When we think of aesthetics in content, we typically think of graphics and images meant to complement or illustrate the text.
Although visuals are important, the aesthetics of the text itself can influence how many people consume content and how long they spend engaged with it.
What you say is as important as how you say it – this also extends to the formatting of text on a page. This why a good content marketer can take a dense white paper, identify the most interesting parts, re-write it for the web, and then watch it get more traction than the first time around.
Over the years, I’ve learned the following three basic guidelines help keep readers engaged.
1) Write short sentences
Long sentences are sometimes harder to follow and short sentences are easier.
Or to put it another way:
Long sentences are sometimes hard to follow. Short sentences are easier.
That’s not to say a long sentence can’t do the trick because sometimes it’s warranted. In those cases, look to punctuation techniques to help break up the text.
An em dash is a popular option, but colon, semicolons, and ellipsis are all available options.
Years ago, a marketing professor in my MBA program required students to use varied punctuation in writing assignments. Why? He thought too much of corporate writing was boring and conformist…and this was one way he urged us to keep thing interesting.
Punctuation was his way of teaching us to make a point.
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2) Write shorter paragraphs
One sentence paragraphs have become a phenomenon on LinkedIn.
Some people love them, some people hate them, and everyone seems to have an opinion about them. Here’s the important part: more people read them.
Short paragraphs – include the one sentence variety – move quickly and are easier to consume.
I usually strive for a paragraph density of no more than 4 lines.
This isn’t just limited to writing for the web. If you’ve picked up a new book published in the last ten years, you’ll notice many of the winners follow – or perhaps preceded – the same trend: short sentences, short paragraphs and short chapters.
There is brevity to be found even in long form content.
3) Liberal use of subheads
The effective use of white space is something you’ll often hear as an important separating element of visual design. This is in part, what subheads do for text.
Subheads serve many utilities. Many people perusing the web scan rather than read, so a subhead both helps to communicate a point and aims to draw in readers.
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There isn’t a magic formula to writing corporate blog posts, and none of these tips are likely to make or break your content marketing program. However, like so many aspects of marketing, it’s executing well on the basics consistently over time that adds up to a big difference.
So go ahead, try to make the text visually pleasing.
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