Is your writing becoming a bit predictable? You could be stuck in the rut of formulaic writing. This is when the language conventions and popular writing structures drive your writing process instead of engaging content.
The Problem with Formula
This formulaic writing is worst in what we call clickbait. Someone writes an unoriginal post, usually in the form of a list, then composes a sensational headline to induce people to click through. Headlines that make big promises and then adds something like, “You won’t believe No. 2,” are good examples. Clickbait type articles work to get clicks, but this is not great content writing.
The problem with clickbait is that it relies purely on a formula to drive interest and generate clicks. There is nothing about the content that is ultimately interesting, valuable or even entertaining. The reader’s interest is induced by the formulas that do all the work.
Formulaic writing is essentially a shortcut that allows writers to generate interest without the hard work of writing engaging, informative and valuable content. The answer is to focus on the content and show your audience that you have something of value to offer.
That does not mean to avoid all writing conventions and formulas. These are helpful to organize your content, but you can’t rely on them to drive reader interest. For example, in marketing, it is usually a good idea to start with a pain point that you know your readers struggle with to create an emotional bond with your audience. Conventions like discussing benefits rather than features are important to keep your reader interested. But these formulas cannot substitute for offering valuable content to your audience.
Here are some tips for avoiding formulaic writing:
Do Your Homework
There is no substitute for good old-fashioned research to offer real value to your audience. You have to do your homework to understand your audience’s needs, problems and desires. This will help you to target your writing, so your audience feels like you really get them. When you do this, then you can offer content that your audience will truly be interested in.
Formulaic writing tends to paint with broad strokes. This is why there is so much repetitive and duplicable content out there on the Internet. The more specific you can get with your writing the better it will be. This means using case studies, statistics, expert interviews and testimonials to make your points.
If you are writing about best practices for social media marketing, then you need to do more than offer some generic advice about using social media. You want to offer a case study, testimonial or expert interview that shows how one business implemented best practices to improve their social media marketing. Your audience will find these kinds of content very engaging and informative.
Tell a Good Story
People like stories. They want to see the hero save the day. This is why testimonials are so effective. They want to see how Dan got back into shape with the help of a personal trainer, or how the Jones family improved the quality of their lives with a kitchen remodel. Think about how you could narrate a story about your topic. Even if it is a fictional story, it will still be engaging with your audience.
Offer a Fresh Perspective
People want to get your perspective on the issue you are discussing. You want to inject your writing into a more general discussion of the topic and offer something unique in the context of this discussion. If your audience is following the discussion, then they will be interested in your perspective.
A little while ago, there was a discussion in the content marketing community about whether long blog posts were better than short ones. This was a great opportunity for writers to weigh in one side of the issue and offer their perspective on it. Readers following the conversation were immediately interested in what people had to say.
Using formula and writing conventions can be helpful, but you should not develop an overreliance on them. Make sure you do your homework, tell a good story and offer something valuable to engage your audience. That is what good content writing is about.