You have seven seconds to grab attention online. That’s right: seven seconds to give visitors to your site a reason to stop and read what you’ve got to say instead of moving on to one of the 971,180,885 other sites vying for their attention.
How on earth does little old you stand out in such an overcrowded marketplace? With words that count, that’s how.
You need great words to get attention online.
But great words are not easy to come by. It takes practice and experience to regularly churn out words that tap into what your audience wants to read – words that will have them hitting ‘Buy Now!’.
So, to speed up the learning process here are three ways you can find your voice and write with the energy and style to get attention, keep it and leave your reader clamoring for more.
1. Just write
To use a coffee analogy I’m fond of, getting that first draft down is like extracting the perfect shot of espresso – much harder than it looks.
First you stare at a blank screen, willing the words to come. Then, once you do start writing, I’ll bet you write a sentence, then go back, read it, edit it, and correct mistakes – trying to get it exactly right before you move on, don’t you?
Stop doing that immediately.
Every time you stop, read a sentence and change it, you’re interrupting your natural flow. Who knows what genius might spill onto the page if you’d let it.
Technology gets in our way when it comes to getting into a writing flow. Think about it: when our only writing tools were a pen or a typewriter editing was trickier, and messy, so we kept moving forward.
Now, because technology makes editing so easy and immediate, it’s hard to resist the quest for perfection. But in so doing we lose the essence of who we are in what we write.
A first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be written.
So allow your train of thought to fully develop without your bossy inner-self telling you off.
This is how you set your individuality free. It’s how you let yourself sound like a human being instead an English language text-book or a corporate annual review.
Let go of the formalities. Write as you speak.
Action: When you’re ready to write your next blog post or newsletter, set a timer for 20 minutes and just write. Don’t edit a single word.
The result? YOUR personality will shine.
You can go back and edit later. Preferably after a coffee break. Definitely after a coffee break.
2. Action speaks loudest
Your words need to come alive, by keeping your sentences active.
Say what? OK let me explain about the active voice versus the passive voice.
In an active sentence the subject performs the action. Whereas a passive sentence tells what is done to someone or something.
Passive sentences are more complex, use more words and are harder to understand. It can be useful in technical writing because it can sound detached and formal – but that’s the opposite of what you’re striving for here!
Here’s an example clunky passive sentence:
‘An attention-grabbing About page for your website will be written by me.’
Let’s turn it around to make it active:
‘I will write an attention-grabbing About page for your website.’
Notice the difference in energy in these two sentences. The active voice is direct, personal and more interesting
- Go through your copy and hunt down any passive sentences. Passive sentences are usually active sentences turned back to front, where the subject comes after the verb.
- Now take those passive passion-killers and turn them into action-packed power players. Usually rewriting the sentence so the verb is in front of the subject will fix things.
- Not only will you reduce your word count and simplify your message, you’ll add instant energy to your piece. Thumbs up!
3. Lose the adjectives.
Too many writers think lots of adjectives add substance and style. They don’t. Adjectives clutter your copy with unnecessary words that obscure rather than enhance your meaning.
Every word you write must earn its place. Most of the time adjectives don’t. Vague and unspecific adjectives leave your reader with unanswered questions.
The trick here is, show don’t tell.
You could write:
‘The small boy couldn’t reach the book on the high shelf.’
Nothing grammatically wrong here, but it’s not very compelling. And it’s vague. How high? How small?
Now compare it to:
‘He stretched out his arm and stood on the tips of his toes but the book was out of his reach.’
Without using any adjectives a vivid picture is painted in your head.
Instead of vague, unspecific adjectives use specific, interesting and strong nouns and verbs.
- Practice writing without using any adjectives. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Now look out of your window and write down what you see without using any adjectives.
- Now go through the words you wrote earlier, or something else you’ve written recently and highlight all the adjectives. If the word is specific and adds something to the information you’re giving, leave it in. If not, cut it. Right now.
- If you need to rewrite the sentence using concrete, specific nouns and verbs.
So, what’s stopping you from writing stand-out copy? Let me know in the comments below.