Three Ways to Spice Up Any Blog Post

red hot chili pepper

Is your writing all meatloaf and mashed potatoes and no jalapeño and oregano? If so, you may be focusing on format and forgetting about what Ernest Hemingway called vigorous language.

We’ve talked a lot lately about how to structure your writing to make it accessible. While an easily digestible format is a critical part of effective content presentation, you don’t want to leave out the succulent seasoning.

Remember, beyond bullet points, numbered lists and compelling subheadings, it’s still the words themselves that matter most. It’s how you say it that will determine whether your audience sings your praises or heads for the hills, so don’t forget to add some zing to your language.

Here are three techniques that will have you bringing zesty back to your blog in no time.

1. Use Sensuous Language

When I say sensuous, I mean you should appeal to the senses, as opposed to the more erotic connotations associated with the companion word sensual. Sex does sell though, so I’ll leave that to your discretion.

While using visual language is critical, a sure-fire way to plant your ideas firmly in someone’s head is to appeal to all five senses. Through the use of imagery, you’re painting a more complete picture in the reader’s mind, which practically guarantees a higher level of engagement.

Example:

The crackling flames danced manically upon the charring husk of the car, illuminating the starless night sky as I stood and watched helplessly. Warm canyon winds pushed the pungent smoke into my face and nostrils, and I tasted my own salty tears at the thought of the laptop in the back seat. All I could think was, how am I going to blog this?

2. Employ High Impact Wording

Too often in our haste to produce content, we become careless with our words and phrases. If how you say it is the key to reader engagement, the first words that come to mind may not be the best words.

  • Instead of brave, why not heroic?
  • Instead of big, why not gigantic, tremendous or monumental?
  • Try rejuvenating, invigorating or exhilarating instead of fresh.
  • Go with chuckle, chortle or guffaw just for laughs.
  • Why be frank when you can explode the myths about X and Y?
  • It’s not new, it’s a glimpse into the future.

Simple words are the rule, but your thesaurus can help you sprinkle potent and distinctive exceptions throughout your writing. High impact words and phrases keep your reader engrossed via vibrant and vigorous language.

3. Be Entertaining

Coming up with an entertaining angle, using interesting language and making knowing references will always be a hit with your readers. Please notice that I didn’t say funny. Funny is hard… any professional humor writer will tell you he writes 10 jokes for every 2-3 keepers. That’s a rough ratio for a busy blogger.

Besides, look at most television commercials. In the quest for funny, most of these advertisements forget that there’s another point—to sell something. You want to make sure you’re not losing sight of your own blogging goals in the quest for a laugh.

The key to an entertaining blog post is to toss in some lightheartedness, especially if your topic is somewhat dry. Tongue-in-cheek references to popular culture or the peculiarities of your industry will help your readers smile and more closely identify with you. Just make sure you’re not being too obscure, or you may leave a sizable chunk of your audience in the dark.

Develop a Distinctive Voice

Over time, you’ll find which techniques work for you. While you’ll always want to keep pushing your boundaries, a writer who is comfortable and confident in her own style naturally ends up an effective writer.

At that point, you’ll be more likely to go with your instincts and not second-guess yourself. If you feel like writing a post that makes corny references to common cooking spices in the opening and close, you’ll just do it.

Well… I could curry on with this sage advice, but I’m short on thyme. And yes, these spice puns are so bad it’s beyond bay leaf, and I’m certainly parsley to blame. Good thing I’m not trying to be funny.

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Reader Comments (54)

  1. says

    Wow, that ending was something (and yes, I laughed).

    Excellent post Brian. I think each one of your points is right on target, and I think I need to take all of this advice and apply it to my writing. Marketing can be pretty bland; some spice might just make it a little tastier.

    Thanks for the tips, we’ll see how it works out with tomorrow’s post.

    – Mason

  2. says

    Hey Brian,

    Thanks for the thoughts on the long copy format for a sales letter yesterday. As to the advice contained in the spicy post above, it’s something to be used not just in blog posts but in throwing together a free book or two…

    Adding spice to your writing is something that you can keep in the forefront of your mind but still screw up – it’s something that needs practice and care. Practice to get the words right, care in terms of editing at least once before hitting that ‘publish’ button.

  3. says

    Writing stuff that peppers the mind is a specialty of the house, it seems.

    Doing so, without hot-dogging, is truly a skill worthy of a supreme pizza the pie.

  4. says

    Dont think, that people will actually have the time to write sensuously, untill he would describing his or her experience. Since bloggers are fast, quick in posting. Dont see myself readin very long blogs. The other points are really appreciate and completely understand.

    http://mokshjuneja.blogspot.com

  5. says

    “…the first words that come to mind may not be the best words.”

    That is certainly worth repeating. In my experience, the first words usually are not the best words. That, however, is what the editing stage is for.

  6. says

    I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could someone use touch typing to create such putrid prose? With the clocking ticking in the background, I could taste the bile in my mouth.

    How’s that?

    Not good, I’ll get back to you.

  7. Jeb says

    Your first suggestion advocates the worst kind of “purple prose.” You’re more likely leave your readers nauseated than impressed. Spice isn’t merely adding adjectives.

    Your second suggestion advocates wordy hyperbole–the kind that gives marketers a bad name.

    This post is a rare miss, Brian. The sad thing is, these tips may work from a conversion standpoint. But this sort of breathless copy ends up polluting the world.

    If this comment seems unduly harsh, let me say that one of the reasons I like this blog is its lack of purple, hyperbolic writing.

  8. says

    Jeb, the example for the first suggestion is just that… an example. You wouldn’t otherwise try to cram all of that into one paragraph.

    Funny thing about humor… the “purple prose” is the joke (read it again), but people laughed at the terrible puns.

    And if you think using a thesaurus amounts to hyperbole, well, you haven’t been paying attention to any of my previous posts. I sprinkle high impact words and phrases throughout all of my writing here, and apparently you haven’t minded.

  9. says

    Brian,

    I usually try to answer questions like this on my own, but I could really use an outsider’s eye this time.

    I realize that I’m not funny enough to be funny, but I am witty enough to be entertaining. In my blog’s tagline, I write, “Thoughts and humor to help you enjoy work more.”

    I feel like it’s already pretty awkward, but now I’m tempted to replace “humor” with “entertainment” and that would be awful. On the other hand, I have a slight suspicion that I occasionally try to be/am actually funny.

    Any suggestions for a more nimble tagline that represents my blog well?

    Chuck

  10. says

    Chuck, I think you *are* funny, so I wouldn’t sweat it.

    Not everyone will think you’re funny, of course. Some people have no sense of humor whatsoever, even if they think they do.

  11. says

    “…and that is how I tricked Brian Clark into writing an endorsement of my blog.”

    Kidding of course, and thanks for the kind words. I’m a-okay with some people not thinking I’m funny as long as they aren’t the people that I think are funny.

    I appreciate the quick response, and keep up the excellent work on this blog–it’s become my favorite, I think.

  12. says

    Haha… happy to endorse your blog. In fact, you are slated for the next Link Karma, if I ever pull that together this week. Who knew link posts were such a hassle? 😉

  13. Jeb says

    “And if you think using a thesaurus amounts to hyperbole, well, you haven’t been paying attention to any of my previous posts. I sprinkle high impact words and phrases throughout all of my writing here, and apparently you haven’t minded.”

    Touche, Brain. I would never advocate against thesaurus use. (In fact, I’m in love with the Visual Thesaurus and I encourage everyone to buy a subscription.) Nor would I equate using fresh words with hyperbole.

    I suppose my objections were not to your suggestions but to your examples.

    Anyhoo, thanks for the comment comment! Good stuff.

  14. says

    Jeb, I can appreciate that objection, because those examples lack context. I actually prefer to provide examples within the context of the post itself (“do it while teaching it”), and there are embedded examples of all three techniques throughout this post.

    A lot of people pick up on that. However, other people with different learning styles want clearly-marked examples, so I try to accommodate that need as well.

  15. says

    excellent post. Yes, writing should connect to the heart and make one feel part of it. When one tries to write purely for money it shows in writing quality.

  16. says

    Excellent post Brian! You’ve given me motivation and new things to try with my blog from that.

    I loved the end part of the post, really funny!

  17. says

    Any exaggeration and mangle of the truth makes that truth a lie. So, if we fallow your advice we shall not provide truths to the world. Like this blogging would loose it’s core characteristic. From communicating truths we will end up making money. It is like taking something beautiful like a flower and spraying it with perfume; this would ruin it

  18. says

    Brian, let’s not ignore Jeb’s point that adjectives are not the key to spicing up your writing. Your story was funny because the prose was over the top. It turned on the direct, terse, adjective-free ending. Good writing is about grammar, and to discuss good writing, we need to discuss grammar.

    Jeb, I wish you had stood your ground. Adjectives are one of the quickest way to muck up writing. The first three bullets under the “Employ High Impact Wording” heading all refer to using more dramatic adjectives.

    I would say a better approach is to cut unnecessary adjectives and focus your energy on the verbs.

    The last three bullets in the same section are much more important than the first three: 4) use better verbs, 5) use better verbs and 6) replace adjectives with more descriptive nouns.

  19. says

    JD, please refer again to this sentence:

    “Simple words are the rule, but your thesaurus can help you sprinkle potent and distinctive exceptions throughout your writing.”

    The key word in that sentence is the verb “sprinkle,” as in “use sparingly.” When it comes to adjectives, I like potent rather than “powerful” and distinctive instead of “unique,” at least every once in awhile.

    Do you find that quoted sentence offensive to your sensibilities?

  20. says

    Brian, I do not find that sentence offensive to my sensibilities. You’re right, when you use adjectives, they darn well better be good ones.

    What I’m talking about is cutting out unnecessary adjectives; you’re talking about replacing necessary (but boring) adjectives with better ones.

    Nice write-up.

  21. says

    Hi there,

    Great posts!!!

    If only I could imbibe a speck of how well you write then perhaps, I would soon get readers to my blog. Gasp!

    Malou


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