By Janis Fisher Chan
All writing should be clear and interesting.
But in today’s fast-paced world, where there’s so much content competing for the eyes of increasingly busy readers, it’s crucial for blog posts, social updates, marketing materials, and other web content to capture attention.
Whether you love to write or find it a chore, these seven tips will help you craft clear, compelling content that reaches your specific audience.
Look at the topic from your readers’ point of view
A great headline might capture attention, but people quickly lose interest if the content doesn’t immediately seem relevant to them.
When you write content for the web, you’re not writing for yourself.
Action Step #1:
Ask yourself three questions:
- Why would someone read what I write?
- Are they already interested in my topic?
- What do they want or need to know?
Focus on your most important message
Your goal in writing is to communicate something important to your readers.
What is that something important?
Action Step #2:
Write a key sentence or two that expresses your most important message. This will help you focus on what you want to say.
When you write, include that key sentence at the beginning to help readers focus.
Let the ideas flow
Think about the facts or ideas that explain, build on, or reinforce your most important message.
Action Step #3:
Put your key sentence at the top of a blank document or a writing tablet and then quickly jot down all the points that come to mind.
You can do a mind map or write a quick “throwaway” draft.
Or you can talk the topic through with a friend or colleague. Keep in mind that you’re not writing: you’re getting ready to write.
Do a quick first draft
Professional writers know they seldom get it right the first time. So don’t fret about making it perfect as you draft.
Action Step #4:
- Write your draft quickly, putting the most important information close to the beginning.
- Then read it from your readers’ POV.
- If it seems to work, fine. Otherwise, throw it away, think about your audience again, and write another draft.
- If you’re still not sure, show it to someone else.
Be specific and concrete
Compelling writing is specific and concrete, not vague and general.
If you read, “It was a fabulous apartment,” would you know what the writer meant?
A more useful description would be: “The apartment had picture windows that overlooked the ocean, a fully equipped cook’s kitchen, and one of the most comfortable king-sized beds I’d ever slept in.”
Action Step #5:
If you want to convey that something is “fabulous,” or “amazing” or “disgusting” or “dumb,” try to show your readers, rather than telling them.
Use plain English
Compelling writing is clear writing.
Action Step #6:
Whenever you use acronyms or terms specific to your topic, ask yourself whether readers are likely to understand them. Always substitute plain English for fancy-sounding jargon.
Revise and edit
If you’re like people, you scan web content quickly to pick out the most interesting and useful information.
Action Step #7:
Help readers do that by using short sentences, short paragraphs, headings, bullet points, and visuals, and by eliminating every unnecessary word.
Reinforce your credibility by checking that the spelling and grammar are correct.
Finally, look at your content on a tablet and a phone to make sure that it’s readable on all of your audience’s devices.
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About the author
A published author and passionate traveler, she recently launched Travel on the House, an informational web site with tips and advice for people who want to make travel affordable by swapping or rent out their homes.