By Carina Rampelt published November 2, 2020 Est Read Time: 8 min

Why You Should Avoid the Broetry Writing Trend

I know you’ve seen them.

The posts that go like this.

One single line after another.

Like bizarre business-oriented free verse.

People are calling it “broetry.”

You’ve just read a broem.

What is broetry?

I spent three months researching the format to create this simple definition: Broetry is a post style popular on LinkedIn immediately recognizable for its strange, poetry-esque line spacing. These posts typically begin with a clickbait opener like “Is outbound sales dead?” and end with a cliché like “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” In the middle, the poster tells an emotionally charged anecdote portraying themselves in an overly flattering light.

You know, the too-good-to-be-true stories like, “I was running late for an interview. A woman slipped and fell on the sidewalk. I didn’t have a moment to lose, but I stopped and helped her up. She was the hiring manager. I got the job on the spot.”

“Broetry” posts are recognizable for their clickbait opener, cliché ending, and emotionally charged anecdote, says @CarinaRampelt via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Here’s a handy checklist to determine whether a post is a broem:

  • Does it start with a clickbait, one-sentence opener?
  • Does it feature an emotionally charged anecdote that paints the subject in an overly flattering light?
  • Is it formatted in short, simple sentences with frequent, probably unnecessary line breaks?
  • Does it end with a clichéd life lesson or inspirational thought?

Broetry is not just proliferating on everyone’s favorite business networking platform. It’s an increasingly popular post style on blogs, especially in the sales space.

Be wary, content marketers: While the form might drive engagement and clicks, it can undermine your goals in the long term. Here’s why you should avoid broetry – and suggestions for some more effective writing strategies to use instead.

Broetry can drive clicks, but it undermines your long-term goals, says @CarinaRampelt via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Broetry is optimized for machines, not humans

The most salient feature of broetry is its formatting – short sentences and frequent line breaks. Broetry defenders claim that it’s mobile-optimized and, at first glance, that might seem a compelling argument. People like reading shorter paragraphs on smaller screens, right?

Writing experts like Gary Provost disagree. Broetry typically uses paragraphs of the same length – one sentence – and that can get monotonous for readers. To prove his point, Gary crafted this content: “This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.”

Let me do something similar with paragraphs:

Don’t get me wrong – a single sentence can have an impact.

But if you do it every line, it starts to get monotonous.

It’s just as bad as a giant wall of text with no breaks.

It’s like making a speech and dropping the mic after every phrase.

The first time, you’ll make an impact.

The second time, you’ll lose the dramatic effect.

People tire of watching you pick up the microphone from the floor.

You get the picture. So why do people turn to this format on LinkedIn? There’s reason to believe that the LinkedIn algorithm prioritizes dwell time, which could entice people to spread out the content into single-sentence paragraphs. But that’s not a reason to post broetry on a company blog. (I also argue that LinkedIn readers who get bored and move on outweigh the marginal benefit of dwell time.)

What to do instead

Vary the length of your sentences and paragraphs. You still can write snappy, interesting prose that appeals to mobile readers with sentences and paragraphs of different lengths. Save single-lined paragraphs for emphasis – when you have something truly revelatory to say. 

Use the “bite, snack, and meal” approach. Mobile readers are not all alike. Some only read the first sentence, others skim, and still others fully digest what you have to say. An article on E-write suggests deliberately catering to these different appetites. Front-load information for your “bite” and “snack” readers – include a message in the first sentence and a summary of the points (or at least a road map of where the post is going) in the first paragraph. That technique allows interested readers to digest the “meal” while satisfying the biters and snackers.

Write for “bite” and “snack” readers by front-loading info – key message in first sentence and summary of points, says @CarinaRampelt via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Broetry can alienate your readers

The content and tone of broetry are meant to motivate. After all, these posts often tell stories of improbable success. Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? But often, these stories exaggerate the truth to create a clickbait hook. Broetry authors (aka broets) pump up the hook but leave their readers disappointed when the content doesn’t live up to the promise made. Or worse, broets wrap their “wise” nuggets in humblebrags about #hustling, making them come off as embodiments of the toxic tech bro culture. For most readers, this content is off-putting, not inspirational.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: Can Clickbait Be Used for Good?

What to do instead

Be vulnerable. Tell stories of the hard-won lessons, not just the (highly edited) ones that make you look good. I love reading developer blogs for this reason – there’s no ego or self-aggrandizement, just an honest assessment of the problems and how they went about solving them. Inject this kind of raw honesty into your content. Trust me; your readers will value the authenticity.

Use the empty-suitcase method. Write a sentence that alludes to what you’re going to talk about without giving away all your secrets. It’s like telling someone about the suitcase you’re holding without showing what’s inside. Take the title of this article, Why You Should Avoid The Broetry Writing Trend. It gives you a broad idea of what I’m going to talk about but leaves enough questions that you’re curious to read more.

Broetry is not an evergreen strategy

Another reason to avoid the broetry trend? It’s a flash in the pan. I see it as an intellectual heir to the ubiquitous clickbait fad of the early 2010s. For a few years, you couldn’t avoid “shocking” headlines like “Baby Ducks See Water for The First Time—Can You BELIEVE What They Do?” (a real article, by the way). But by 2015, these headlines had largely fallen out of fashion with mainstream content providers.

What happened? People stopped taking the (click)bait. Former reigning champions of clickbait, like Upworthy, faced a sharp decline in their site traffic and scrambled to change their approach. By the mid-2010s, Upworthy ditched the “shocking” headlines and focused on telling better stories.

Like the clickbait trend of the 2010s, broetry might seem an enticing way to boost traffic. But it won’t last – and creating it now means putting in the time and effort later to revise your content.

What to do instead

Tell genuinely interesting stories. This is the hardest but most important tip. You don’t have to bamboozle readers into consuming (and sharing) your content when you have a genuinely interesting tale to tell. Here are a couple of my favorite tales:

Don’t settle for writing something someone could easily find on Google. Whenever possible, tackle a question that you can’t find any satisfying answers to and track down primary sources. That’s how you create content that’s new and interesting.

Don’t settle for #writing something someone could easily find on Google, says @CarinaRampelt via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Shift the focus. There’s nothing wrong with sharing a personal story if it helps illustrate a lesson or provides food for thought. But external sources – scientific studies, historical anecdotes, or current events – provide a wealth of storytelling material. Challenge yourself to tell stories where you and your brand aren’t the center of attention. (Hint: The secret is to make reading a habit. What you absorb will come out in your writing.)

Forgo the broetry

While the broetry format might be taking LinkedIn and some blogs by storm, smart content teams are battening down the hatches and relying on timeless writing tips. They:

  • Vary their paragraph styles
  • Tell authentic stories
  • Put in the hard work of creating genuinely interesting content

I’m not going to lie – it’s a lot harder than writing broetry. But it’s much more likely to pay off in the long run.

To advance your writing skills, watch the writing track sessions at Content Marketing World 2020. Sign up today and gain access to all the keynote presentations and dozens of sessions through mid-April.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Carina Rampelt

Carina is a writer and strategist for Find A Way Media. She holds a master's degree in 18th-century English literature from the University of Oxford. In her free time, she can be found perusing secondhand bookstores and hunting for the best chai latte in Toronto. See her portfolio. Follow her on Twitter @carinarampelt.

Other posts by Carina Rampelt

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