WORD UP — 3 CONTENT RULES FROM GREAT WRITERS
A well-designed website, savvy social media, on-point paid search and super-powered SEO might top your company’s digital to-do list.
But too often, well-written content trails behind because … anyone can write, right?
Wrong — word wrangling is a refined skill forged in the fire of professional experience and put simply, none of the elements above work without it.
To clarify the subtle yet significant difference between someone who can write and a writer, here are three content rules from great authors — word up.
1. On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. when you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.’
Advertising legend David Ogilvy was the inspiration behind TV’s Mad Men — and despite passing away in 1999, his influence still looms large over all forms of commercial writing.
He always championed a persuasive headline’s power to charm and cajole, and a terrific title is as important to web copy today as it was to Ogilvy in the 60s — according to Copyblogger, on average, eight out of ten people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest of an article.
His favourite self-penned headline is still sublime:
‘At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock’.
2. ‘If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that ornament or scrollwork out and throw it away and start with the first simple, true, declarative sentence I had written’.
Be concise. Your audience, business sector, topic and platform will influence the appropriate length of your post — but grabbing a reader’s attention quickly means slicing flowery similes from all copy.
According to digital guru Neil Patel, mobile-optimised web copy should focus on essential info, condense long-form content into accordions and include shorter headlines and attention-grabbing introductory paragraphs above the fold.
When Hemingway tells us in The Old Man and The Sea that ‘a man can be destroyed but not defeated’, he distils the spirit of the entire book in eight elegant words.
If you appreciate economy of language, the Hemingway Editor can cut the fat from your copy.
3. ‘If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it’.
Here, late, great crime lord Elmore Leonard hits on an aspect of professional writing that’s perhaps the most misunderstood — the more effortless, natural, seamless and conversational the copy feels, the more effort has gone into crafting it.
Learning the lingo of your customers takes time and initially requires keen listening skills — but that’s how you develop content that connects, encourages empathy and drives conversions.
Elite writers like Leonard have an innate understanding of authenticity — that’s why his slick dialogue can be lifted practically unchanged from novels and transferred to celluloid for films like Jackie Brown, Get Shorty and Out of Sight.
For example, here’s a unique take on movie screenwriting from Get Shorty’s Bo Catlett:
‘There’s nothin’ to know. You have an idea, you write down what you wanna say. Then you get somebody to add in the commas and sh*t where they belong, if you aren’t positive yourself. Maybe fix up the spelling where you have some tricky words…’
So finally, write like Elmore, but don’t be like Bo.
Effective writing doesn’t come easily to everyone, but these three tips can catapult your content to the next level.
For writing that pops off the page and grabs great Google rankings, contact us today.