Which of these passages would you rather read?
This one, Example 1:
Are you a social media addict? It’s okay. You can admit it. You keep your phone close by, ostensibly so you can do a quick Google search, should the need arise. Or you may want to look up someone on IMDB. Maybe you’re expecting messages or responses to business or personal posts you’re running on Facebook. So you gotta have your phone at the ready, right? You just never know who may need to get a hold of you, when an important call or text might come in. Haha! As if anyone calls anymore. Okay. Maybe this is all a bit overarching. Or maybe it’s only me who does this, in which case, more fool me. But somehow, I doubt that’s the case. If you’re like so many of us, I’ve just described you to a T.
Or this one, Example 2:
Are you a social media addict? It’s okay. You can admit it.
You keep your phone close by, ostensibly so you can do a quick Google search, should the need arise. Or you may want to look up someone on IMDB.
Maybe you’re expecting messages or responses to business or personal posts you’re running on Facebook.
So you gotta have your phone at the ready, right? You just never know who may need to get a hold of you, when an important call or text might come in. Haha! As if anyone calls anymore.
Okay. Maybe this is all a bit overarching.Or maybe it’s only me who does this, in which case, more fool me. But somehow, I doubt that’s the case. If you’re like so many of us, I’ve just described you to a T.
What A Difference Formatting Can Make
Same words. Same message. What’s the difference? It’s pretty evident, isn’t it? One has a ton more white space than the other. That space makes the second example so much easier to read. Easier to scan. More likely to hold the reader engaged.
The problem is it flies in the face of everything you learned in school.
Because when writing for content marketing, readability is paramount. Forgive me, Mrs. Appleby. I know you’d be horrified.
Business Writing Versus 8th Grade English Class
When I first started doing business writing, blog posts and articles and other marketing content, I stuck with what I learned in English class.
But the more I honed my craft, the more I realized those principles just wouldn’t fly in a business environment.
Reading Is Optional In Business
The greatest difference between papers written for high school English class and articles written for business is that someone must read the English class paper.
You had to read your paper; your teacher also had to read it. Maybe class members were asked to read it.
When it comes to content marketing and blog writing, your reader isn’t required to stick around. Within seconds, they decide whether to stay and read or move on. And when your reader sees a page full of dense text, what do you think they’ll do? What would you do? Yup, sadly, they’ll take door number two.
They’ll move on.
Making your text readable, scannable is one of your most critical writing tools.It greatly increases the odds of your article being read, shared and commented upon. And you’re right, you likely didn’t learn this in school.
Middle/High School English
Think back to your school years, for a moment. What were you taught about paragraph structure? It’s a safe bet that you learned that each new subject starts with a new paragraph. Paragraphs that were often long enough to fill half the page or even multiple pages. Dense, enormous blocks of text.
They contained a topic sentence with a mound of supporting evidence between assertions. They could be and usually were tedious reading. It took exceptional flair to avoid your reader nodding off halfway through your essay.
This notion has been tossed out the door when it comes to content marketing writing. Now, if you have a paragraph that’s more than three lines long, you’re pushing the envelope. And it’s not the least uncommon to have a one-word paragraph.
Gasp! Perish the thought!
You’ve Got (Need) Rhythm
Content is more likely to engage your reader when it has a flow, a rhythm, to it. No long sentences, one after the other. Even if they’re only a line or two long, too many in your content will make it sound pedantic.
Strive to break your writing up. Short paragraphs. One-word sentences. Even one-word paragraphs. Make one sentence a couple lines long, and then follow it with a one- or two-word paragraph. Make powerful points. Allow them to stand out. Don’t bury them in a sea of words.
Listen To What You Write
Read your text aloud, when you proofread. Not only will you catch errors more quickly, but you’ll also be able to hear the rhythm. Or lack thereof.
When I do this, I hear my text. I begin to get a feel for what sounds rhythmic and what is awkward.
Try it. You’ll be flabbergasted. That rhythm, that swing, makes your article a pleasure to read. Exactly what you want.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice, over time, will give you a feel for that rhythm in your writing. The more you do it, the better your writing will get. Beware of long, dense, word-filled paragraphs.
Stop worrying about whether the next line is a new topic. Who cares? It doesn’t matter. Create emphasis with one-word sentences and paragraphs. Break up your writing, some long sentences, others shorter.
Keep your reader on their toes. Hopefully, you’ve chosen a topic in which your audience will have an interest. But that’s only half the battle. You want to serve it up with panache.
Go for scannability.
Create lots of white space.
Make it readable.
A thousand things are vying for your reader’s attention. Make it as easy as possible for them to hang with you.
Go ahead. Tip your hat to your eighth grade English teacher.
Without her, you never would have learned the rules of writing.
Just remember, some rules are meant to be broken.
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