Great writing comes with practice and an awareness of lots of small tips. Here are five that will help make your online content more compelling.

1. See your reader as a friend

You may want to sell them something eventually, and you’re rightfully proud of your business, but forget about that. Imagine you’re talking to a friend in a bar or over dinner.

Relax and write like you’d speak (forget the ums and ers, though) to a friend. Be personal and imagine you’re writing for one individual, not your assembled Internet audience.

I learnt this when I wrote direct mail packs earlier in my career. A direct mail letter is a beautiful thing, copy-wise, and those lessons rolled straight on to the Internet.

Use ‘you’ and ‘I’. Engage personally.

2. Tell stories. Relate anecdotes

Many marketing professionals would want to write case histories. Just don’t make that mistake!

You may feel tempted to write one of those dry compartmentalised things with headings like ‘The Challenge’ and ‘Our Execution’ (the best thing for them, if you ask me!).

Instead, think about telling stories or anecdotes to your friend about how you helped a client or customer. How you developed a solution or a product.

3. Don’t over-egg the pudding

In other words, keep your adjectives to a minimum. Adjectives are those descriptive words that can easily tip your writing into hyperbole. We’ve all seen the Cool, Free, Ultimate Formula for Making Millions Online, haven’t we? And did we believe them?

Such claims are unbelievable. So use adjectives gently to give a warm and confident feeling about you to your readers. Not a feeling of suspicion of a snake oil salesman.

4. Be careful with screamers

Before you think I’ve gone all Harry Potter on you, screamers are what people in magazine and newspaper publishing sometimes call exclamation marks.

Too often, a screamer is a sign that you’re working too hard.

5. And last, but by no means least… Avoid cliches!

Avoiding cliches keeps your writing fresh and tight. Too often, a worn-out phrase just adds flab to your piece, not contributing style or information.

However, there is a grey area where a tried and tested phrase just adds to the natural flow of your personalised writing. It’s a balance that you’ll have to try to achieve through gut feel and experience.

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Many thanks to Jordy for permission to use the screamer image.