Be Specific. Add Detail. 1


Writing can be, well, hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Stringing together not only coherent, but well-worded, well-crafted stories with understandable sentences, is a challenge.

But a worthwhile challenge because clarity and readability in your writing is an essential need of your reader. You can’t very well sell your services and products through your marketing materials if no one reading your blog or sales page can understand you, or worst, abandons your page.

Here’s something to ponder: one way to immediately improve your writing is to make your language specific and add relevant detail. What does that mean? It means using nouns and verbs that evoke a mood, paint a picture in your mind, startle you awake. In other words, they are not general, boring, or overused words.

You see the use of non-specific, general-in-meaning text all around the web and in print. And you notice when a piece of writing is well doneā€”it tickles you, encourages you to read it again, makes you smile, giggle with delight, envelope you with love, embolden you with anger. The language chosen is superb and you pine for more writing by that author.

Simplistic, non-specific text with little detail:

“I walked past a building today, looked in the window, and watched a girl doing gymnastics there. She jumped and flipped backwards, and it was cool.”

And here’s the same topic made specific:

“Walking down Main Street after lunch at The Roxy, I paused at the old city hall building, now the Gymnastics Academy. Through the multi-pained windows, my eye caught the movement of a teenager practicing her moves. She was a tall, gawky girl wearing a single braid of red hair, and she pranced as though she were on flat ground, not on the narrow width of the balance beam. Her backward bends ended in a series of kickovers. When she stopped, standing upright, she flashed a smile of satisfaction, her teeth decorated with braces.”

Can you hear the difference? Yes, it’s longer with more words to describe the scene, but does the detail work? Does the act of describing the scene and the objects specifically draw you in? Do you see the action like a movie reel?

Obviously, the paragraphs above aren’t drawn from business text, but the principle applies to what you present to your potential clients as it does to the text found in a trade publication.

Read over your latest text and underline all of the nouns. Can you replace them with words that better describe the scene? Don’t get precious, however. Do not start adding tons of adjectives and adverbs and exclamation points to drive your message home. I suggest starting with good, specific nouns. Use active voice and verbs, not passive voice, and have fun with the verbs. These simple elements help draw your reader in to your story.

Strong words engage your audience, allow the text to flow, and keep readers on your page.

 

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