Writing content isn’t just about the words. We’ve all come across articles that weave and wind in every direction before chaotically touching upon something that appears to be a central theme. Or a piece that heavily disappoints after clicking on what was an exciting and very promising heading. Every subject is of interest to someone. How this topic is presented has the power to turn even the most curious mind in the opposite direction.
Professional writers – amateurs that don’t quit
It’s easy to write – don’t let professional content writers tell you otherwise. Practice improves skills and speed and a plethora of apps like Grammarly and websites like thesaurus.com mean we are all potential Shakespeares. However, what many content writers tend to forget is that The Bard didn’t just write in fancy English. His plays were the GoT of Elizabethan times; a riot of plot, comedy, excitement and drama. Applying the same tactics to a 400 word article on sterilizing cats or the ten top causes of warts might be asking too much, but there is one writer’s method that applies to any text of more than a few sentences in length.
Great pieces of writing all have one thing in common. War and Peace, Pride and Prejudice, Les Misérables, Catch-22, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Macbeth all elaborate on a very obvious central theme, no matter how chaotic the circumstances that surround it. The plot is based around that theme, the language and vocabulary choices enhance that theme, the book title often tells us what the theme is, and its characters dance around, build upon and confront it.
Shakespeare’s central themes run like syrup from the rhythmic first line to the final death throws or happy kiss of the last. These core themes were usually predictable but, as with all great content, reflected the interests of the theatre-going public of that time. These were love, hate and magic. Shakespeare wrote a lot of plays concerning love, hate or magic or a combination of one of more of these. And don’t let’s forget his historical plays, which also – of course – had their own share of love, hate and magic. No matter how broad the central message, every act and every scene focused on it. And that theme was chosen in order to attract the widest possible fan-base. Modern marketing methods basically have their roots set deep in the literary tactics of Othello, Homer’s Odyssey and Horton Hears a Who.
A cat doesn’t fit in a beer can
There’s nothing more off-putting than a 400 word article that attempts to fit in every fact there is to know about warts. A list of bullet points might mean you can get more information into a smaller area but when it comes to describing the processes, prevention and cures even this method won’t do the job. If your word count is limited, word choices and flow are even more important and your central theme needs to be limited, too. Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t have had anywhere near the same effect as a 30 minute show. While a two-hour vlog on the drying process of paint … well …
Much has been made of the marketing strategy known as the aha moment. But how do you create a gasp of incredulity when discussing door frames? Creating a thoroughly entertaining and highly interesting piece on mundane subjects is a tiring if not near-impossible process that often requires a tempestuous brain-storming session using multiple creative brains. The truth is, when it comes to marketing the aha moment doesn’t need to be exciting or mind-blowing; however, it must deliver a piece of information that the reader has either not heard before or not yet heard explained using your choice of words or comparatives.
Simply converting a number to a more tangible fact can cause a frown which – in writing terms – is a physical reaction and therefore good. For example, did you know that if all Americans with type II diabetes held hands they would circle the globe one and three quarter times? A mildly tangible fact but hardly wow or aha. By also mentioning that the entire population of Australia (should it be at all possible to get them to hold hands) wouldn’t circle it even once, this fact is put into a little more perspective.
Taking the time to create your own calculations can guarantee an aha moment, however brief. The great majority of articles currently online are plagiarisms of the same facts repeated again and again. One only needs to copy and paste a particular phrase to find further copy and paste versions; knowing which one is the original is often a lost cause. Facts are facts and can only be converted into a limited number of explanations. By adding comparisons, pure, unadulterated focus, and a fact or two that the competitors haven’t bothered to look up, it is easy to out-perform them.
Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, was a plagiarist of sorts but his works have become more popular than Boccaccio from whom he got his ‘inspiration’. Plagiarism in advertising, on the other hand, is unacceptable and the equivalent of corporate suicide. Not only due to legal fees but because very few visitors will read overused advertising phrases and believe them; a further reason why copying the content of your competitors is a no-no. If you really have to, at least take heed to Benjamin Franklin who told us, “Originality is the art of concealing your sources”.
The soul of wit
Keeping it brief is receiving bad press lately. Content is turning towards lengthy and informative articles that ultimately delve deep into the pros and cons of a product or service. While using long-winded (hopefully interestingly-written) articles has its place at certain levels of online content, brevity is an important characteristic when it comes to attracting a new audience. Include a link to a more detailed version of the same topic, for example, but use the full impact of your writing skills to produce a short, query-solving or entertaining paragraph that isn’t all Greek to the reader. Catch phrases and concentrated short facts are easier to recall when perusing this form of written media. This is the reason why we still use catch-phrases to increase brand recognition. After all, how much of Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy do you recall?
This is going to hurt
Written your first draft? Or perhaps you think you have produced the final cut. Advertising content is a lean-machine and, as Stephen King tells us, “revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done”. You won’t want to remove bits of your literary baby. However, the editing process should take longer than the time taken to knock out the first draft. This step involves making sure that the central theme leaves a taste in the mouth and the phrases within are simple, truthful, clear and memorable.
Short, sweet and very neat
Writing content for advertising purposes is not particularly difficult. Writing good content that attracts and keeps your visitors, users or customers is another matter. While a less entertaining piece is acceptable to those looking for answers to specific questions, pages that introduce your brand, your company name or your individuality should make the reader want to come back for more. This means a well-written piece, fresh information and a central theme that is easy to recognise within each paragraph. Oh … and a good, sharp quill.