Everybody knows that “everybody knows” is the cheapest way to start an article. But everybody does it anyway. Commonplace as it may be, hackneyed writing is killing your article performance. It’s suffocating your sales.
I’ve seen household names litter their content with verbal marshmallows from start to finish. The fact that “the fact that” makes people want to puke apparently didn’t factor into their word selection. But there’s only so much fluff a person can take before he tunes out. Doesn’t matter who the author is.
If you aren’t yet a notable personage, however, your odds of reaching people are crushed by the use of crustified prose. Here’s a list of writing habits you need to avoid…like…cough…theplague. Cough.
1. Trite sayings, such as, “Avoid like the plague.”
The first time it was said, this phrase had an edge. People who had lost friends and family from the plague thought, “Ha! I really want to avoid that. This guy is a wit!” It was an unexpected golden nugget that enticed readers to continue into more of the uncharted.
But today it means nothing except that the lazy writer doesn’t care about his audience’s time. Instead of generic, overused phrases, opt for an original, or a fun take on the expected. Your audience will not tolerate less because their attention comes at a premium, even when the reading is free. Tired language simply can’t foot the bill. Damnit.
So say something different. The audience needs to know you’re working hard for them or they will tune you out faster than the conclusion of two amoebas knocking pseudopods.
2. Tired leads
The first sentence is the most important sentence in an article. If your lead is as tired as “everybody knows”, the audience instinctively clicks away to a better-crafted and more thoughtful article. Doesn’t matter if your content contains the meaning of life. No one will read far enough to find out unless your first sentence is captivating and original.
So make it captivating and original. Tease worn-out lines until they’re made new. Or just deliver it straight. For example:
“Everybody knows smoking is bad for you” won’t hold a candle to “10 million lives are claimed annually by smoking.”
If you have something meaningful to say, don’t feel the need to dress it up. People are disarmed and enchanted by verbal nudity. And if the content demands meaningless accouterment, you need to find sexier subject matter.
3. Unsexy subjects
Just like most people prefer beautiful company, all readers prefer beautiful prose. But, try as you might, no amount of wordsmithing can make an old, wrinkled, cottage-cheese-thighed subject appealing.
Unless you have a face-lifting, tummy-tucking take on an oldie, look for something more relevant to cover. It’s not that hard. It just takes curiosity, research and a habit of taking notes on things that arouse your interest.
When in doubt, go with a personal narrative. They’re always sexy. They’re always unique because your life is unique. No matter what station of life you’re in, your experience will be valuable to somebody who’s struggling. And the more specific your story is to a lesson learned, the sexier it becomes.
4. Stiff language
So many entrepreneurial writers bore me to beers. As in, I need to drink a beer to make their articles tolerable. Marketing and management aren’t the most scintillating subjects…I get it. But there’s no need to hide your personality in languid prose.
So talk like a human. Use fragments. Let your enthusiasm for the subject pour through whimsical sentences, impassioned rants, humor, and exquisite detail. Punch up particularly dry passages with unusual punctuation and sparks of wit. Have fun with writing so that your readers can enjoy the man or woman behind the article—that’s who we’re connecting with. That’s who we’re subscribing to.
Writing is a naturally courageous act. You’re saying to the reader, “Hey, I’ve got something important to say. Listen to me.” But when you lack conviction, when you lack courage, the audience automatically tunes out because you broke the tacit promise.
Readers want to hear something useful, something true. And those things take courage to say. So write courageously.
Sometimes you have to go to the edges of insanity to do it. But that’s what makes something insanely great. And if your article isn’t insanely great, what’s the point of writing it?
Conclusions are overrated; I don’t recommend them. Use more humor instead.