Go forth and conquer, or go forth and die.
Every time you hit “Publish,” you’re sending your writing out on one of these two missions. The Internet is glutted with blogs, videos and social media updates, all vying for precious eyeball time. So, how do you make your work stand out? How do you prepare it to win readers’ attention and not languish on the sidelines?
Think AAA. No, not the motor club. In this context, AAA stands for the three elements that make good writing: Applicability, artfulness and accuracy. Use these to guide your work, and you’ll be turning out prose that can hold its own in even the most cutthroat environment.
Next time you’re browsing your news feed, notice your habits. What drives you to click on one article and ignore another? Chances are, the article that got your click was relevant to you somehow. Maybe it warned you about a problem. Or, maybe it offered you advice. Maybe it just made you laugh. In any case, the defining factor was you: your interests, your fears, your goals.
In other words, the post was applicable to you.
Get to know your readers. What makes them tick? What do they want from life? Then, use that information to custom-tailor your writing to their needs.
In news writing, this means making sure the readers’ interests are front and center. In your leading paragraph, don’t just say the City Council voted to increase the recreation department’s budget. Say the City Council voted to boost recreation funding, which will cover the costs of installing new playground equipment and a few barbecue pits at the local park. Readers don’t want to know the city spent money, necessarily. They want to know if and how that expense will benefit them.
It’s the same if you’re writing a blog. Dig deep into your material and find the fact or idea that’s most valuable to your readers. Then, smack that sucker right at the top of your post. Don’t be shy. You don’t want your post standing on the shoulder of the information superhighway, politely begging askance of readers zooming by. You want your post to grab them by the lapels and say, “Listen up, pal.”
A good turn of phrase makes me smile. When I run across one unexpectedly, I remember it for the rest of the day. And, chances are, I’ll start following the author on Twitter, hoping to read more goodies from her in the future.
Tell it straight, but but make it artful. Crack open your thesaurus and replace a passive verb with a punchy one. Don’t bury your voice with stuffy words and awkward sentences. Say “use,” not “utilize.” Spare your readers a one-way ticket to the Land of Bland and write the way you speak. Be human. Be you.
Simple, but important: Good writing is wasted on bad information.
Double-check name spellings, dates and numbers. Clean up any grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. When in doubt, look it up. If you can’t verify it, leave it out.
Caring is sharing, as the man says. If you’ve gotten something useful out of this blog, pass it on to another writer in your life. I’d be mighty grateful.