Fashion icon Coco Chanel nailed it when it comes to avoiding the perils of over-accessorizing: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” While she may have been referring to exuding understated elegance, I’ve learned to take this wisdom to heart when evaluating my style of writing.
I could wax poetic when it comes to a subject I’m particularly passionate about, but I have to keep the best interests of my audience in mind. After all, it only takes a few seconds for a reader to determine they’re not interested and move on to another article. Almost always, there’s something that can be removed without detracting from your main point; if anything, that excess is what will end up diluting your reasoning.
Although monitoring your site’s analytics, such as bounce rate and time spent on site, can be key indicators of audience engagement, have you considered that your writing style could be a make-or-break factor when it comes to your audience sharing, and ultimately continuing to revisit, your content?
Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that might help you to simplify your writing and better clarify your unique viewpoints.
De-Clutter Those Paragraphs the Way You Would Your Inbox
You’re not in college anymore; now is not the time to add in filler content to reach 2,000 words. Why turn your article into a “Where’s Waldo?” guessing game and make them sift through all that noise to find what they were looking for?
Make it easy for your reader to find what he or she is searching for by keeping your post short and sweet. While anecdotes are often helpful to include, you should stay on-message from beginning to end. This can also be achieved through your post’s format: digestible paragraphs, or even bulleted lists, will do the trick. The goal here is to produce content that could be easily scanned by a busy reader, but also provide enough substance that they’ll want to spend time reading each brilliant sentence.
Buzz Off, Buzzwords
Many marketers fall into the trap of feeling that they need to insert the latest industry jargon into their messaging in order to appear credible and abreast of current trends. Don’t let buzzwords spill over into the copy you’ve expertly crafted to ensure readers' eyes stay on the page.
Buzzwords, when used out of context, can have an adverse effect and turn off the audience, who feels that this argot creates an inauthentic brand voice: @BrandsSayingBae is a prime example of a Twitter account created to expose these imposters and poke fun at brands’ paltry attempts to use so-called “millennial language” to appeal to the 20-something demographic. As a millennial consumer and marketer, nothing ergs me more than a string of buzzwords when I’m reading expert content. “Leveraging the disruption of growth hacking to synergize innovation?” That’s cool, I guess, but I think I’ll pass.
Instead, choose authentic language that will best serve your audience and what you’re trying to convey. Don’t let the lure of buzzwords overcomplicate your language; when you’re real with your reader, they’ll respect and trust your authority.
Choose Your Audience, But Don’t Give Them a Choice
Regardless of your opinions or beliefs, it is important to keep your audience front and center when writing your post, and tailor your language accordingly. In addition, research has shown that the more options we have, the harder time we have making a decision: Take this into consideration next time you’re building out the key points of your article. Instead of offering several possibilities, focus on two or three ideas and be explicit about why these are the best choices out of a sea of options. With a short-term memory only capable of holding about five to seven items, it’s best to avoid an overload of information that’ll just go in one ear and out the other.
At the end of the day, your audience will be most discerning on what value the content holds for them and what your post will provide that they could not have found elsewhere.
Before you submit, ask yourself:
- Have I removed any extraneous words or links that could detract from my key message(s)?
- Does my writing make sense for its intended audience?
- Did I take out any unneeded info? (Yep, do this one more time.)
What tips do you use to simplify your writing? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @BostonContent.