Eh? What was that you were saying? Of course you don’t ramble on like that boring old history teacher in high school.
You’re likeable. You tell stories. You keep it short.
But somehow, it’s not working.
Your content doesn’t get the tweets, shares, and comments it deserves. Sometimes you wonder…
Does your content not captivate your readers?
Are they clicking away?
Let’s be honest, it’s difficult to know for sure. You can’t see the doodling, the fidgeting, the yawns.
But there are warning signs.
I’ve collected the 11 most common mistakes bloggers make that bore the hell out of their readers. And of course, if you prefer to engage, entertain, and entice your readers … just turn these around, and make your content really work.
1. You’re breaking the rule of one
To engage your readers you share all kinds of great ideas. Sharing just one concept would be dull.
You’re talking your readers’ ears off. There’s nothing more boring than a story that goes in twenty different directions. Each article should have only one big idea. Each argument, each story, and each example should support it.
(If you have lots of ideas, that’s great. That means you have plenty of fodder for good content. Just take them one at a time.)
Not sure? Check the popular Copyblogger posts to the right of this post:
- Each headline focuses on one concept
- Each post concentrates on one idea
- Each post encourages you with one call to action
Remember: being a blabbermouth is probably more dull than having nothing interesting to say.
2. You use full stops sparingly
Long sentences are cumbersome, boring, and spiritless — especially if you use long and difficult words. Why not use an extra full stop (what you in the U.S. call a period) halfway? Or two?
Short sentences are easy to read, lively, and entertaining.
Favor short sentences. And use full stops as often as you can.
If you’re unsure about using a colon, semi-colon, or a full stop, always choose a full stop. Among punctuation marks, full stops are your best friend.
3. You’re too big for your boots
Please don’t bore your readers with difficult words.
Scrap jargon, cut scientific words, and replace long words with short words. Plain English helps your reader comprehend your message. And complex language doesn’t make you look more intelligent.
Your readers like to be lazy, don’t exhaust them.
They’re not interested in learning your extensive vocabulary. Just help your readers solve their problems.
4. You stick to high school rules
Formality is tiring. No one wants to read your school essays, so stop trying to please English teachers and start pleasing your readers.
Start a sentence with because, and, or but.
Use contractions to strike a conversational tone.
Throw in some sentence fragments — Copyblogger is full of them. Short sentences keep your readers hooked.
Your content will become exciting, entertaining, and fun. And your readers will love you.
5. You sound cold-hearted
Who likes to connect with indifferent and dispassionate people?
To engage with your reader you need to be charming. And that requires a human touch.
Follow these tips to avoid sounding like a dusty, detached headmaster:
- Choose a topic you’re passionate about
- Write as if you’re talking to one friend
- Show your readers the ways in which you’re like them
- Add vivid details to your stories
- Use metaphors
- Don’t be afraid of strong opinions
- Avoid the passive tense
- Occasional profanity is fine … if it fits your brand and your personality
Remember: Be warm. Nobody likes chatting with a cold fish.
6. You are too ploddingly predictable
Do you know about Shakespeare’s copywriting technique for grabbing reader attention?
Shakespeare misused words. He used nouns as verbs: he godded me. And adjectives as verbs: thick my blood. This technique surprises and “wakes up” the brain.
You can also use an unexpected word instead of a familiar word in a common phrase. For instance: Clothes don’t maketh the woman. Using an unexpected word has the same effect as misusing words.
Saying something unexpected jolts the brain into paying attention: a subtle, but neurologically proven trick.
7. You are long-winded
Do you avoid these subtle signs of tiresome wordiness?
- Redundant adverbs and adjectives. If an adverb or adjective doesn’t add meaning; if it doesn’t help picture your story; and if it doesn’t convey an emotion — then it’s not required. Cut it.
- Excessive words. If you can scrap a word without changing the meaning of your sentence, go ahead and skip it. Wearisome words that often can be cut include ought, in my opinion, that, just, actually, truly, and very.
- Abstract nouns. Don’t add unnecessary complexity. Don’t write This blog topic is of a complex nature. Just write This topic is complex.
8. You sound like a despicable salesman
You know what makes a salesman pushy, uninteresting, and tiresome, don’t you?
Avoid these irritating sales mistakes:
- Don’t ramble on about your products. Show the benefits to your readers.
- Don’t waffle about irrelevant facts. Understand what keeps your readers awake at 3 a.m.
- Education is your most effective sales tool. Use it liberally.
9. You don’t study copywriting techniques
You write creative content to entertain your readers. You use fresh angles and a unique voice. Why isn’t it working?
Maybe you are too original.
No hard-and-fast rules tell you how to be fascinating. But the right copywriting techniques can make your content interesting and irresistible.
Follow these three tips to hold your readers spellbound:
- Learn how to command attention with trigger words: Use words that invoke and engage emotion.
- Practice the art of irresistible copywriting: Every sentence you write must make your readers want to read the next.
- Understand the fascinating elements of content: Use fun, shock, or entertainment to make people pay attention.
Trying to grab attention by being “creative” for its own sake can hurt the effectiveness of content marketing.
10. You commit crimes against readability
You’ve carefully crafted your content. You’ve self-edited. Your text is informative, friendly, and commanding attention. But do you know your font choice can destroy the effectiveness of your precious words?
Avoid these stupid typography mistakes:
- Your font is too fancy. Complex fonts are hard to read.
- Your font is too small. Tiny fonts strain your eyes. Have you seen the large font Forbes.com uses?
- Your font doesn’t contrast with its background. Why make it strenuous to read your content?
Use a readable font and don’t let your readers drown in dreary blocks of text. Be generous with white space:
- Frame your text with white space
- Reduce your content width
- Write shorter paragraphs
- Add extra white space around subheads
- Interrupt your text with bullet points and numbered lists
And do you know the best way to bore your readers to tears? Characterless, cliched photos make your content drab. Always use compelling images.
11. You don’t self-edit to boost charisma
Don’t worry about captivating your readers when you’re writing. Don’t interrupt your flow. Worry about being delightful, entertaining, and surprising only when editing.
Follow these 6 steps to add life to drab, dull content:
- Check your engagement level. Don’t be a boastful ego-tripper. How often have you used the words you and your? Use the WeWe calculator to measure enchantment.
- Increase the number of really good bullet points. Can you convert paragraphs into numbered lists or bullet points? Short and to-the-point lists are more exciting than lackluster, solid paragraphs.
- Examine your paragraph length. Aim for a maximum of five sentences per paragraph. Endless paragraphs are mind-numbingly tiring.
- Calculate the average number of words per sentence. Try to have fewer than ten words per sentence. Cut long sentences in two and scrap redundant words.
- Analyze average word length. Too many long words can make your content stuffy, stodgy, and stale. Can you replace long words with shorter ones? Can you swap difficult words for simple words?
- Boost your content with trigger words. Can you make your text livelier by including vivid and emotional words?
Do you edit your text only once?
Increase the number of drafts you write. Focus on one step for each draft. You’ll be amazed how quickly this can make boring content more appealing.
Will avoiding these pitfalls really help you build an audience?
No strict guidelines will show you how to be engaging. No blueprint will tell you how to be charming. No code exists for keeping your readers glued to your content.
But you can avoid common, silly mistakes. Be disciplined. And edit rigorously.
And the most important lesson? Write with passion. Display your enthusiasm. Entertain. Show your readers you care about them, and they’ll love you to bits. If you break a few rules along the way (including these ones) but you do it with passion, you’ll find that audience.
Your energy is contagious. Let your passion shine through, and you’ll gain a raving audience.
Are you ready?
About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and business writing coach. She's on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs sparkle. Get her free 16-Part Snackable Writing Course for Busy People and learn how to enchant your readers and win more business.