A fundamental principle of content marketing is that you must keep your readers engaged. In fact, 60% of B2B and 56% of B2C marketers consider this a challenge, according to our annual content marketing research. You can do this in a number of ways, but writing entertaining content that is full of personality has proven to be one of the most effective.
Writing entertaining content, however, can be a challenge. To help make your next content pieces really shine, here are 10 easy-to-implement tips for packing more personality into your writing:
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Tip 1: Tell a good story
People love stories. It’s why we’ve been telling them since prehistoric man first gathered around a fire. Anytime you find that the piece you’re working on feels a little drab or is getting bogged down in nitty-gritty facts and details, inject a relevant anecdote.
The trick is to come up with a story that has both entertainment value and a message that coincides with the purpose (or mission) of your content. Do this, and you’re likely to keep your reader around for a little longer.
In his blog, Be a Better Blogger, Kevin Duncan gives a good example of how captivating an anecdote can be (seriously, read his post titled An Interesting Anecdote Could be the Antidote for Your Ailing Blog Post). As Kevin explains:
When used properly, anecdotes can grab the attention of your readers and set the stage for the rest of your blog post. You shouldn’t overdo it, of course. But when used in moderation, anecdotes can be a blogger’s best friend.
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Tip 2: Elicit an emotional response
Jonah Berger, author of the book Contagious, looked at the common factors among the stories shared the most across social media. As he detailed in a Journal of Marketing Research article, he analyzed 7,000 articles from The New York Times. Along with finding that “good news” stories were shared far more often than “bad news” stories, Jonah also discovered something surprising. Stories that elicited an emotional response – even if that response was typically considered negative such as anger, frustration, or anxiety – are more likely to be shared than content that did not engage the reader’s emotions.Stories that elicit an emotional response are more likely to be shared than #content that doesn't via @j1berger Click To Tweet
Appealing to your readers’ emotions is a big part of what makes gripping content. To do this:
- Pack your writing with emotionally charged words.
- Tell stories that are designed to elicit particular responses.
- Shape the overall tone of your piece to fit the emotion you are appealing to.
The result will not only be a piece packed with more personality but also one that, according to Berger’s research, is more likely to be shared with others.
Tip 3: Ask rhetorical questions
Rhetorical questions get the reader thinking for themselves, even momentarily, rather than simply being fed information.
When crafting rhetorical questions, however, remember a little goes a long way. Littering your content with rhetorical questions can lead readers to become frustrated because they don’t get any answers or they feel like they’re under interrogation because they’re being asked so many questions.
Printwand.com, a website that helps marketers with their copywriting, has this to say about rhetorical questions:
… with writing, the conversation is completely one-sided. The audience has no chance to respond. Therefore, rhetorical questions have to serve a different purpose: Getting your audience thinking about your brand’s message and persuading them to act.
Indeed, questions play a huge role in our verbal communication, and though writing may be largely one-sided, you still can engage readers in your content.
While some writers can sense if they’re overdoing the rhetorical questions, a decent rule of thumb is to include no more than two rhetorical questions every 500 words (and even those should be spaced apart). Handled the right way, rhetorical questions are a powerful tool in a writer’s kit.When writing, include no more than two rhetorical questions every 500 words, via @WriteEarnChange #content Click To Tweet
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Tip 4: Think formatting
If your words are the paint, your formatting is the canvas – and no masterpiece was ever created on a napkin. Good use of paragraph spacing, bold type, italicized fonts, and other devices like bulleted or numbered lists can make your content far more pleasing to the eye, leading readers to feel as if what they’re reading is more interesting, even if the words are exactly the same.
Craft short paragraphs to keep your readers from growing bored visually with what you’re saying. Use italics to add emphasis to key words, especially when drawing a contrast between two words. Likewise, bolding key words is a powerful way to add emphasis, though except for a rare instance or two, reserve bold font for headings and subheadings.
Finally, make use of symbols to make your content flow better and to convey meaning. Em and en dashes – as well as parentheses – are a great way to include additional information (though keep in mind parentheses make this information seem like a side note). Em and en dashes are more eye-catching – drawing the information within them to center stage.
Jasmine Henry of Writtent.com says:
If you have to pick just one type of formatting to include in each perfect blog post you publish, it should be subheaders.
She shares an example from Search Engine Journal illustrating the impact of adding subheaders:
Formatting options give you as a writer a huge degree of freedom as to how your content will look and flow. Use them wisely.
Tip 5: Widen your vocabulary
No one is saying that your content has to sing like Shakespeare’s, but improving your vocabulary to the point that you’re able to choose words that go beyond what people hear in their everyday life is an excellent way to add personality to your content. If reading through a dictionary isn’t your idea of a good time, you can simply use an online thesaurus to find more exciting alternatives to common words.
But as with all of these tips so far, this is another one where you don’t want to overdo it. Flooding your content with too much high-brow language can make your reader lose interest and make you come across as pompous. Use great words liberally, but make sure your final product is in line with the grade-level reading expectations of your audience.
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Tip 6: Be interested in your topic
How can you expect your reader to be interested in what you write, if you have no interest in writing it? If you feel your topic is dry and boring, research it until you find what makes it intriguing.
The Oxford Royale Academy suggests finding fans of your topic in the hope that their enthusiasm will be contagious. Whatever it takes, make sure that you have some interest and appreciation of your topic before you ever sit down behind the keyboard. Your results will speak for themselves.
Tip 7: Read entertaining content
Giving your writing more personality doesn’t necessarily have to be giving it more of your personality. By reading entertaining content – fiction or nonfiction – you’ll soon find your writing inspired by other styles and voices.
If you are serious about making your written content really sing, subscribe to a few magazines, pick up a novel from time to time, and follow blogs that offer content you admire. Not only are these great ways to pass time, they’ll also help you become a better writer without any effort beyond consuming content.
As Jeff Goins, an authority in writing advice and author of four best-selling books, says:
Writers need to read. A lot. Magazines. Books. Periodicals. And so on. They need to grasp the art of language, to appreciate the finer points of words. As they read, they should jot down ideas and capture thoughts as they come.
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Tip 8: Include fascinating facts
People read for two reasons: to be entertained and to learn. Realize that these go hand-in-hand. It’s hard to teach if you’re boring your audience. Inversely, it’s hard for them to be entertained if they are not, to some degree, expanding their intellectual horizons. Research your topic to find fascinating facts and sprinkle them throughout the piece.
In his blog post, Interesting Facts Make Web Pages Compelling, Jacob Nielsen discusses some of the research on why readers (especially online readers) are particularly drawn to fascinating nuggets of information. Suffice it to say, if you’re able to both educate as well as entertain, people will enjoy your work for the amazing information they learn, and you’ll be able to write more exciting content without having to change your writing style at all.
Tip 9: Write like you talk
Rather than altering the way you communicate just because you’re behind a computer, write with the same voice and enthusiasm as if you’re telling a story to a friend. Granted, if you’re a financial or legal writer, starting blog posts with “What’s up, y’all?” is seriously inadvisable. But for many writers, taking a conversational approach to their content is as freeing as it is effective. Communicate as clearly and as personally as you do in your everyday life, and your personality automatically infuses itself into your writing.
Take note, however, that there is a right way and wrong way to go about this. You don’t want your writing to come across as a garbled stream of consciousness. To learn more about how to write like you talk – but better – take a look at this Huffington Post piece on the topic, particularly the following piece of advice from author Whitney Ryan:
Stay true to who you are, and don’t try to fit someone else’s writing style to your own. We’ve all got our unique voices, so make sure you’re using yours. Always.
Tip 10: Build suspense
Building suspense is the holy grail of great writing. It’s also one of the most coveted skills and is the reason that authors such as Stephen King and James Patterson can sell books that fly off of the shelves.
You can build suspense in your own writing even if you aren’t writing a mystery novel. Ask yourself what the most interesting part of your piece is and build toward its reveal. Subtly mention that you’re going to offer the reader some powerful new insight, but don’t disclose what it is right away. Work toward it little by little by little, unraveling the details and building suspense as you go.
Lee Child, best-selling author of the Jack Reacher series, offers these words of wisdom:
All books are suspenseful, even the driest nonfiction. It’s about asking a question and making the reader wait until the end for the answer … The very act of asking a question makes people want to stick around and find out the answer. The power of asking a question is enormous.
If you’re serious about keeping your reader hanging on your every word – whether you’re writing a blog or a best-seller – take Lee’s suggestion to heart. It’s a win-win tactic that can powerfully increase the personality in your writing.
Have you used any of these tactics in your own writing? Do you have other strategies for making your content more engaging? Let me know by leaving a comment.
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Cover image by Jeff Sheldon, Unsplash, via pixabay.com