Category Archives: Introductions

Your Jaw will Drop When You Read these Headlines

Oh my goodness. It worked.jaw drop

You actually clicked to this article based on my cliché headline and a blurry pic of a hospital mannequin.

Let’s figure out why.

I just saw a version of the headline earlier today on a sponsored article and wondered, what is it about the secret, the awful, and the surprising that makes us click to read?

According to Psychology Today,

Humans seek out news of dramatic, negative events. These experts say that our brains evolved in a hunter-gatherer environment where anything novel or dramatic had to be attended to immediately for survival. So while we no longer defend ourselves against saber-toothed tigers, our brains have not caught up.

Fast Company suggest several psychological theories that are responsible for getting us to act. Persuaders often tap into ultimate terms.

Certain words carry more power than others. This theory breaks persuasive words into three categories:

God terms: those words that carry blessings or demand obedience/sacrifice. e.g, progress, value
Devil terms: those terms that are despised and evoke disgust. e.g., fascist, pedophile
Charismatic terms: those terms that are intangible, less observable than either God or Devil terms. e.g., freedom, contribution

Headlines that Produce Clicks

The following “you should know better” lines might be helpful the next time you create content for ads or articles. Tell us your favorites.

“TV Host Reveals Real Hair”

Just change up this click-getter for anything.  We want the truth. Here’s another example- SEO Guru Reveals Real Algorithms.

“Epic Prank Pulled on So and So”

You could create an entire video series based on spoofs and pranks. People like anything funny- or not. Are you selling facial cream for a company? Try something like “Her Wrinkle Cream is Not a Prank.”

“12 Things Only People with Lots of Kids Understand”

This headline makes your customer feel smart because he or she is in on the advice. It also appeals to those who want to know more about something they lack. Switch out parents and kids for dog lovers and dogs. Dress up the phrase for writers and work or accountants and clients, etc.

“10 Pumpkin Spice Latte Hacks Every Coffee Lover Must Try”

Again, we want to know your secrets. What lies over there in the greener pastures of hidden hacks? Anything “hacks” shows off your trendy.

“The Weirdest Thing I Saw At My Conference”

The weirdest anything appeals to one’s inner weird. Could there be people weirder than you? Worst yet, maybe the stuff you do is consider weird?  Use the word to harness your targeted demographic with something the audience does or a trait it has.

“This Trick Could Save You Hundreds”

Because most people want to save money and aren’t doing so, show how your product or service will help Christmas to come early this year.

“New Craze Wipes Out Slow Computers”

What is this new craze that everyone else knows about, but I don’t? New crazes are manufactured everyday because phrases like this one bring the clicks.

“Everyone is Voting for” or “The Numbers Prove”

You’ve heard these lines from candidates and they work for products and services, too because basically few people check their facts. If you say it’s true, it must be. Tell the population this enough and it’ll become fact.  Of course, there are a few advertising rules you need to be mindful of and organizations like Truth in Advertising that will expose pathetic claims. The FTC says,

Under the law, claims in advertisements must be truthful, cannot be deceptive or unfair, and must be evidence-based. For some specialized products or services, additional rules may apply.

Eh, such a spoiler, but the industry needs rules. Get familiar with them.

What makes you click and why?

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Filed under Advertorial Writing, Audience, Capturing Audience, Email Campaigns, Introductions, Marketing, PPC, Queries & Articles, Search Engine Marketing, Speech Openers, Words Which Sell

How to Hook Readers without Swearing in Headlines

hookEverywhere you look, people are playing fast and loose with language—even on “family”-oriented sitcoms! Inappropriate language and cussing are becoming more and more commonplace, but that doesn’t mean they are in any way acceptable in articles or blogs. As writers, we should be able to use a wide array of language to catch the attention of the audience without cussing or using inappropriate language.  The headline is the part of the article that will make readers want to read—don’t waste that with poorly-chosen or inappropriate words. Here are some tips to catch readers’ attention without swearing.

Use clever wording to hook readers. Alliteration is always an amazing answer to your search for alternative wording! Alliteration, as demonstrated in the previous sentence, is the repetition of a letter (or sound) of words in a phrase, such as “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” This requires you to flex your creative muscles in order to find the best words to use, but it also works as a great attention-getter in articles or blogs. Hooking readers with alliteration can also play throughout the article to keep hold of the attention of the readers and refer back to the title, making the article well-rounded and well-written.

Use an informative quote as your headline. Not only will this give readers a small insight into what your article is about, but it will show your readers that you’ve put in effort and done research as well as involving the community to produce a complete article. So many articles and blog posts these days are incomplete or poorly researched, so by showing readers that you put effort into writing because you enjoy it, it is likely that the work will shine through in the article and your readers will feel more engaged. Involving other members of the community also helps keep the attention of the readers, because they will be able to identify more with the article and it will be more important to the readers.

Reveal just a tidbit about your article. Paint a picture and reach out to the emotions of the readers. The goal of an article’s title is to pique the reader’s interest and reveal what will come in the article that will interest them. For example, if you’re writing a human interest piece about how the “downtown” portion of your city is taking shape, but it’s affecting pedestrians and bicyclists, try to portray the way in which the changes are affecting them. Try something such as, “Downtown Changes Mean Pedestrians and Cyclists Must Cross Paths.” The readers do not yet know whether crossing paths is a good thing or a bad thing, so they’ll keep reading to find out. The next challenge is keeping them interested paragraph after paragraph.

Use a question as a headline. “Will Changes to Downtown Spell Disaster for Small Businesses?” This asks a question that pertains to the community, the article, the readers, tugs at emotions, and may open up a new window of discussion. The audience will continue to read the article to find the answer, reasoning, and various expanded explanations as to why the question was brought to light. To ensure the undivided attention of the audience, use each paragraph for a different explanation or different reasoning before you answer the question at hand. Don’t overdo it, though, the reader will still want a quick, somewhat concise answer that won’t take them 45 minutes to sort out.

Overall, there are many ways to hook the attention of an audience without resorting to inappropriate language.  Alliteration, quotes, or questions and painting pictures for your readers to “pique and reveal” will create interest in your article.  Keep their attention throughout the article, which is the ultimate goal of any writer. PR Daily reminds us not to waste the space or take for granted the power that comes with a good headline because poorly-worded headlines are often simply skipped over by readers. Ask an editor to review your article to double-check that your headline works.

Get those creative juices flowing with the next article and write a strong headline to hook your readers! ~Hollyheadline

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Filed under Capturing Audience, Expository Writing, Introductions, Narrative Writing, Newsletters, Persuasive Essay, Revising & Proofreading, Words Which Sell

The Queen of Fluff Writing. Stop Her Reign Today!

By My Web Writers

Image courtesy of My Virgin Queen

Image courtesy of My Virgin Queen

Fluff writing. You know, that technique you became great at during high school and college, when you were forced to write 700 words on a topic you didn’t understand to begin with? Back then, it may have been helpful to pad your writing with adjectives and redundancies, but not anymore. Particularly if you write for the web, readers have short attention spans and are looking for quality, not quantity. Banish the Fluff Writing Queen and promote the following habits of good writing:

  • Kill the adjectives and adverbs. Unless you’re writing literary fiction, no one wants to read that you should do something slowly or carefully. Is your project special and important? Don’t write it: let your readers surmise these things from the writing itself, not your description.
  • Remove unnecessary words. If you really work at it, you can try to remove words that you just don’t need very much. Okay, now read the previous sentence again, this time removing “really,” “at it,” “try to,” “just,” and “very much.” Did the meaning or flow suffer? No, it’s actually easier to read and to comprehend, now: If you work, you can remove words that you don’t need. Ahhhh!
  • Take out the padding. Shoulder pads are out. So is the padding in writing! Once you’ve written a piece, look over it again. Remove unnecessary words and phrases, maybe even whole sentences. Readers don’t want to see the same thing more than once, or you risk them clicking away to another page.
  • Banish clichés. When all is said and done, you should go the whole nine yards to before realizing that, when all is said and done, a posting should probably bite the dust. How many clichés did you spot in that last sentence? Try weeding out all the expressions/clichés/figures of speech in your articles, unless you’re using them for a specific reason or to contribute to an intentional “voice.”
  • Be direct. Banish words and phrases like “perhaps,” “maybe,” and “it could be.” Write with authority and readers will take your postings more seriously.
  • Use active voice. Writing in the passive voice makes your pieces more wordy and difficult to read and understand. So, instead of writing “The stick was fetched by the dog,” make it “The dog fetched the stick.”
  • Keep focused.  Resist the temptation to go off on tangents and related topics. Stick to the topic of your article, and, if necessary, write separate pieces about the topics they bring to mind. Readers prefer focused, clear pieces that answer their immediate questions simply.
  • Get rid of complex sentences. You’re not trying to impress the English teacher anymore. Keep your sentences short and simple; if you have a long one, chop it into two. It will be easier to read.

Other Posts:

How to Write a Big Impact Proposal in a Short Amount of Time

Five Tips to Grow Your Email Audience

Voice: How to Change Your Writing for the Client or Audience

Editing Tips for Better Marketing Phrasing

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Filed under Content, Grammar, Introductions, Revising & Proofreading

Five Video Perfect, Speech Opener Ideas

My Web WritersVideo Perfect Speech Ideas

If you’re not using video yet– you should be.  When using video as a way to communicate mass messages, these following five ideas will help you to open with strong and compelling calls-to-attention and to pique your audiences’ interests.

1. Start with a demonstration.

Video presentations can do what would not be nearly as effective in front of a large, live audience. You can open your speech with a hands-on demonstration, talent, or trick – especially one that can be zoomed in on. Many people learn by doing and so a speech that begins with an immediate action captures interest and improves retention. This makes the audience want to know the connection between your demonstration and what you’re about to say next. We like the Shindigz video collection because of the quality and quantity of helpful tips and the ways in which these party products are demonstrated by Wendy and Mary.

2. Add emotion.

A video speech or presentation is also a key opportunity to employ an emotional appeal to your audience. You can begin with a montage of photos with a voiceover, words or a story from someone else or tell a story that is personal to you. Music can greatly enhance the effect of this. Another important benefit of this speech opener is that it helps to create a relationship with the audience. Through video you can sometimes lose that “human element” that you get from a live presentation, but by incorporating emotion you ensure this important element is still present right from the start. We think the Dove Real Beauty Sketches demonstrate how to effectively tug at heartstrings.

3. Incorporate humor.

The use of humor is a tried-and-true technique for many different styles of speeches. Remember that with video, you have the advantage of zooming in on facial expressions to really emphasize the humor in a story.  Telling a joke is a perfect speech opener idea for this medium because it helps to break the ice and set a warm and friendly tone. Whether dry or sarcastic, humor like Apple Coasting will bring a welcome chuckle.

4. Reference another well known speech or video clip.

Countless video clips have risen to stardom overnight after going viral on social media. These have become just about as well known as classic novels, especially depending upon the generation you ask. Including a short clip from a well known viral video as the opener of your own video speech is a great way to capture an audience’s attention and to prime them for your message. Ideally, such a clip should be relatable to the rest of your speech. With the many, many viral videos to choose from, you should be able to find something that can be woven into almost any message.  We think this Cimorelli and Matty B spoof of Cary Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe is a fun way for up-and-coming singers to partner and credit a well-known singer.

5. Do something completely unexpected.

Finally, video speeches are a great opportunity to do something completely unexpected and harness this as an effective opener to capture your audience’s attention. You’re able to zoom-in, edit, add special features and use props much more easily than you could in front of a large, live audience. So stretch your creativity and really think outside the box for an unexpected opener like a special effects trick, goofy song or sound effect. This can be in relation to the topic of the rest of your video speech or it could be a complete contrast that will keep the audience guessing.

There are many great opportunities to open your video speech that will capture your audience’s attention, build your credibility and set the stage for a powerful message.  These are just five to help get you started. They key is to remember that you must tailor your message to your audience and your medium. A video presentation or speech has unique challenges and advantages of which you should be aware and take into consideration. With the right opener and ever-advancing technology, your message can travel as far and as fast as your viewers are inspired to take it!    ~Stephanie & Jean

Other Articles:

Is Your e-Store Prepared for Summer Shoppers?

Social Networking for Business; Success Stories from 3 Brands

How Video Helps Your Website’s SEO

Resolve to Include Video in Your Content

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Filed under Giving a Toast, Introductions, Speech Openers, Speeches, Video Production, YouTube

Writing To Be Read – How to Catch your Readers’ Attention

by My Web Writers

Web sites, blogs and social media are great platforms to promote your thoughts and writing, but with the massive amounts of content shared every day, how do you get yours to stand out?  For all the time and effort you’ve put into creating this content, it’s understandable to want to speak to an audience – not a wall. While there are countless variables that ultimately affect how your content is found, the following tips will help give you some advantage and can be implemented into your writing right now.

Never overlook the title.

The title to any type of content is a reader’s initial indication of what they’re about to learn. Therefore, a title should be considered as seriously as a first impression for an interview. You want to portray an accurate representation of the content, but also peak readers’ interest enough to want to learn more. Be clear and literal, but add in some creativity so it rolls off the tongue. Take the title of this article for example. The first part, “Writing To Be Read,” is the creative, fun-to-say aspect of the title. But if it was left just as that, reader’s wouldn’t know enough about the purpose of the article to be intrigued to read on. The second part of the title addresses that with adding, “How to catch your readers’ attention.” Two-part titles are a smart technique and provide a great deal of important without appearing like a run-on sentence.

Earn your audience in the first paragraph.

Once readers are intrigued enough by the title to give you some of their time and read on, don’t take this for granted! Your first paragraph is still forming their impression of the article and it’s not too late for them to close the page or click away. Establish the purpose of the writing (what can they expect to learn and why is this something they should want to learn). Also, the first paragraph should include a hook. Common examples include asking a question, telling a story, sharing a statistic or creating an emotional appeal. Take a look at the first paragraph in this article. It begins with a question that grabs a reader’s interest because it pertains to a large category of people who 1. Write and 2. Use the internet. Once you’ve kept a reader through the first paragraph, they’re far more likely to continue reading on.

Label longer writing as subsections.

So now you’re ready to dive into the meat of your content. Great! But keep your audience’s attention span in mind, especially for longer articles. If you have a lot of information to share, consider using subsections and labeling them with a mini-title so readers can easily follow along. Again using this article as an example, without the bolded subsections, it would look like a large block of writing which can be overwhelming and boring to a reader. Almost every piece of writing over a certain length can benefit from subsections. It organizes the content for the reader, allows for easy browsing and referencing and it also helps the writer to stay on topic when the subsections are labeled in advance. Think of it as a “connect the dots” for writing.

Add visual interest.

Pictures and graphics are an initial foot-in-the-door to reach readers. If they see something that catches their eye, they’re far more likely to click on the article and explore. This is yet one more important tactic to writing an article that will be read. If the title doesn’t pull them in, your graphics give you another shot. Ideally any pictures, graphics or video clips you share should be closely related to your content and original. But if you simply can’t find or create your own, stock images can also add this visual interest. Try and stay away from cheesy or overly used stock images. Think outside the box with the various subjects that can represent the content even choosing something more artistic than literal. The more it makes readers curious, the more likely they are to read on for answers.

If at all possible, keep it short.

Less is more in the world of writing. If you can say something simply and clearly, do so. Don’t feel obligated to use superfluous language or abstract analogies to get a point across. If the information you’re providing is valuable and interesting, readers won’t need anything more than the straight facts to stay tuned in. The beginning and end of an article allow more room for some creative fluff to draw readers in, but even this should be kept to a minimum.

Every day, we’re competing against more and more content on the internet. While it’s a wonderful problem to have so much information to share, it can cause a mental overload for the readers. The next time you write, be sure to try some of the tips listed above to help give your content an extra advantage and a better shot at being read.

~Stephanie

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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Introductions

What Every Writer Should Remember from Freshmen English

By My Web Writers

Photo courtesy of SingleMomFinance.com

If your high school textbooks are gathering dust or long recycled, and you can’t remember how exactly you spent those arduous academic days, it may be time to brush up on a few of the basics from high school English, even if just to see which rules have changed.

In high school, teachers break down the components of a piece of writing so that students will have a vocabulary to help them in the writing and revision process. Seasoned writers can also benefit from evaluating their work with these tools. Let’s take a look at some of these components.

Audience

The audience is the group of people you expect or want to read your work. It is usually good to have an age group, education level, and some demographics in mind. This can be as simple as people who like pie or more specific like women with children in their thirties and forties. Regardless, your language and ideas need to be appropriate for the people you expect to read your work.

Consider what background information may be necessary, what important terms may need defining, and what kind of voice will appeal to your audience. When writing for a medical journal, the language and ideas may be more complex, because the writer assumes that readers have a certain level of familiarity with the discipline. Whereas when explaining a complex medical condition in an article on al site geared toward the general public, more familiar language may be used along with metaphors and similes that make the information accessible to those without a medical education.

If you’re worried about accessing a specific grade-level, Microsoft Word has a handy tool that estimates the grade-level and readability of your writing based on word, sentence, and paragraph complexity.  This can be enabled when you click on File, Options, Proofing, and check Readability Statistics. These statistics appear after you spell check your document.

 Purpose

What is your piece trying to accomplish? After reading, do you want readers to buy a specific brand of shoe, agree with a political argument, or know how to bake a cake? This should be clear to you the writer and should be stated directly or indirectly in your work. In an academic paper, the purpose is often encountered in the thesis statement. A thesis states what the paper plans to prove or explain. It is usually located at the end of the introduction paragraph.

 Organization

Regardless of the kind of writing you are doing, some method of organization is always necessary. Some common structures include, cause and effect, chronological order, and compare and contrast.  A recipe is usually organized with an ingredient list and then the steps are described in chronological order. A blog post about a political issue may compare and contrast the two sides of an issue by spending the first section explaining one side of the issue, it’s pros and cons, and then in the next section considering the other side.

In essays, each paragraph usually proves or addresses an aspect of the argument. One or more paragraphs may represent a point the author is trying to prove. Once that point has been supported, the writer is ready to begin a new paragraph.

 Evidence and Analysis

Any work that is making a claim requires some kind of evidence and analysis. Evidence includes the facts that support an argument. Analysis is the author’s explanation of why the evidence is important or how it relates to the argument. Evidence helps the writer to establish his or her authority and support ideas. Analysis helps the reader to make the same connections between the argument and the evidence that the writer is making.

 Grammar and Spell Check

Grammar and spelling mistakes can be off-putting for readers and threaten a writer’s credibility, especially where there are so many resources at hand to aid in proofreading.  Remember that different styles of writing often have different rules and call for different styles of documentation. Style guides are available on writing center websites for many colleges and universities. Purdue Online Writing Lab has an especially good guide for APA and MLA styles. Remember that Microsoft Word has spelling and grammar check, but doesn’t catch everything and sometimes makes unnecessary changes. So it is always good to proofread again. And of course, never turn in a piece that you haven’t read more than once.

Happy writing.  Class dismissed.

~Lindsey

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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Content, Expository Writing, Grammar, Introductions, Persuasive Essay, Revising & Proofreading, Technical Writing, Writing Careers, Writing Resources

Essay Introduction Models and Examples

By My Web Writers

No pressure or anything, but probably the most important sentence of an essay is the very first one. If it can’t hook the reader, he or she won’t continue reading. The introduction is the hook; it’s the bait. It lures readers into an essay and makes them want to read more. Whether you’re a content writer or a college student writing an essay, there are many models and examples to help get any writer started on an attention-grabbing introduction.

Tell a story

People are drawn to stories, especially those that are true and relatable. If you can’t think of a way to connect your essay topic to your own life, imagine how it might impact the lives of your readers.

For example, if you are writing an essay on hunger in Africa, you could begin your essay by making the readers feel as if they were experiencing the view of extreme hunger firsthand.

It’s a beautiful African morning with the sun on the horizon and the air already thick as oil. A four-year-old boy wakes up to the sound of his baby sister crying. She is hungry. He is also hungry, but there is no food to feed their family. His stomach growls; it has not been fed for more than three days. His mother will do what she can to find food for her starving family. Their empty bellies are something nearly impossible for us to imagine in the United States.

Give a shocking fact or statistic

As long as the statistic or fact can be verified, it’s a great way to start and essay. People love statistics, and they love to be shocked. Shock the reader and they will want to read more.

Out of all the states in America, there was one that didn’t grow in population over the past decade. According to the US Census Bureau, Michigan lost 0.6 percent of its population between 2001 and 2011. Michigan may be lacking in population growth, but it has plenty to offer future residents and tourists from out of state.

Use a well-known quotation

Sometimes, someone else says it best. Famous quotes are an interesting and thought-provoking way to begin an essay. There are an abundance of websites that organize quotes by author and subject.

Imagine you were stuck on writing the introduction of an essay about the importance of volunteering. Hop online to find an interesting quote that might be a great attention grabber. If the person who said the quote is well known, that can also help your reader to better identify with your subject.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Most would think that a young girl hiding from Nazi soldiers would be the last person worried about improving the rest of the world, but in the midst of crisis, Anne Frank jotted down those exact words. She saw the urgency of improving the world, and she can serve as an inspiration to the rest of us.

Ask a thought-provoking question

Anything that gets readers thinking will help draw them into your essay. By asking a question, you are forcing readers to think for themselves about your topic.

Imagine you were writing an essay about depression. You could write an introduction using questions to help the reader imagine what depression is like.

Have you ever been sad? What about miserable? Have you ever felt like your entire world was falling apart and that there was nothing you could do about it? Millions of people feel this way every single day because of depression.

There are many ways to start an essay.  What are some of your favorites?

~Natalie

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