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4 ways to add spunk to your writing (with botox and The Big Apple)

By September 30, 2013Values

I was at an event a coupla weeks ago and I met a bona fide New Yorker.

Her face was frozen. Like, Botox frozen.

Stood with my back to the wall and no visible means of escape, I had no choice but to listen to her telling me how much she hates Obama ‘as he’s really a Communist, Socialist, and a MOSLEM’.

So I waited until her rant was over to say that I’m, in fact, a MUSLIM (Admittedly the glass of red in my hand may have screamed otherwise).

She remained silent. I wasn’t sure how she reacted since EMOTIONS DO NOT REGISTER ON BOTOX-FILLED FACES.

And this particular experience? It got me thinking about writing.

No it didn’t. That’s a lie. I simply wanted to write a post about writing and also link to that story. Fail. But you did read the story, right? Success. Let’s carry on.

There are two ways to write for THE INTERNET.

The first way is to do what everyone else is doing. So you sound like them. Use the same words and formula that they do. And play it boring dull safe.

The other way is to actually sound like you. To seduce your audience and connect with their hearts. And to give your writing some motherhuggin colour.

When I write, be it for my posts, guest posts, autoresponders, sales pages, emails or websites, there is a formula I use to make it undeniably ME (or my client).

So today, I’ll share 4 things I have used to turn a basic piece of work into an explosive piece of art.

Sit up straight, pour the rum and let’s get to it.

Write to set YOU apart

How can you make yourself visible in a world of fifteen gazillion websites? And all of them about photography? Or personal development? Or careers?

You use something that they don’t have. Hint: it isn’t that bottle of red ’82 vintage. The ‘thing’ is you.

When people come to your site, they don’t want to read a textbook. They come for a conversation. With you.

So open up your head, take a dig around and then tell me – do you have a personality? No? Then check your heart. Or your soul. It’s in there somewhere. I know it.

If intrusive surgery isn’t your thang, the alternative method to finding your personality is:

Commit to one week of making a note of the words you use. Or the ones that sound delicious when you say them. Carry a notebook around with you. Make a note of the words you use in conversations or email.

Then start using these words in your copy and posts.  

Record yourself speaking – tell a story about a recent experience.  Does the way you speak have a pattern? Are your sentences short or long? Where do you pause? Do you emphasise certain words in a particular part of the sentence?

Write down the story you told. Put a comma in where you pause, then decorate your writing by:

Changing the text style where you want to punctuate a point. 

Cross words out and replace them with something better Visibly edit your text.

Increase the font size to emphasise or reformat it a different way

Make your writing indulgent to read.

Your audience must to feel like they are reading a masterpiece, without making the effort of picking up a 600 page leather-bound book, wearing a silk dressing gown and smoking a pipe (Although they can totally do that as well. It’s a free world, yo).

What do your audience aspire to?

Tell me something. When you read a website or a blog, do you read because you have a lot of time on your hands? Or do you read because you want to learn to be a better version of you?

Don’t take too long to decide.

It’s not your job to simply entertain your audience. It’s your job to show them who they could become.

Are you a relationship coach? Or are you the one your client will confide in until she has that ‘a-ha!’ moment that will lead her to find the one she’s meant to be with? So she can finally stop ‘cooking’ her meals-for-one that usually consist of toast á la singledom and spend her Sunday mornin’ rain is fallin’ with her man.

To your clients, are you a wedding photographer? Or are you the artist that will create memories that shall forever bear witness to the love that was shared on that day? Will you be the one capturing those little treasured moments that the couple will look back on and say ‘that was the best day of our lives’?

Do you write about personal development? Or do you teach people how to stop incessantly ‘checking email’ and actually get shit done?

Are you a career coach? Or do you show your audience how they can finally stop feeling like a failure and make that plan to quit their job? Because that feeling of nausea when they pull into the office parking lot? Nobody deserves it.

You get the idea.

Remove fluffcrap

It’s official. I hate the word empowered, the word inspiration and the word energised. There. I said wrote it. Now here’s why:

Name ONE person that wakes up thinking ‘Hey, I feel really empowered today’? They may want to wake up feeling gushingly excited, since they’ve planned time to work on that side-project they previously only dreamt of. Empowered is NOT an emotional word.

HOW many sites do you know that want to bring inspiration to people? Everyone who does a little bit more with their life than you is inspiring. Get over it. Use another word.

Energised. Shoot me. Do people really want to feel energised by the health tips on your website? Or do they want to fit into those newly washed skinny jeans without lying on the floor, sucking in their stomach and praying to the God-of-Skinny that the zipper doesn’t snap?

The point here is this – use words that your audience can relate to. Not words you’ve read on someone else’s site that are used by fifty thousand others.

Be original.

Short sentences have a big impact.  Write shorter sentences Shorter sentences

Short sentences have a bigger impact. They allow the reader to take in what you’re writing. Without having to think too hard about where the sentence started.

Like when you’re reading a post about writing, and it tells you to use shorter sentences, remove certain words; pause at certain points by using commas, and you lose your train of thought – because the writer didn’t give you a break.

Ya get me?

Start by replacing a comma, hyphen or colon with a full stop (or period).

Then remove redundant words (the link lists a lot, but you’ll get the gist).

To really push it, see how short you can go with your sentences:

–          Being brief with your words packs a punch Brief packs a punch.

–          Be smarter than your competition by using shorter sentences. Be smart. Use shorter sentences

–          If you want to have writing that is high on impact, get creative. Want high impact writing? Get creative.

Geddit?

And finally…

Remember the story about my Botox friend? I could have just written of how I met an anti-Obama  lady who seemed to have a lot of Botox in her face since she didn’t visibly react when I told her I was Muslim.

But I didn’t. I made a little bit more effort. See what I mean about writing with colour?

 

 

49 Comments

  • Vishnu says:

    Razwana – I like the concept of removing the fluff because I’m so guilty of it 🙂 I overused the words empowered and inspiration until I recently used the services of a brilliant copywriter to help me stop sounding so cliched. (thank you for that!) I know what you mean about redundant, cliched and fluffed words – I use ’em cause I have limited time or so worried about the bigger post that I often overlook the individual words that make up the post. I like the concept of saying something that’s been said before with other words. Yes, originality is refreshing on other blogs I enjoy reading so I can definitely try to do that more on mine.

    Shorter sentences also make easier reading and make me want to continue reading. I’ve been experimenting writing shorter which is writing more to the point. I’ve noticed my writing can take fewer words to say what I want to say if I make it to the point, and cut the fluff. It also seems like more powerful writing.

    The blogs I love are unique and original. YOur post is a reminder to be original and unique on my own blog. Thanks for these super practical tips and reminders which I’m going to try to incorporate in my writing.

    • Razwana says:

      🙂 Your welcome 🙂

      Reading more of the blogs you love and learning from the techniques they use to make writing interesting is something I enjoy doing.

      I’ve noticed the change in your writing, Vishnu – keep going!

  • I LOVED this post, thanks! These are great tips, and you’re right, you have to be yourself when you write for the internet, there’s no other way to do it. I liked how you compared people visiting my site to a conversation, I will totally look at it that way from now on.

    And I got a blog post idea from you too – on why ‘inspiration’ is considered such a crappy word. I love it and use it all the time, in real life conversations too. 🙂

  • You know, I recently thought about the things that could make be a better writer. One of the concepts that I am trying to implement more often is ‘self editing’. This isn’t just proof reading but trying to look objectively at my writing to see if it would pass other peoples critical eyes.

    One of the tricks I like to use, and that you mentioned in the above post is the idea of removing the fluff. For me that means trimming 5% of the post in the editing process. There are probably 3/4 sentences in every article that don’t add anything to the discussion. Remove them, tighten it up.

    I also like the idea of using an unrelated story to lead in.. I want to try that 🙂

    • Razwana says:

      Y’know what, Jamie? Sometimes you just have a good story to tell. And a lesson to teach. The two don’t connect. But you make ’em anyway. Without ’em really connecting. If you do this too, then it’s officially a thing.

      Ha ha and ha again – I just read your post on why living in the UK sucks. The weather and chavs – enough to drive me out too !!

  • Kevin Cole says:

    Every beginning blogger should read this. These are the things that most of us have had to learn the hard way.

    One other thing to note: Shorter paragraphs. If I had a nickel for every time I went to a new blog and they had 6 sentences in one paragraph, I would be rich as hell. A blog post isn’t a term paper. Shorten these things up and people will love you.

  • Thanks Razwana! I’m here lying spread eagle on the floor in sheer frustration about writing a crisper marketing message. What is this, produce? Ugh. I can’t seem to get it right. But your piece is getting the juices flowing again. . . . 🙂

  • Hiten says:

    Hi Razwana,

    This a wonderful post, full or some great practical tips to improve our writing!

    Using shorter sentences and removing unnecessary words is something I’ve made a lot of conscious effort to do in recent months. One area I would like to improve is to bring a little more creativity to my blog posts, the way you do with yours!

    Thank you.

    • Razwana says:

      There’s only one thing to do now, Hiten – and that’s to write and rewrite (um … that’s two things).

      We need more creativity on the internet! Join me in this quest !

  • Ragnar says:

    Hey now, I like the word inspiration. And inspire too. They sound nice don’t they? Haha. I might actually do a post about it in the near future, although hopefully in a not-too-fluffy way that you can perhaps appreciate.

    But I completely get where you’re coming from. I have a hard time reading any blogs that take this kind of “guru approach” and try to inspire me by telling me some empty fluff story about how things all work out if I do this and that. I like the “down in the trenches” approach, with all the ugly details of when things actually don’t work out.

    I suck at writing short sentences. I suck. (?)
    I wonder if this exercise will help. Perhaps exercise will help? (?)

    Maybe it’s because English is not my first language, or because I am incredibly long-winded in person… but I am terrible at writing short sentences. Hopefully I can overcome it given time.

    But! I will work hard to de-fluff and shorten unnecessarily long sentences, thanks for the heads up.

    • Razwana says:

      Ragnar – if you are writing in a language that is not your mother tongue, then this is SO FULL OF AWESOME already.

      To make sentences short, you can try two things:

      1. Keep it as one sentence and make it as short as possible:
      a. but I am terrible at writing short sentences = I am terrible at writing short sentences (the ‘but’ is redundant)
      b. Hopefully I can overcome it given time = Hopefully, I can overcome it. (‘give time’ is redundant here as the reader will know it will happen this way)

      2. Split the sentence into two:
      a. I wonder if this exercise will help = I wonder – will this help?
      b. I suck at writing short sentences = Short sentences? I suck at it!

      Practice away. Editing is a huge part of writing – I edit my work at least 3 times before it is anywhere near acceptable.

  • Emma says:

    I CAN’T write in short sentences, I was a lawyer for toooooo long – they train us to write with 15 subclauses and really really long words, for the avoidance of doubt. And we have no emotions, and neither do our clients, so I understood nothing of what you said when you spoke of such things.

    I’ll keep reading your crusade against fluffcrap and some of it will percolate down.

    Much love, your biggest fan, Emma.

    • Razwana says:

      FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT. The bain of my life in contracts! But it does serve a purpose.

      I always wondered if lawyers had legal language lessons (‘The LLL’) whilst studying as they seem to be the only ones who understand what they write !

      Tell me, Emma: Is it true?

      Good thing you’re not writing in contract speak for your site m’lady.

      I have confidence that you will blitz the life outta that fluffcrap !

  • Diego A. Rincon says:

    Awesome! I was going around thinking how I should write my blogs, and next thing you know…I’m reading this post.

    Being unique is important. and so it is making the people connect with you. Two things that I would have to work hard to accomplish. Thanks for your advices. I will work hard to be better at story telling and developing my own writing style.

    Nice work!

  • LOVE THIS!!! 🙂

    Great advice, and I love the use of color in the text to break out the flow of the writing. I am still in infant stages of black text, same font size/style, etc.

  • Hi Razwana,

    I like the way you write. It’s definitely spunky. I would love to hear you talk now.

    I have one rule for my own writing: Write from the heart/ soul/ body/ feelings – not the Head. Simplicity.

    Thanks for posting this, it was interesting to read 🙂

    SSS <3

  • Hi Razwana,

    Very right explained the viewpoint behind creating our own unique style. There is no sense in copying someone else because people won’t remember you in such a case. Writing is all about creating our own unique signature in a way that the readers can smell our presence, simply by reading our content even without reading our name tag.

    Thanks for sharing such an informative post about adding our own style to create our own identity in the world of words.

  • Steve says:

    I found myself nodding a lot to your suggestions. In fact I don’t know if I could even add anything else at the moment to what you’ve said here. All I can do is say what I liked the most. When you talk about fluffcrap – yeah, I see that a lot of places. The popular buzzwords that everyone seems to think they need to put into their writing. It’s not necessary and it just makes you blend in with everyone else. One day everyone will move to different buzzwords and the old ones will just seem dated.

    Oh and short sentences – yes, definitely agree! Way too many people use long sentences when shorter ones will do. And the worst part is when they’re longer because they fill those sentences with extravagant, flowery words. That makes it harder to understand. Be clear. Don’t use fancy words just to use fancy words.

    • Razwana says:

      Steve – let’s band together to eliminate the internet of fluffcrap! Do you think we can do it?

      Let’s make it epic! It’s impossible! And inspiring! 😉

  • Evelyn Lim says:

    I laughed when I read your post. I so appreciate the honesty in you. And yes, I am probably one of the “guilty” ones mentioned in your article. I need to review the way I am writing. As you said, write with a lot more punch. Write shorter. More simply. And connect. Thanks for your tips!!

  • Judy says:

    Some say you don’t want to write like you speak but some say you don’t want to sound like a textbook. I think the key is to know your audience and know how to write to connect and engage with them.

    • Razwana says:

      Judy – I agree with you on this – it starts with your audience. Write for them, for sure.

      But what if most people in your space are doing this? Your personality is what you have to stand out, right?

      What are your thoughts?

  • Judy says:

    Hmm…I don’t want to self promote but I think this goes back to what my blog post is talking about which is to be who you are. I think write in the voice that is congruent with who you are, so you are right it is your personality that should be showing up in your writing and is what sets you apart.

    Having said that, we need to consider what type of writing it is. For example if it is a blog post, then it is easier to “be yourself” and write in your voice, you could write as you speak because blog posts are mostly about personal opinion and is seen as more acceptable and conducive to self expression. We could let our personality shine, but we have to be mindful that we will win some new members but may also be alienating some parts of the audience. The other option is to tread the middle ground and sound like every one else and we can get the middle-of-the-road audience. My method is to write in my own voice which is congruent with who I am which is not too extreme but is presenting my opinion in an intelligent way and trying to get people to see things through my perspective.

    • Razwana says:

      So I think we are saying the same thing! Use your voice.

      I’m more than happy to be controversial though – alienate some and attract others. It’s the name of the game!

      Thank you for your insightful comments, Judy.

  • This post is just oozing with personality. I LOVE it. 🙂

    I definitely agree with using your voice. I do it everyday, in every email, blog post, or newsletter that I write. And I think that a lot of people make the mistake of trying to sound like every other “guru” out there, so yeah, they use words like “empower”, “inspire” and all that. (Love the term “fluffcrap” btw–I think I’m going to start using that from now on. Haha.)

    Thank you for super entertaining + informative post, Razwana. You got yourself a new subscriber. 😉

    • Razwana says:

      Welcome to the community, Francesca! And also thank you so much for sharing with your Twitter followers. So that’s two thank you’s!

      Lovin’ your site, lady !

  • The article is great, but I was not able to make which one was tip no. 1, 2, 3, 4. Please try to include some numbering in future posts – that will make it easier for people who want to skim through.

  • Shannon says:

    Great stuff! I am going to note the words I use and record myself telling a story as I think this will help in my quest to find my voice. I noticed in the A-Z stories from our CWA course that my writing style was much different than in my blog. Thanks for sharing your insights! 🙂

  • Hi Razwana

    Thanks to Vishnu that I came across your blog post.

    Confession: I am guilty of using long sentences. Whenever I write short sentences, I found that the said blog post got more attention, Retweets, Favorites and discussions. But it didn’t feel like ‘me being me’ – you get the drift? I agree with you that short sentences make bigger impact and triggers emotional connect with readers. I want to focus on more powerful writing. If short is the way to go, I am open to trying harder. Looking forward to more posts from you.

    • Razwana says:

      HOW awesome of Vishnu to connect us, Swapna !

      To help the writing feel more like you, try the exercise I describe in the post of recording how you speak. It’s not often people say long sentences without pausing. I PROMISE YOU this exercise will help you in getting closer to feeling comfortable with writing like ‘you’.

      And one more thing? Come back and tell me how it went, will you?

  • Jennifer L says:

    Razwana, I don’t know how you get the time to reply. When I write, I try to take out the AND. Everyone I’ve ever edited for seems to put in more compound sentences than Arnie’s weights on a barbell… and I am no exception. AND — get out of there! Also, check your writing with Microsoft Word’s grammar check and at the end it will tell you “words per sentence”, passive sentences, “Grade level” and “Flesch Reading Ease”. Get to know these and aim for Grade level 10 maximum.

    • Razwana says:

      Jennifer – that’s awesome advice. I didn’t even realise MS Word had this facility! I’m definitely guilty of over-anding my writing for sure.

      Thank you so much for such a useful comment 🙂

  • Simon Somlai says:

    Hahaha, great article with some awesome tips Razwana,

    You have a sweet writing style, love the humor. Very empowering! hehe

    “Fluffcrap”, should keep that in mind 😉

    Take care,

  • Rhonda Davis says:

    You Rock Raz,
    This was so funny and engaging. I am really happy to have found you in this webaverse.
    Rhonda

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