What does the color blue taste like? How does boredom taste, or the mental image of a square? Pastry chef Taria Camerino could tell you. She has synesthesia, a kind of wire-crossing of sensory input, and her memory works almost entirely through flavor. She’s a pastry chef by trade, making delicacies with flavors based on her unusual gift.
Odds are you can’t tell me the flavor profile of ennui, or whether ovals are sweet or spicy. But content marketers turn ideas into words like a chef turns ingredients into a gourmet meal.
Words hit your reader’s brain the way a flavor hits their taste buds: some combinations delight, others are boring, and some tug on the gag reflex. Regardless of the ideas you’re trying to convey, the words themselves can make all the difference.
Here are some tips for writing copy that will delight your reader’s palate.
Use the Simplest Word That Does the Job
Now, I’m not saying you have to write like Tarzan speaks, or dumb down your copy to the lowest common denominator. What I mean is don’t use a big word when a simple one will do.
For example, don’t write “utilize your mobile device” when you mean, “use your phone.” Or “let’s actuate a co-collaborative process” instead of “let’s work together.” Make sure your copy sounds like it was written by a human, not a committee.
Use the Rule of Three
There are some constructs in language that naturally appeal to readers (at least to native English speakers). One of the big ones is the rule of three: If a sentence has a list, it just tastes better if there are three items in it.
“This blog post will help you write better copy, get more shares and convert more customers” is a good example. The three-item list takes the reader on a little journey. It has a beginning, middle and end (there we go again). There’s neither too little nor too much information.
Did you notice the last three sentences in the previous paragraph were a triplet as well? Eerie, isn’t it?
Our hardwired desire to process things in threes is so strong that if you subvert it, it becomes comedy. Like, “after today I need a stiff drink, a hot bath, and a full frontal lobotomy.”
Keep the rule of three structure in mind. It’s a subtle trick, but if you’re mindful of it, it can make your copy flow more logically.
Add a Little Poetry
Why should poets get to have all the fun with language? There are plenty of aspects of poetry that are downright delectable when used sparingly in prose. They liven up your writing and make it more memorable, more likely to stick in your reader’s mind. Here are a few to try:
- Alliteration is using the same sound multiple times in a row. Like “downright delectable” and “more memorable” or “same sound.”
- Assonance is when vowel sounds repeat within words. Like the “ow” in “vowel” and “sounds.”
- Repetition is powerful when used in short phrases, like “We need to be bolder. We need to be braver. We need to do better.” (note the rule of three, too).
- Rhyme may seem impossible to use in serious prose. But consider phrases like “the latest and greatest,” “dress for success,” or “eyes on the prize.”
Play with Rhythm
I suggest reading your copy out loud as part of the polishing process. A big reason for that is rhythm. It’s easy to get into a sing-songy, same-y rhythm while writing. But when you’re speaking, those annoying cadences will be easy to find. Your reader will “hear” what you wrote with their mind’s ear; play with rhythm to keep them awake and engaged.
Write a long sentence that spools out like a ribbon in the wind, full of energy and imagery, using every trick in your writer’s utility belt. Then cut it off. Get short. Shorter. Let it breathe again, but not too much. Keep it light, playful, nimble. Float like a butterfly, avoid cliches like a bee.
At the heart of it, writing content is serious business. We write based on audience research. We have a specific business goal in mind with each piece of content. We’re concerned about ROI. No one would ever confuse it for pure creative expression. It’s work.
But that doesn’t mean it has to be a chore. If you have fun writing something, it shows. Take this delicious piece from Jason Miller. It’s clear he had a blast writing it, and it’s a joy to read.
So as you write, be mindful of the rules of grammar, your client’s expectations, your editor’s preferences. But also keep in mind all the tips and tricks that make writing delicious. Love what you do. Your readers will thank you.
*Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing Client.