“…Then, in the twentieth century, speed up your camera. Books cut shorter. Condensations. Digests. Tabloids. Everything boils down to the gag, the snap ending . . . Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fill a two-minute book column, winding up at last as a ten- or twelve-line dictionary resume.”
Sounds a bit like a description of language formatted for digital readership, doesn’t it . . . ? In fact, its author wrote this more than a decade before the advent of the internet. If your high school curriculum included the classics of sci-fi literature, you may recognize Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” – written in 1953.
Prophetic, wasn’t he? Sometimes it seems language attenuates further with each passing year. In most of our personal communications, grammar and sentence structure have slid to the backseat in favor of shorthand – HBU? However, when it comes to professional content, proper prose is still in the driver’s seat.
What does it take to create quality content to fit today’s formats? Only the ability to wield written word concisely and correctly, with enough flare to hold your readers’ attention while simultaneously building their trust. In that light you can see why it’s so challenging to find!
As I sit down to write for our clients, I’m constantly thinking about how to deliver well-crafted messages to the right audience, in the most digestible – and memorable – format. Focusing on these three areas helps keep the parameters of digital consumption top of mind.
Unique Voice and Tone Compel Interest
“Simply phonetics. The science of speech. That’s my profession; also my hobby. Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby! You can spot an Irishman or a Yorkshireman by his brogue. I can place any man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London. Sometimes within two streets.”
That quote is from George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” more often known by the cinematic adaption starring Audrey Hepburn, “My Fair Lady.” This work is all about the transformative power of language. As his character Dr. Higgins pontificates, a person’s speech – accent, regional dialect, slang, and euphemisms – provides numerous clues to their identity, and even their personality. Most would agree it takes a deft hand to convey the same information in prose.
While you may know your product and your target audience, speaking their language – correction – writing their language is an art. Just enough flare combined with solid composition and you come away with a symphony. But go too far in either direction, and a cacophony will quickly result. An experienced copywriter can help you figure out exactly what you want to say, the best way to say it, and how to strike the right chord in the mind of your reader.
Clear and Concise Copy Holds Attention
If you’ve ever searched for “the average attention span of internet users,” you’ve likely found ubiquitous references to an “eight second average.” As recently as this year, numerous publications have touted this number, allegedly from a 2015 Microsoft study. Yet, it’s very hard to vet, as a BBC reporter discovered in 2017.
While we may not know the exact parameters of attention, it’s clear readers don’t consume digital content in the same way they do print. Shrinking screens have played a role. More Americans (85%) own a smartphone today compared to other digital devices such as laptops, desktops (77%), and tablets (53%). And in 2021, 15% of American adults were “smartphone-only” internet users (defined as those who own a smartphone, but don’t have traditional home broadband service).
Brand marketers are competing with the slew of stimuli that comes across a reader’s handheld screen. To cut through the noise, your content has to deliver what the reader wants, fast. Regardless of subject matter, quality digital copy has two major factors in common. It’s scannable (i.e., broken up by subheads easily navigable to the eye) and gets to the point quickly.
Accuracy Builds Trust
Did you know false news stories are 70% more likely to be retweeted than true stories, according to a 2018 study by three MIT scholars? While not everyone is aware of those particular research findings, most people have learned to practice a reasonable degree of skepticism when consuming information online . . . or so we hope! In many ways, social media is a modern representation of the age-old cycle of art representing life representing art – the two are intertwined. Is the virtual world a reflection of reality, or has life has come to reflect what’s passed off as truth on the internet . . . ?
While this may be an unknowable philosophical quandary, it highlights the importance of accurate, well-researched, and artful content. In our own way, content creators and marketing strategists have just as great a responsibility to deliver trustworthy information as traditional authors and journalists.
From a business standpoint, quality content builds trust and brand loyalty. When people are confident your website will deliver valuable information that’s interesting to read, they’re more likely to return.
If the art of writing is to capture and preserve a piece of the human experience, the art of content creation is to translate that experience into virtual engagement – and ultimately, more sales.