4 Ways to Write Memorably
According to analyst firm The Radicati Group, the average number of emails received by business users was over 120 in 2014. That is about one email every 12 minutes.
But professionals write more than just email these days. Writing for social media, corporate articles and even semi-personal blogs is the new norm.
While each medium requires a different writing muscle, the goal of any piece of copy is always the same: capture someone’s attention. It’s a tricky art nowadays, given that the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds — one second shorter than the average goldfish.
So how can you write memorable copy, whether it is a blog post, text or email?
1. BORROW FROM CLICKBAIT
There’s a reason online ads love the phrase “You won’t believe what happens next”: it creates instant mystery and a craving to reveal the answer.
So raise questions but withhold the resolution: in your headlines, in your opening line, even at the end of paragraphs. Want to get a work superior to take more notice of your contributions? Utilise that principle, even in an email: “The pitch ended on a pretty intriguing note — will tell you more when I see you.”
2. UNDERSTAND THAT GOOD WRITING IS REWRITING
Roald Dahl is considered one of the finest authors ever to wield a pen. Yet even he was no snob when it came to his words: “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting.I am positive of this,” he quipped.
So write your first draft to your heart’s content. Write fearlessly, putting down any idea that strikes you. Then rewrite with a more ruthless eye, changing anything that doesn’t advance your story.
Quick tip: Step away from your finished first draft. Give your brain time to run through your draft subconsciously — ideally in the shower. Weird, but cognitive scientist Scott Barry Kauffman did a study and found that 72 percent of people get their best ideas in the shower, as “the relaxing shower environment … [allows] the mind to wander freely.”
3. SAY A LOT WITH A LITTLE
An (apocryphal) legend has it that Ernest Hemingway once penned an entire heart-wrenching drama out of six short words. “For sale — baby shoes. Never worn.” Less is often more, so ask yourself: can I make this entire email the length of a tweet? You will be surprised at how constraint creates creativity.
4. THE POWER OF PS
A punchy postscript draws the eye. From a purely visual standpoint, inserting copy after your ‘kind regards’ and signature will raise interest. But there is a deeper psychological reason why a PS intrigues the reader. It acts as an extra goodie at the end of the show, another piece of content when we thought the writing had finished.
That’s why audiences love cut scenes that appear after the end of the closing credits. It’s why Steve Jobs often saved the coolest features of his product releases — from the iPod to a new Mac model — for the very end of his speech when people thought his talk was over, adding, “Oh, and one more thing…” And it’s why musicians always exit stage left and re-enter for an encore.
Structurally, saving the most memorable piece of information for last acts as a surprise for readers, allowing them to end on a high note. But a PS is versatile — it can soften the tone of an otherwise dry business email, create a sense of urgency, or just add a bonus bit of information.
PS: Seriously, try it. Save a cheeky one-liner or surprising fact for the end of your next piece of writing.