My content writer told me I would never have a career in writing.
He had just read an article about Green building which had been written for an international client.
It had the potential of an ordinary story.
It held the promise of slight entertainment to the readers.
The only problem was that my story lacked substance.
It was a four-page pile of shit.
Bad content comes in many forms – cliché, repetitive, arrogant, boring, busy, and maybe too SEO-focused.
The problem with most writing is that it isn’t memorable.
If you want to win loyal readers and create strong readership relationships, you must create memorable and relevant content.
Let’s have a look at three memorable communicators.
Say more by saying less (Hemingway)
The thing that we can learn from Ernest Hemingway is that he never wasted words.
He wrote as if he paid a costly price for each sentence.
He placed a higher value in language than most content creators.
Too often, we stuff up articles with nonsense.
Hemingway’s insight doesn’t mean all articles must be short.
It means that every word should teach or tell something.
To make your writing simple, avoid meaningless phrases like:
- In terms of
- Needless to say
- In order to
- It is important to note that
- Whether or not
As Hemingway wrote in The Art of The Short Story, “You could exclude anything if you knew you excluded and the excluded part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.”
Don’t use cheap tricks (Orwell)
“When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.” – George Orwell
Orwell hated the lengthy writing of the “wise.”
You’ve likely had to read research papers from leading professionals and academics.
Often, it’s the type of writing that makes you feel stupid.
Here’s a tip: If someone’s writing makes you feel stupid, that person is not a good writer.
In his writing on the slow destruction of the English language, Orwell criticized the type of writing used by many professionals.
He hated the misuse and overuse of words to create a sense of competence, quoting a sentence in an essay from a college professor:
I am not, indeed, sure whether it is untrue to say that Milton who once seemed not unlike a 17th-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more strange to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could persuade him to tolerate.
Orwell saw right through this absurd writing, a form of writing still practiced today.
Today people who write content often create negative sentences through keyword stuffing.
If you want Orwell to be a fan of your content, avoid the use of the following types of writing:
- Dead metaphors
- Pretentious diction
- Meaningless words
- Pointless repetition
Readers are smarter than you might think.
They sense fake and insincerity.
They want to feel intelligent, more informed, or more entertained than they were before reading your content.
Before you write any content ask yourself, “What is my plan to affect the reader’s mind and heart?”
Reframe the present (Churchill)
“We shall go on till the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with confidence and strength in the air, we shall defend our land at any cost, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hillocks; we shall never surrender, and even if this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forward to the rescue and the liberation of the old.” – quotes Winston Churchill.
At the time of Churchill’s famous speech to parliament in 1940, England was on the brink of disaster.
What is the importance of this speech in terms of good writing?
Have a close look at the piece to see how he told the story of the present situation in the future tense.
He reiterated the present to inspire victory from the depths of defeat.
To follow Churchill’s inspired storytelling, learn these three lessons:
- Allude to an ideal future.
- Confidently repeat the call to action.
- Make a stand.
3 more classic writing devices
It’s easy to get overburdened in telling stories if you don’t have many devices in your content line up.
Now that you’ve added a few inspired by Hemingway, Orwell, and Churchill, let’s change gears to focus on three other useful writing tactics.
Nothing is more tiresome to a reader than an adage or an overused phrase.
Writers use adages as support, leaning on them instead of taking the time to invent something new and exciting.
For example, at the beginning of this section, the author used the cliché, “let’s shift gears.”
When you read it, you did not think about a car’s gears shifting and how that relates to a change of subject.
You read the phrase as an indication the subject would be changing.
Not recognizing the original meaning is a hint of recognizing “a dead metaphor” as Orwell put it.
The phrase is now a cliché.
Luckily, revamped clichés offer an opportunity to breathe new life into your content.
Lyricists in the music industry often use those clichés, as they must find new and rhapsodic-sounding lines to move their listeners.
Rapper B.o.B. often takes a creative approach to metaphors by remaking clichés such as the line from E.T., “I went from being who are you to chillin’ with the who’s who.”
The boring cliché would have been “the who’s who” if left on its own.
But pairing it with “who are you,” he makes the phrase come alive again to illustrate his journey to success.
This writing technique is the act of describing a whole idea by presenting bits and pieces of it.
Toni Morrison uses synecdoche to great effect in her novel Beloved:
This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need a base; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you.
In the above example, she conveys what the physical parts of a body need to convey what an individual person in need requires.
Any idea or topic can be deconstructed and presented in a more effective way.
Deliberately ask questions that are immediately answered.
Both Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy have used hypophora in their famous speeches.
Refocus your writing
Never approach the keyboard without the determination to convey meaning to another person, even if it’s just one individual.
One loyal reader will do more for your brand than 100 passive onlookers.
Capture your audience by crafting memorable stories that avoid the common pitfalls and embrace the success of great communicators like Hemingway, Orwell, Churchill, and others.