Write To Win – Attract, Engage, And Hook Readers In 6 Easy Steps

The quality of business writing has been a hot topic of debate lately. In several social networking forums, both writers and those who hire writers have openly, often fervently, expressed their concern that catchy, creative, well-written copy is a thing of the past.
In his insightful, wonderful article on, writer Jason Fried asked flat-out, “Why is business writing so awful?
While it could be due to any combination of reasons (punctuation, grammar, misspellings), Fried was referring specifically to bland, boring copy which does little more than reiterate all the bland, boring copy you’ve read before.
Great copy, according to Fried, has a personality and invokes emotion, among other things. But how do you do that? Ask any writer, and they’ll probably give you a number of tricks and tips to make your copy kick. But in this article, I’ll show you six techniques you can apply right now to make the difference between copy which moves readers to take action and moves them to, well, move on.
1. Write like you speak. Forget everything you learned about writing a college term paper. This ain’t that. (Yes, I meant to write that.)
The most vivid, engaging copy reads like a conversation between two friends. So, imagine you’re having a conversation with your ideal client, whom you might also like to one day have as a friend. What would you say? How might you interact? Write it down. Or, if you have to, speak into a recorder and then transcribe the material. Don’t worry about editing. That comes later. For now, just write it down.
2. Show personality. It’s perfectly okay, as Fried illustrates in his article, to let your personality shine when writing. Really, it is. From website content to sales letters to email blasts to cover letters, readers welcome sincere, down-to-earth copy which gives them a sense of a real person behind the words. Don’t worry how you think you’re “supposed” to sound.
One of the best pieces of writing I did recently was for a CPA who’s not your typical, boring, run-of-the-mill number cruncher (sorry, CPAs). She’s an outgoing person who loves to connect with people, and we showcased that in her copy. Sure, there are other firms in town, but I guarantee none communicate the welcoming, personable message she does (I know they don’t, because I read their copy!).
Want to know how to beat your competition? Just be yourself! Don’t be afraid to put some personality into your writing.
3. Tell stories or use scenarios. One of my favorite TV shows ever was, “The Golden Girls.” I especially loved the character Sophia, played by the late Estelle Getty. Sophia was known for her wisecracks and vivid, often outlandish recollections of her homeland, Sicily. She was particularly dramatic in recounting these far-fetched tales, and she always set the stories up the same way: “Picture this: Sicily, 19–.”
And it worked like a charm, every time. Viewers would wait excitedly for the tale that followed and without fail, would leave them in stitches.
Readers, too, love stories. Set it up. Paint the picture. Create the dialogue. Speak directly to that thing you know your readers want to hear. Give voice to your company. Readers will remember you for it.
4. Not a good storyteller? Then write to pictures. That’s a trick I learned during my TV news days. Turn on your local TV news station and count how many times a reporter says, “If you look over to my left,” or, “You can see the fire raging behind me.”
Not only is it easier to write when you have a visual, but the best writing is that which helps the reader paint some type of vivid mental image.
What if your copy doesn’t call for pictures? That’s fine; choose an image which would be suitable to use if it did, and describe it as thoroughly as possible, referencing color, texture, smell, etc. Making sure your words and imagery are congruent helps to build credibility and continuity throughout your writing.
5. Cut to the chase. Your readers have limited time, waning attention spans, and lives which require their focus. Respect their time. Use short, succinct sentences and paragraphs, bullets, headlines, and subheads to build visual interest and break up long blocks of text.
6. Proofread. Then, have someone else proofread. Even the spiffiest, punchiest, most conversational, image-rich copy will be a bust if it’s laden with errors or typos. Want proof?
Picture this: you’re all dressed up and ready to go to a black-tie affair at the White House. You’re wearing that little wrap-around black dress which comes just above the knee and has a quarter-inch slit on the left thigh. You’ve donned your diamond earrings and pearl necklace, sprayed your Chanel No 5 behind both ears, and slid on your Christian Louboutin’s. You’re on your way out the door when you look down and notice the little run in your hose. There. Right where the top of your foot rests snugly inside the tip of your shoe.
In the time it took you to read five little sentences, you went from oh, so well put-together to…not. Get the point?
One little oversight can ruin a great outfit, or great copy.

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