Your job depends on your ability to craft precise, interesting messages. Find out how to quickly write tight text that captivates today’s busy readers.
Attention spans have grown shorter in the mobile era. That means PR copy must now be crisp and creative if it’s going to stand out.
Here are three tips to help you write compelling copy more quickly, whether for emails, tweets or press releases:
- Dare to write badly. PR pros must often churn out copy quickly, but pressure to write great content on command can leave you gaping at a sea of white.
“If you’re staring at a blank screen for a while, it’s often because you don’t know where you are going,” writing expert Ken O’Quinn says.
His advice is to write down the ideas you want to discuss and put them in order. “Then just start to write, without worrying about grammar and punctuation,” he says. “Just concentrate on getting your thoughts down. Once your brain sees words on the screen, your ideas will start to unfold.”
Register for PR Daily’s Feb. 18 PR University webinar “How to Write S-H-O-R-T in the Mobile Era” to grab more attention in today’s exploding universe of content.
- Frontload your strongest content. Pay special attention to word arrangement. Avoid empty phrases, vapid clauses and filler words at the beginning of sentences.
“You want to position important words up front, because the eye doesn’t always travel all the way across the line,” O’Quinn says. This applies especially to headlines and email subject lines.
Be alert, in particular, for sentences that begin with “there,” he says. Instead of, “There are several topics that we need to discuss,” make it, “We need to discuss several topics.”
“What” is another red flag, even though it’s one of the 1,000 most commonly used words in the English language. Scan copy, and rewrite sentences that open with this placeholder.
For example, “What I would like you to do is read it and underline…” becomes “Please read it and underline…”
- Get creative—employ rhythm and rhyme. “Rhythm creates a pleasant effect, a little bounce, in the reading of your copy,” O’Quinn says.
You can create rhythm through word repetition, as in, “Employees don’t want A, they don’t want B, and they don’t want C,” he says.
Another way to create rhythm is through the use of rhyme. This is frequently seen in common sayings and bumper stickers, where space is short.
“Take, ‘No pain, no gain’ and ‘Ice and snow, take it slow,’” O’Quinn says. “The rhythm comes from the rhyme and the syllable pattern. When stressed and unstressed syllables are adjacent, the contrast creates rhythm, particularly in short words of one or two syllables.”
These techniques can help you become more playful when writing. The result will be creative PR copy that is more likely to captivate readers.
Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Writing coach Ken O’Quinn will share more writing takeaways in the Feb. 18 PR University webinar, “How to Write S-H-O-R-T in the Mobile Era: New Rules for Riveting Releases, Emails and Tweets.”