Call it an occupational hazard, but in taking up editing again in my freelance work, I can’t help but notice certain things when I’m reading an article online or researching for my own pieces. The “certain things” I’m alluding to are weak structure, story, argument, and no emotion. So today, I’m writing about writing.
Writing for a business blog means you have to walk the fine line between educating and selling. But c’mon. Educational pieces usually = boring and dry. Robotic, non-human. As someone who has written for the last decade-plus, I’m guilty of it too. I’m on deadline and I need to tick it off my list.
There’s a lot of room to write better, and create more impactful stories that will resonate with customers or prospects. Over the years, I’ve noticed fundamental issues that could be improved upon, especially for folks who write for online businesses. These have to do with weak arguments and structure, but mostly, a lack of emotion.
So… what’s the emotion in your piece?
People are creatures who feel all the feelings, all the time. You’re excited, frustrated, sad, annoyed, and curious.
Everyone knows they need to write for their target audience but forget to add the most important part—how will they feel? How will your product or service help them stress less and do their jobs better or live their best lives?
For example, one of my previous clients is a data automation platform. The audience that I wrote for naturally included a company’s data team.
In learning all I could about data people and what they do, I discovered they’re overworked, oftentimes having to do manual work that a machine could easily do. Unsurprisingly, turnover for these roles was high.
I wrote about frustration, feeling overwhelmed, and underappreciated. I focused on the impact and satisfaction they’d feel by doing more meaningful work in their day-to-day, such as creating new products and analyzing data, and ditching the boring and tedious tasks for machines to take care of.
Get curious about your audience. Then, create a go-to list of questions to ask (don’t forget the feeling questions) and reach out to colleagues, friends, mentors, and LinkedIn contacts. It’ll make your writing so much more insightful and resonate with your audience.
Create an enticing lede
Company blogs can become mundane—you pump out a few articles a month and find your cadence, voice, and style. The lede isn’t grabby and by the time you get to the end, it just drops off without a conclusion or wrap-up.
The lede should be thought-provoking and engaging. The “hook,” as they say, needs to grab the reader so she keeps reading. I cringe when I see articles that start with these words: “today, if, and whether.”
Keep it fresh with new ways to present articles. Start with a statistic and then segue into the emotion behind it. Or better yet, entice the reader with a story. Anything is better than “today, if, and whether.”
Or switch up the usual style of articles and do a Q&A-style interview.
Ever notice how endings and intros are basically the same?
Just like a great intro, end your article by reiterating your argument. Don’t let it deflate.
I’ve struggled with this too because the intro and ending are arguably two of the hardest parts to write. I admit I spend way too much time on the intro. But what I’ve learned is, it doesn’t go to waste. Once I have a solid intro, I save some of it for the conclusion. This is mostly because I want to keep the intro concise and to the point, so I have to cut most of it.
Try it, the next time you write.
For the ending, massage in a few sentences that encapsulate your article. Include a few reminders of what you recommend the reader to do. Mention whether you’ve solved the problem or how the problem still exists but that’s okay because we’re all in it together. (Zing! Emotion.)
If you started the intro with a story, tie it back to that. I promise it’ll make the reader feel more satisfied.
Also, avoid using generic subheads like “conclusion” or “final thoughts.” Make it more specific, to sum up the article. Or use a question.
Humanize the ending (and beginning)—conclusions are great places to interject your voice and to emphasize (you guessed it) the emotion.