By Sarah Rickerd published March 25, 2016

10 Tips to Pack More Personality into Your Content

More-personality-into-content

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:

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.

tell-a-good-story

Click to enlarge

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

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:

SubheaderimageSearchEngineJournal

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.

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.

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

Author: Sarah Rickerd

Sarah Rickerd is the owner of Content Conquered, a content creation agency dedicated to producing high-value, conversions-driving blog posts, case studies, e-books, and more. Sarah has been writing professionally since 2007 and has helped her clients publish more than 8 million words online in that time. Follow her on Twitter at @WriteEarnChange.

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  • http://beabetterblogger.com Kevin J. Duncan

    Hi Sarah,

    What an awesome post! And thank you so much for using my “anecdote” article as an example. I really appreciate it! :-)

    I’m off to tweet your wonderful post. I also think I’ll make it a last-minute addition to my newsletter this week. My readers will love these personality tips you shared!

    Thanks again, Sarah. Hope you have a wonderful Friday!

    – @kevinjduncan

    • sarah@contentconquered.com

      So much appreciated, Kevin, and thanks for reading, commenting and creating such great content yourself :) Take care!

      • http://beabetterblogger.com Kevin J. Duncan

        You’re welcome, Sarah. And THANK YOU for the kind words. :-)

  • rogercparker

    Welcome to CMI ranks, Sarah: Great first post. I especially appreciate the Lee Child contribution at the end.
    Roger

    • sarah@contentconquered.com

      Thanks Roger – happy to be a part of such a welcoming community! :)

  • Maharafa I Coulibaly

    Hi Sarah !
    Great post. I’ve use some of these technics, espacially the last one. Indeed, I manage a Facebook page called >>> Ethos <<< where I publish short articles on philosophy.

    I confess it is not easy to attract young audience to topics like philosophy. My audience follow the story of a young malian boy called Ethos and they learned by following the story.

    Sometime I'm afraid to leave the story and get to the philosophical point. I know I have to balance between the two; but I wonder weither I won't lose them when things will get serious. Some tips ?

    Maharafa Ibrahima COULIBALY, 21 years malian student in management.

    • sarah@contentconquered.com

      Hi Maharafa – Yes, I can see how that would be challenging! Two things that I think would be effective would be to weave pieces of philosophy into the story (so that it isn’t all story or all philosophy in your Facebook posts) or to “test the waters” with philosophy-based posts that are quite short and easily understood. If you don’t see a marked decrease in engagement on your philosophy posts, that would be a sign that your audience is open to more.

      Thanks for reading, and best of luck!!

  • Justin Howlett

    I’m actually reviving an old webcomic that I’ve done to promote my business. The webcomic tells stories, I can use the characters as mascots, and I’m related my comic to my business. I’ve always write like I talk, because I don’t know any other way of writing. So that’s tip number nine I’m following. As for tip number eight goes, it sounds like what you’re describing is infotainment.

    • sarah@contentconquered.com

      I hadn’t thought of it as infotainment specifically, but you’re right. People definitely respond well to feeling like they’ve learned something new, especially if you can convey that information in a way that’s fun and engaging. And what a cool idea with the web comic!

  • http://www.rohanbhardwaj.com/ Rohan Bhardwaj

    Telling your story and “writing like we talk” are the two golden gems which I use often. The 10 tips could be used as a checklist to excel the content.

    Superb post. :)

    • sarah@contentconquered.com

      They really do make such a difference. Glad to hear they’re working for you as well!

  • http://www.napacopywriter.com Gina Ritter

    Such a great post!

    • sarah@contentconquered.com

      Thanks for reading :)

  • sarah@contentconquered.com

    Thanks – appreciate it!

  • ClickShift Marketing

    Fantastic article. Always refreshing to find new perspectives like yours in the content development space. It is so easy to write just in order to push out content without any regard to the actual experience of the user. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://styla.com/blog Olga

    This is great! The tips are quite basic, but usually you still forget about them when you’re sinking into the writing routine… I guess the most important tip is to stay fresh and passionate about what you write about — and then the personality will shine through :)

  • http://digitalvani.com/ Arun @ DigitalVani.Com

    Absolutely great tips, Sarah. The evolution of content marketing has reached its peak. Time to create really fresh, unique and engaging content – the only way you can survive in the digital world.

  • Marie Andrysiak

    These tips are really easy-to-implement! I think this could change the way I write.

    Thanks!

  • Sandra Garth

    Thank you these are very helpful!