August 5, 2019 10:00 am
Editor’s note: Read on for three more than the original 10 tips on injecting personality into your content we published a few years ago.
A fundamental principle of content marketing is that you must keep your readers engaged. You can do this in several ways but writing content full of personality has proven to be one of the most effective.
Creating entertaining content, however, can be a challenge. To make your next content pieces shinier, here are 13 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 people first gathered around a fire. Any time the piece you’re working on feels drab or gets 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 he 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.
Tip 2: Elicit an emotional response
Jonah Berger, author of the book Contagious, looked at the common factors among the most shared stories across social media. As 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.
To create gripping stories:
- Pack your writing with emotionally charged words.
- Tell stories designed to elicit particular responses.
- Shape the overall tone to fit the emotion you are appealing to.
The result will not only be a piece packed with more personality but one that, according to the research, is more likely to be shared with others.
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Tip 3: Ask rhetorical questions
Rhetorical questions get readers thinking for themselves, even if only momentarily, rather than simply taking in information.
When crafting rhetorical questions, however, a little goes a long way. Littering your content with rhetorical questions can lead to frustrated readers who may feel like they’re under interrogation or aren’t getting the answers they want.
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 verbal communication, and though writing may be largely one-sided, you still can write questions to engage readers.
A decent rule of thumb to avoid overdosing on rhetorical questions is to include no more than two in 500 words (and even those should be spaced apart). Handled the right way, rhetorical questions are a powerful tool in a writer’s kit.
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 the content is more interesting even if the words are the same.
Craft short paragraphs to keep your readers from growing bored visually. 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 emphasize. However, except in rare instances, reserve bold font for headings and subheadings.
Finally, make use of symbols to help 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 subheads:
Formatting options give writers a huge degree of freedom as to how your content will look and flow. Use them wisely.
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Tip 5: Widen your vocabulary
No one says your content has to sing like Shakespeare’s but improving your vocabulary to the point where you’re able to choose words people don’t hear in their everyday life is an excellent way to add personality to your content. If reading a dictionary isn’t your idea of a good time, use an online thesaurus to find more exciting alternatives to common words.
But as with all these tips, don’t 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 think the topic is dry and boring, research until you find what makes it intriguing.
The Oxford Royale Academy suggests finding fans of your topic in the hope that their enthusiasm is contagious. Make sure you have some appreciation of your topic before you sit down at the keyboard and your results will speak for themselves.
Tip 7: Read entertaining content
Giving your writing more personality doesn’t necessarily mean giving it more of your personality. By reading entertaining content – fiction or nonfiction – you’ll find your writing inspired by other styles and voices.
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. These reasons aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s hard to teach a bored audience. Inversely, it’s hard to be entertained if audience members, to some degree, aren’t 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, Jakob Nielsen discusses research on why readers (especially online readers) are 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 that draws an audience.
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Tip 9: Write like you talk
Rather than altering the way you communicate because you’re behind a computer, write with the same voice and enthusiasm you use when 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 the content is as freeing as it is effective.
Communicate as clearly and as personally as you do in your everyday life, and personality automatically infuses itself into your writing.
Take note, however, that there’s 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: Talk to your audience
You know how you speak. While incorporating your language preferences can add personality, it’s just as important to understand how your customers speak.
When you write using the same language as your customers, you build rapport. In some cases, you circumvent the need to use language tricks to pack personality into your content – simply using your audience’s language can be enough to grow engagement.
How do you do it? Reach out. Identify a few members of the targeted audience and ask them (by email, social media, phone, or carrier pigeon) for a 15- to 20-minute interview. Ask questions around the topics you plan to cover with your content, and pay close attention to the language they use when responding. Then, feed that language back to them as you build your content for instant relevancy and engagement.
Tip 11: Build suspense
Building suspense is the holy grail of great writing. It’s also one of the most coveted skills and is the reason authors Stephen King and James Patterson can sell books that fly off the shelves.
You can build suspense 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 some powerful new insight you plan to disclose. Work toward the reveal little by little by little, unraveling the details and building suspense.
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.
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Tip 12: Throw grammar rules to the wind
My fourth grade teacher would be mad if she knew how often I start sentences with the word “and.”
But content is a casual medium. And although I don’t recommend total freeform, there’s a case to be made that since most people don’t speak in perfect English, your content can – and should – follow suit.
Which grammar rules should you break? Sentence fragments. Using prepositions to end sentences with. Even run-on sentences – when used deliberately as a stylistic device – have a place in modern content creation.
Tip 13: Have something to say
It’s hard to have personality in your content if all you’re doing is rehashing what other people have written. Bring the kind of unique take that truly engages people even when you’re talking about experiences that aren’t yours.
Probably the fastest way to pack personality into your content is to say something new or different. Having a unique perspective conveys excitement that’s incredibly hard to achieve simply copying the work of others.
That doesn’t mean that every piece of content has to be a manifesto. But if you can’t find something fresh to say or a new way to package information, should you create the content in the first place?
Have you used any of these tactics in your 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 Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Tags: Company News
Categorised in: Content Marketing
This post was written by Keywords