Henneke Duistermaat, self-described as an irreverent copywriter and business writing coach, reminds blog content writers that Shakespeare misused words – on purpose. He used nouns as verbs, and adjectives as verbs, she says. Why? To surprise and “wake up” the brain. Using an unexpected word instead of a familiar word in a common phrase, Duistermaat adds, has the same effect: (“Clothes don’t maketh the woman” is a play on the expression “Clothes make the man”.)
“Boring opening lines aren’t something an author can afford. And yet they’re harder to avoid than you might think,” writes K.M. Weiland, who “helps writers become authors”. We have to make setting, character, and stakes clear to readers, she admits. But the second paragraph will give you plenty of time for all that, she assures students. “Your first concern in writing an opening line is hooking readers. And the only way to hook them is to make them curious.”
“It was a bright and sunny day.” Is just a boring opening line, and Weiland suggests an alternative: “It was a bright and sunny day, just the kind of day I was supposed to die in.”
Readers expect us to supply them with enough info to help them imagine, but they never want us to over-explain, Weiland says. Complex prose can create distance between your readers and your words – or worse, just leave them confused. Ask yourself, she advises writers, whether what you’ve written is really the best way to get the thought across to readers?
“Readers will not care about the backstory until you’ve given them a reason to do so.” True, but humanizing your blog by bringing readers behind the scenes can help keep your company or professional practice relatable. Even writing about past mistakes and struggles helps readers connect to someone who “has been where they are.” The important hint that Weiland has for us blog content writers is that readers won’t care about the background material until they feel reassured that they’ve come to the right place (your website) to get the products, services, and information they need.
Going back to the Shakespearean ploy of misusing words to add interest, we want our blog posts to stand out and be unusually interesting. We want readers to want to stay awhile. And when we put two things together that don’t seem to match, that can have the effect of startling and engaging readers.
Shakespeare knew boredom is a killer of engagement, and – on purpose – shook his text up by misusing words or using them in unusual contexts. Shouldn’t we?