In his profoundly influential Poetics, Aristotle said that any good plot will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This wise counsel doesn’t just apply to tragedy, though. Any piece of writing, including web content, should be constructed in the same way. This blog post will help you focus on some of the qualities you should infuse your content with if you want it to be more effective at enticing readers.
If you’re a writer, you should begin every work with an introduction that gives your audience a view of your piece from 30,000 feet and then eases each reader into the points you’re getting ready to make. On the other side of the body, or middle, of the piece, comes the end. Make sure that you provide the reader with a conclusion that summarizes your work in a concise and memorable way. And as for the middle, well, yes, you really ought to provide useful, substantive information in the body of your work.
So, that’s the basic structure of a complete written work. Beyond that, what are some of the other qualities you should fill your writing with to make sure that it is readable, effective, and engaging? Check out this list and ponder how good writing is…
- Accessible: When you think about accessibility, consider the often-asked thought experiment question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Why? Because it’s reasonable to wonder, “If you write something, and nobody bothers to read it, is it helping your business succeed?” Maybe. After all, Google might still find your content even if no one will actually end up reading it. But you probably shouldn’t count on that, especially since you want people to not just find your page, but stay there. Instead, as a writer, you should concentrate on making your writing accessible and engaging. And make it interesting and lively, too. If you’re creating content of any kind, whether it’s for a blog that is personal or business-related, make sure you’re changing up the words you use. (Synonyms are your friends, your buddies, your pals.) But don’t fill up your writing with words that everyone but a time traveler from the 16th century will have to look up.
- Consistent: In order for writing to be coherent and effective, it should be consistent. This should be true across the board. It applies to tone, form, and topic. As a writer, you should heed this advice:
- Tone: Don’t start out any piece of writing with a light and lively air and then grind it all to a halt by turning dour. You should stay consistent throughout the piece in order to prevent your audience from getting disoriented. And, needless to say, your tone shouldn’t just be internally consistent. It should also be appropriate for the subject matter itself. If you’re writing a review of an action movie, it should be full of action verbs. But if you’re writing copy for a funeral home, save the flippant asides for another day.
- Form: You want your audience to be able to read your writing with relative ease. Some of your readers could do some skipping and skimming here and there. It’s okay—they can still get your message if the writing is accessible enough. One way you can facilitate this, though, is to keep the form and structure of your content consistent all the way through. In much the same way that you don’t want to start out with lighthearted asides and end up composing a eulogy, so also should you avoid starting out with brief, easily digestible sentences but then descend into long, twisty, winding, rambling, meandering, never-ending…you get the point, right? At the same time, keep in mind that if all of your sentences contain nearly the same exact number of words, then that will also turn readers away. Avoid monotony, regardless of your subject matter.
- Topic: Stay on point! Focus! Maybe that can be a challenge, especially since it seems like so many of the aspects of what you’re writing about are interconnected. And maybe they are. Nonetheless, it’s important that you make sure not to wander too much from your main subject. If you’re composing something expository—that is, explaining how to do something—focus on the step by step. If you’re writing to persuade, then make sure that your argument is airtight and that you stick with relevant information when you’re presenting your case. And if you’re composing a listicle, every item on the list should actually illustrate your theme or topic.
- Polished: There are times when you might be on a roll. If you’re typing, maybe your fingers are flying and they can barely keep up with your thoughts. You just want to get all of those words onto the page! That’s great! If this happens to you, then you’re the envy of every writer suffering from writer’s block. Be sure to relish those moments of inspiration. But this swiftly-composed work is in no way a final product. You have to go back and edit it. There’s no shame in this. Every writer needs to revise. That’s where the best writing comes out anyway. Read over your work to ensure that it makes sense. Did you stay on topic or did you wander? Does the piece flow well, or are there starts and stops? Is it an engaging read? Deadlines are often tight in the world of content writing, but if you can, put the piece aside and look at it later, preferably the next day. Problems will jump out at you that you might have missed shortly after completing the work. And if your coworkers won’t think that you’re crazy, read the piece out loud. Nothing will bring out issues with tone, transitions, or word choice more readily than your ears.
Writing remains more of an art than a science. Nonetheless, there are still rules that you should follow. Set up your premise, explain it to your readers, and then summarize it for them so that they will walk away with all of your main points in their heads. Make your writing easy to read and digest, and be sure that it is true to itself and reflective of your subject matter. Finally, double check everything before releasing it into the world. And don’t forget that practice makes perfect. Now, sit down and write!