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10 easy peasy ways to spice up your writing

Here at Refresh Marketing, we hear it all the time: It’s impossible to make our writing interesting when our subject matter is so boring.

Trust me, I get you. Crafting engaging content about insurance, audits or tax is certainly more difficult than whipping up a brochure on luxury travel tours or VR experiences.

But it’s far from a valid excuse.

In fact, it’s exactly when your subject matter is uninspiring that you need to engage your readers even more.

To help you do just that, I’m sharing 10 insider tips to write more captivating copy.

1. Start with a sizzle

You only have one chance to reel you reader in. That’s why your opener is key.

From your headline to your first sentence, you need to tempt your reader to keep reading. So keep it short, sharp and snappy – and above all, relevant.

So ask yourself: is my introduction enticing?

BEFORE: We’re nearly at the end of 2018.  

AFTER: What’s that I hear? Oh… it’s the sound of another year about to tick over.   

2. Vary your sentence length

Long sentences make your writing boring and heavy-going. Short sentences on the other hand make your writing easy and addictive. See?

Yet writing a continuous string of short sentences could have you sounding like the author of ‘See Spot Run’.  

That’s why you should mix up your sentence lengths to spark intrigue – and to keep your reader guessing as to what’s coming next.

Take this example.

BEFORE: She wrote a content strategy in the morning, she finished the proposal before lunch and thanks to the help of her colleague, she completed her projects in time.

AFTER: She wrote a content strategy in the morning. She finished the proposal before lunch. And thanks to the help of her colleague, she completed all her projects in time.   

PSSSST: If you got a fright when you saw a sentence start with ‘And’, see tip 10.

3. Put your reader in the sentence

Magic might not be real.

But when it comes to marketing, there are some words that come close.

And the one that tops the list?

You.

That’s right, the words ‘you’ or ‘your’ create more impact because your reader instantly takes centre stage in your writing. After all, who doesn’t like to read about themselves?

In fact, marketers have identified that including these words in your sentences is the most powerful way to grab attention and inspire action. Including the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ also force you, as the writer, to focus on how your message benefits them.

Take this example:

BEFORE: Business owners should develop a content strategy to build their brand identity and trust among customers. 

AFTER: As a business owner, you need to develop a content strategy to build your brand identity and trust among customers.

4. Dare to dash

The em dash is a powerful way to create suspense – and mark sharp turns in thought. It helps you create impact when you want to introduce a new piece of information. 

It’s also a handy replacement for the so yesterday semicolon.

But like any good thing, it’s most impressive when used in moderation. Over dashing is a surefire way to suck out the magic of this potent punctuation mark.    

You can see its power here:

BEFORE: Why cut corners when you can clean them? 

AFTER: Why cut corners – when you can clean them?

BEFORE: Driven by integrity and tenacity  

AFTER: Driven by integrity – and tenacity

5. Appeal to all senses

When writing about an experience, why just write about how it looks? Instead, your readers should be able to taste it, touch it and smell it – in all its glory.

In doing so, you’ll create a sensory experience that your audience is sure to remember.

BEFORE: Enjoy the sights of French patisseries as you walk along Paris’ charming streets.

AFTER: Delight in the aromas of freshly baked croissants as you stroll to the church bells ringing along Paris’ charming streets.

6. Go beyond the thesaurus

Repeating words is boring – for the reader and for you as the writer. That’s why avoiding overused words and shaking up your copy is an easy way to make it sizzle.

While the thesaurus in Microsoft Word can be a good starting point, we dare you to go further.

Here are some helpful online tools we like to use:

  • Twinword: Are you a visual thinker? Twinword is for you. Simply search a word and see a list of related words in a dynamic, interactive graph. Visuwords™ is also another nifty option.
  • Power thesaurus: Love scrolling? Love endless options? You’ll love power thesaurus. It offers more words than the average thesaurus to help you find the one word that says it perfectly.
  • Related words: Like power thesaurus, related words overdelivers on options. You’ll find an impressive collection of words that parallel the idea you’re seeking to convey. 

However, make sure the word actually makes sense in your sentence. A repeated or overdone word is still better than a vague or confusing one.

Here are the most overused words (and some alternatives):

INSTEAD OF TRY
Cutting-edge Advanced, leading
Thought leader Authority, expert
Robust Secure
Agile Swift, responsive
Leverage Harness, use
Unique Distinct, rare
Holistic Complete, comprehensive
Streamlined Efficient, structured
Dynamic Spirited, powerful
Innovative Creative, inventive

7. Cut the crap

Unnecessary words clutter your writing and kill its impact. So remove adverbs and any words that detract from the power of your prose.

BEFORE: There is a possibility that we could attend the 2020 Conference if you have the opportunity to promptly complete and submit the paperwork. 

AFTER: If you submit the paperwork swiftly, we could attend the 2020 Conference.

8. Add a little alliteration

Alliteration is when you write a series of words that start with the same sound. And it can be a powerful way to engage, entice and engross. See?

BEFORE: Large, understated and magnificent. What more could you want?

AFTER: Spacious, subtle and sublime. What more could you want?

9. Include rhetorical questions

We’ve used them throughout this post to keep you engaged. What are we talking about? Our all-time favourite: rhetorical questions. They’re a clever way to sustain interest or strengthen a point.

They also create a sense of dialogue between you and your reader. Instead of sounding like you’re speaking to many people, a rhetorical question makes your writing more personal – as if it’s a one-on-one conversation.  

Rhetorical questions can also help break up a long sentence or confusing idea.

Take this example below.

BEFORE: With such busy, tiring lifestyles, we all need a bit of help balancing our jobs, rest and play.

AFTER: Struggling to balance work, rest and play? You’re not alone.

10. Break the rules

You were probably taught a lot of writing rules in school. And now we’re going to tell you to forget some of them.

From starting sentences with ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘so’ to fragmented sentences, breaking some of these ‘rules’ can actually be an effective way to emphasise a key point. 

Don’t believe us? Let us show you.

BEFORE: You won’t pay a penny if you’re not 100% delighted with our work.  

AFTER: And if you’re not 100% delighted with our work? You won’t pay a penny.  

With these sizzling strategies in your toolkit, you’ll be writing engaging copy in no time.