our attention.
It positions you as one of them.
It helps create a relationship, where you’re no longer a sales person… just a REAL person.
It helps build your tribe and makes it really hard to infiltrate.
The Underdog Millionaire
I agree, Joshua. Entertaining is a good way to catch the attention of your audience and to keep them reading. Entertaining is even more effective if you also help your readers to solve their problems.
Harleena Singh says
I couldn’t think of adding anything more to this wonderful list that you shared with all of us. I think each tip is so well thought of and listed perfectly well.
Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Ruth Zive says
These are all fabulous tips – I’ve featured most of them on my blog as well.
But, I’ve come to the conclusion that while most people can IMPROVE their writing skills, truly ‘great’ writers have an implicit skill that cannot be taught or honed.
It’s not like riding a bike.
Copywriting, or writing in general, has an inherently creative/artistic element that you’ve either got, or not!
Not everyone can be a Picasso.
Thanks for adding your thoughts to this post, Ruth.
I agree that to become a truly great writer like, for instance, Haruki Murakami, one needs incredible talent.
I’d like to add, though, that most writing doesn’t require that kind of talent. Regular practice, studying the masters, and being generous to your readers will make most people effective writers.
Sonia Simone says
I really agree with that, Henneke.
And study after study after study shows that what we think is innate talent mostly comes from a lot of practice. I’m still not sure what I believe about writing — some people do seem to be more innately verbally expressive than others — but to become a strong content marketer, it’s about practice, not an innate talent.
John Hannah says
Great point. I think a lot of people get discouraged because they feel they just don’t have “it”. Practice may not make perfect, but it sure helps.
Ryan Biddulph says
Although many greats in their niche had tremendous natural talent, almost all of these folks had 1 or numerous massive limiting factors which had to be worked through, before they became geniuses. Elvis, Fred Astaire, and countless all time greats in many fields were written off more than once, before they became legends.
Limiting beliefs do arise in all forms; it’s important to note them 😉
Thanks for sharing with us.
Ruth Zive says
Oh – don’t get me wrong Ryan. I’m not suggesting that the ‘greats’ don’t struggle. I’m arguing the CONVERSE – that even after struggling, working, modelling, learning, practicing – great writing still requires a certain element of skill that tends to be innate.
Going through those motions may make ‘most people effective writers’ (as Henneke pointed out in her reply), but I don’t agree that it will make most people great (or even solidly good) writers.
There is nothing wrong with aspiring to ‘effective’ – it’s still a lot better than most of the garbage that is out there.
But it’s not great.
Fernando Labastida says
Ruth, I suggest you read the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield struggled for more than 20 years before writing something that gained him success. He was beset by resistance, and didn’t write for years. When he finally sat down to write his stuff wasn’t worth anything (or at least didn’t bring him success). He kept slogging away for more years, practicing, writing, writing the occasionally good stuff, and writing some pretty bad stuff. He was an overnight success, but it took him two decades!
Anneliz Hannan says
A thorough and thoughtful list. Nice to see someone ‘do as they say’. Happy to pass along.
Ryan Biddulph says
Super! I worked over my blog and squeeze page too after digesting your tips.
Keep up the great work. Thanks for sharing 🙂
MaLinda Johnson says
All of these ideas have helped me become a good writer. I even learned a few new ones, go you! I would say that the last one is the most important. To be a good writer, it is crucial to write, a lot. At least 1,000 words a day.
Marc Ensign says
Great post! I tend to get frustrated because I spend too much time on my posts between research, writing, editing, writing, editing…more writing, editing, etc. I’m always looking for ways to streamline the process while still adding a ton of value to my readers which can get tough sometimes.
Katherine Wildman says
#39 If I had a pound for every time I read the word ‘we’ on a corporate site I would be typing this on a very sleek Macbook Air (rather than a grubby – and well loved Macbook!) Awesome post.
Oh, yes. And a penny for each word of gobbledygook would buy you a Macbook Air pretty quickly, too. 😉
Joseph Putnam says
I love the point about writing remarkable content. There’s so much out there, that if a writer really wants to stand out, he/she needs to take the time to write remarkable content that gets noticed and shared. This also happens to be a key tenet of buzz marketing.
Thanks for the great post! 🙂
Good point, Joseph. Good content marketing and buzz marketing have quite a lot in common!
Britt Anderson says
Thanks for the easy to read, comprehensive post! I am just starting out in the blogging world and have been making a checklist of sorts for myself to make sure I include what needs including, keeping out what needs keeping out and double checking everything.
Christian Thomas says
Wow — this is one hellova list of things to remember to make your writing great. Thanks for the reminders!
John Hannah says
Wonderful post, Henneke, I’ve added it to my favorites list! Also, you have a very cool name. 🙂
Thanks, John. It’s a Dutch name.
That was the article, which I needed right now! Thank you, Henneke!
Chad Lane says
Very valuable information – thank you so much. I’ve managed to make some improvements to my copy using Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style,” but this little checklist helps to clarify how to translate merely good writing into writing which impels action.
Alexandra Young says
For me, the turning point was right near the beginning. You had me sit up at point number 2. It made total sense cultivating your subheadings will only
A. Add to the power of your title
B. Keep you on track as your write your post
C. Keep your reader’s focus
To be honest, everyone’s sudden trend of only posting Top X or numbered posts is fast becoming a bore.
But your post is different. You composed your list to flow like that of a real document instead of a list and thus a more enjoyable read. Instead of a jarring jump into the next section with continued the listings you created a pause. The preamble under each subheading acts as a break that gently segues the reader into the next stage of writing. Interestingly, I noticed your style change slightly in sections. And the pace varied! With carefully chosen words, in some sections you’re like a sprite that springs from point-to-point. Then, other sections your tone slows becoming subdued as if you are catching your breath before springing back into action in the next section. From this, I get a sense of which stages you prefer to do and the ones you find a chore. The variation added to the originality of your post and made for a refreshing and fun read.
As I said earlier, my patience of reading numbered list posts is waning. I know they are the most popular post to read but the frequency of their appearance is redundant like that of an overplayed song on the radio – tiresome. Your post, however, is different because of your careful attention to the flow of the post, variation of pace, and choice of words. You held my attention for all 58 points.
But, you had me at number 2.
Plan your post, post your plan
Thanks, Alexandra. I am glad you enjoyed the post.
Subheads are hugely important – especially for long list posts. It’s important to draw readers back into the post if they start skimming. 😉
Jerome Ibuyan says
Bookmarked this post. You persuaded me sir. hehe! For me, it’s like a quick intro for those who haven’t digging the archive of Copyblogger.
What I could add is the “spacing”. Like what I learned from this site, the appearance of your copy matters.
I wouldn’t read this post if it’s written in big blocks of paragraph. .
btw, great post as usual from CB! =)
Alan | Life's Too Good says
I have to admit when I saw ’58 ways…’ I thought to myself, do I really want to read this? I’m going off list posts, they’re great but It ends up being just another resource which I don’t have time to go all the way through and have to mark for later – I hate that.
That being said, I read the article anyway, AND I’M GLAD I DID!! I loved it – you kept your points succinct and it’s all great advice – thanks for sharing,
take care & best wishes,
Lauren Hooper says
The tips that I have seen work the best for me are #15 and #16. I have gotten over 30,000 hits on 1 post just for taking a common item and completely surprising my readers with something new they didnt know they could do with these items. Readers love it! Thanks for the awesome list!
Yep, using sound bites to surprise your readers is a winning combination! 🙂
Chris Tompkins says
Great list – I really stand behind the points you made about crafting the perfect headline. This is definitely the first thing that can catch the eye of a potential reader, so it is smart to write ones that convert!
CamMi Pham says
Great list, love the the reading backward to spot typo tip
Awesome tips and I’ve already applied a few to an article I’m working on. Thanks very much!
p.s. I actually think the common belief that there were three wise men is because there are 3 prominent gifts mentioned in the story.
Rajiv Kumar Luv says
Phew, what a list of power packed ideas!
I was looking for something to create content for my blog.
Thanks for sharing.
the article is enchanting itself. long but not boring. now, need to practice what has been preached! lol
Sergio Felix says
Wow… I think I just had a brain orgasm LOL
I do many of these points unconsciously when I write but I was definitely losing out on a lot of the suggestions as well.
I loved the tip on using “because” as an action trigger and the word “you” as a connector.
I have never read anything backwards and I don’t use a spell checker but I normally read all my content a few times before publishing it.
Debbs Hosting says
Good points. I’ve been to lots of writing classes in my life and all of your arguments here are the best anyone could ever follow. It takes skill to enchant your readers and mastery of this skill will pave the way to more opportunities for a website or blog.
great list of ways to creat content – it just does not get better than this…
It’s also good to check your details to avoid looking silly.
“Use the rule of three. Our brains are wired to remember three things more easily. Why do you think we have three little pigs, three wise men, and three musketeers?”
Your example has nothing to do with remembering things in threes.
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