Web conversations: Writing with passion online

A friend contacted me last night with a quandary…

He wanted to learn to write with a bit more passion. He felt his style was more journalistic than persuasive. He asked if I had any pointers.

So, at midnight, during a 15-minute-cross-country-guerrilla-approach-to-writing session, we covered the following basics:

Grab them with the title

If you don’t pique the audience’s interest with the title, they won’t read any more of your story. Tell them in a quick, pithy style why the rest of the story is something they need to know. Advertise what’s in it for them or intrigue them.

Change the boring title, “The Current Economy’s Downturn Impacts Designers and Fashion Entrepreneurs in New York” to “NYC Designers Weather Economy With Style!”

Starting out

At the top you summarize what you are going to say and ask the “w” question that your writing teacher never told you “Who gives a …. a…. hang?” (*Yeah, that works*) Tell them first why it matters to them.

You can’t give away all the information at the top because all the information isn’t contained inside your story. Online, the tentacles and supporting information will go out to hook other webpages.

After the first “w” question, THEN you go on to the classic “Who, What, Where, When and How” of the story.

Break down paragraphs

In standard writing, meaty paragraphs are a good thing. Paper likes large chunks of gray space. The web doesn’t. Online you should:

  • Use short paragraphs
  • Trim up your sentences
  • Make your writing easy to scan

The shape of content to come

Forget what you learned in school and ditch the “reverse pyramid.” Writing is not a simple linear practice online. You don’t skip along from most important facts to least.

Think of your story structure more like an egg; less pointy, more rounded and appealing. The title is your hook, followed by a general statement that summarizes the story. Fill in the “yolk” with details and examples. Add links and sprinkle liberally with bullets to capsulize the essential points. Conclude with a summary.

On the web, content gains depth and dimension through diagrams, graphics, inter-textual links to related outside resources. This doesn’t happen in the lead paragraph. It happens in the middle.

Be conversational

Stilted, sterile language doesn’t work. Your visitors want a comfortable way to absorb information. If you don’t provide it, someone else will. Readers need clarity with warmth. They seek knowledgeable, easy-to-digest resources. Humor is worth bonus points.

The mantra in business used to be “keep it professional.” Internet trends have encouraged us to “keep it personal” online and find ways to bridge the geographic distance by decreasing the psychological and social distance between individuals.

So, speak to your audience the same way you would speak to a friend. Use natural word choices and tone. Let your personality shine through. After all, that’s what will keep them coming back.

When writing for the web, hook your reader with a title too interesting to ignore. Answer the first “w” question right away and tell them the gist of what you plan to say. Answer the five standard questions (who, what, where, when, why and how) and illustrate them with examples from additional resources. Then summarize the article and bid them farewell.

And, yes, amping up your web writing really can be this easy!

(photo courtesy of kesh of morguefile.com)