In part 1, we covered the power of the using the right words. Here in part 2, we’ll discuss the way we structure how we communicate and why. The Compelling Content Series will make it easier than ever for you to really connect with and move others. Each of the posts in this series will give you tips to make your website content more compelling and relevant to the reader.
Voice – how you put it out there, matters!
It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it. Take a minute and think about all the ways that people around you communicate in order to get their point across. Depending on the circumstance, and one the audience, we tend to choose the method that has worked best in similar situations. Consider how you tend to communicate to others for different things. At times, you may be concise and to-the-point; others you may layer on details with words and eloquence. sometimes, you may choose to simply ask many questions to make a point or gather information. You may stress your words through a group of sharp, short sentences. You can play with word order. Shuffling sentence structure, so that the most important word or idea comes first – like the popular Star Wars character, Yoda, “Patience, you must have,” “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is,” “Always in motion is the future,” etc.
Once you have decided on your audience, decide what length of sentence and paragraph would work best with that group. A few rules of thumb:
- Use short sentences for conveying speed, energy, and action. A modern, edgy voice leans toward short and sharp sentences. This style of content copy is most useful in general, because it is attention grabbing, and can come across more youthful.
- Use more complicated sentence structure with long sentences for a more sophisticated, depth of thought appeal. To imply a bit more age or a certain level of class, you will want to try this rule. Beware!! Many people use this technique for the wrong reason with the wrong audience and then can’t understand WHY they weren’t persuasive.
- Longer, simple sentences tend to foster more peaceful, serene and slow feelings.Here’s an easy real life example of this contrast: Take a look at the online content (or ads) for an Spa and contrast is with the online content (or ads) for a fitness center or gym. The spa tends towards long, flowing sentences. The Fitness Center/Gym tends to use short and punchy sentences.
(Note: some of these suggestions will vary greatly depending on whether the content is to be spoken or written. Here we are discussing written content. When in doubt avoid complicated words and sentences. These will confuse your reader. Remember, a confused mind does nothing!)
Four basic types of sentences:
Questions, Commands, Statements, and Fragments. Each adds a different tone to your writing. Like sentence length, you can choose one type as the majority of your content, or you can combine multiple types in patterns.
Useful for when you need to create a sense of mystery or interests. Some examples:
“Where else in the world can you wake up to views like this every day?”
“Do you know where to find the best Thai food in Chicago?”
“WHO’S YOUR DADDY? Call Columbia Paternity Testing today.”
A foreboding, question-heavy tone can also be used to plant seeds of worry or doubt. For example:
“Is your home killing your children? Are toxic fumes choking them while they sleep?”
Questions can add dynamic levels to your tone because they require a bit of action from your reader; they set your audience’s gears in motion. Such as:
“What do you REALLY want to be when you grow up?”
Command sentences are verb driven, so they’re perfect for when you need energetic copy. You will probably find command sentences the easiest for you to use in order to influence your audience – it is the most efficient way for you to engage your audience, to put them in a moment, to get them to feel a certain way or see an image or scene. This will also depend a lot on the words you choose. Because the right word choice will spark the right reaction from your audience’s senses. Tip: The best content always engages two or three of the five senses (hear, smell, taste, feel, sight). For example:
“Bite into the juiciness of a fresh Scrumptious Farms apple.”
Use statement sentences when you need a sense of authority. When you use simple statements, you appear to know exactly what you are talking about, and that what you are saying is valid or true. Statement sentences can also feel more neutral that a questioning or commanding tone. They can help build a likeable credibility. When aiming for an informative voice, statement sentences are perfect:
“Our laundry detergent removes stains from shirt collars eight times better than the leading laundry detergent.”
Sentence fragments rule the world of contemporary, flashy brands. You will find them most often in fashion and lifestyle brands aiming for a modern feel. Don’t let that fool you, they are applied in almost all other industries, too. Fragments are strong communicators – great for when you need to convey imagery, flashing a picture into the mind’s eye of your audience:
“Satin on skin.”
“The whir of a clock in a room bathed in sunset.”
“Pucker. Revlon Ju-C LipGloss”
They are great for when you need to give the sense of a teaser effect. Questions can accomplish the same goal, but a fragment can do so through imagery that requires your audience to create the entire picture, or make them focus on something very specific, grabbing and holding their attention with more urgency.
Up next in our Compelling Content series, “The Sound of … Words”, you will read how a word sounds actually influences you and your audience – seriously!
Author: Anthony Feggans, MFA