Ever read something and thought “Wow! This is amazing!” and couldn’t wait to read more? It’s a pretty great moment, right? How good writers manage to accomplish that sort of feat can feel a bit mysterious, but most authors usually rely on a few key components to produce quality content. We’ve already talked about the 5 Essentials of Good Writing, but I’ve got 3 specific strategies you can use to put the “Wow!” in your writing. Let’s take a look at them, one by one.
3 Strategies You Can Use to Put the “Wow!” in Your Writing
1. Choose Words That Have Power.
Words that move us aren’t necessarily polysyllabic monstrosities. After all, hardly anyone wants to slog through a piece of writing that’s peppered with words like “otiose” and “antidisestablishmentarianism.”
Likewise, your audience probably won’t pay much attention or feel particularly engaged if you’re using words that are vague or cliché. (Pigs will fly first, am I right?)
Well, then what sorts of words have power? The kinds that are specific and evocative. They express your precise meaning while also enabling audiences to imagine or experience something in response to your writing.
Essentially, you want to help your readers see or feel as they go through your text. Here’s an example to show you how I would do that:
The boss looked unhappy at work earlier and said a lot of nasty things to me in a loud voice when he left.
The marketing manager scowled as he left this morning’s meeting and shouted insults at me when he stomped out of the building.
Comparing the two sentences, you can see I used specific language (e.g. “marketing manager” instead of “boss”) in the second one to describe the featured person. I also chose words that could evoke the image of someone who was unhappy, rather than just telling my readers the person was displeased.
Keeping those two things in mind—are your word choices specific and do they prompt imagination—can help you pick words that have power. The more you write (and read), the more naturally this strategy will come to you.
2. Keep Your Sentences and Paragraphs Concise but Varied.
Another strategy you can employ to put the “Wow!” in your writing is to get to the point as soon as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean you do so in 300 words or less, but you also don’t take more time than you need.
The number of people who don’t mind wandering through long, rambling text is probably about the same as those who find the casual use of “antidisestablishmentarianism” to be perfectly fine.
Which is to say, “not very many.” As such, take only as much space as you need and be done.
However. In your quest to be as brief as the topic allows, you also don’t want to use the same sort of sentence or paragraph structure over and over. And over. Make sure you’ve got some simple sentences here, a compound sentence there, a 2-sentence paragraph over that way, and a single-line paragraph down yonder.
The variation cuts down on monotony, so readers are less likely to get bored.
3. Include Good Stories or Personal Perspectives.
A third strategy you can weave into your writing to up the “Wow!” factor is to include stories or personal perspectives. Audiences generally like to relate to what they’re reading, and so if you want to grab their attention or leave them with a strong impression, tell a good story.
I learned the perils of pontificating without much personality the hard way. The first time I taught a college course by myself, I had just finished my M.A. and was getting ready to begin my doctoral program a few months later. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look up from my lecture notes the entire first week of class, and I had a chorus of snores to prove it.
I mentioned my frustration with the unabashed snoozers to one of the department’s other instructors, and she said, “Yeah, but are you…you know…telling them stories or are you just reciting facts to them?”
Light bulb. Moment.
After that conversation, I ditched the giant, 3-ring binder I’d been studiously reading from and started telling my students the stories of history. Engagement went up, people stopped sleeping through class, and everyone felt a whole lot better.
I’ve carried that lesson with me in the years since; whether I’m writing an article or giving a presentation, I make sure to include stories as much as I can.
When storytelling doesn’t necessarily fit with the project, I’ll include my own thoughts or the perspectives of others to give my readers something they can relate to. People like connecting with other people, so the more “people” you can include in your writing, the better.
The “Wow!” Factor and Sounding Like an Expert
Upping the “Wow!” in your writing is especially important when you want to convey your expertise on a subject. Most people won’t have the same level of knowledge or understanding that an expert will, and these 3 strategies can help professionals and laypersons relate to one another.
So, the next time you find yourself stuck on a writing project or you realize you’re struggling to engage effectively with your audience, I suggest checking to see if you’re drawing on 1 or more of these strategies. Not only can they help you produce better writing, they can also help you convey your expertise in a way that your audience will appreciate.
More to Come!
Join me again next week as we continue to dive into writing and expertising. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter!