Let’s say you spend an hour or so online every day, visiting an average of ten pages. If we account for very short news pieces, we might come up with a mean of 400 words, meaning you read (or at least read past) 4000 words of digital content each day. That’s nearly 1.5 million each year — and I’ve most likely lowballed each of those figures by quite some margin.
Now, how much of what you’ve read online in the last 365 days do you remember? What about the last 30 days? The last 7 days? How much of what you read online yesterday do you remember? I can barely recall what I had for breakfast, admittedly, but my point still stands: so much of the online content we consume is as flat as a pancake (and much less delicious).
If you’re going to bother creating a lot of copy for the web — and you like are in the form of marketing content — then (in addition to working in the obligatory keywords) you must commit to making it memorable, and the key to that is bringing emotion into the mix. Here are some top tips for doing just that:
Embrace your unique style
Think about your favourite book for a moment: consider what makes you rate it so highly. I’d bet a modest sum on it being the characters, with each lead character feeling fleshed-out and distinct. But how is this accomplished? Through action, to some extent, but most importantly through unique dialogue. Compelling novel dialogue stems, as Jericho Writers puts it, from the emotional differences between those conversing — and those differences are conveyed through the varying ways in which they express themselves in spoken exchanges.
Now, you might not be a character in a novel, but you are one internet personality among many each reader will encounter on a regular basis, so the same principle applies — and the lucky part is that you don’t need to imagine a fully-formed character into existence. You already are such a character, and all you need to do to show it is… nothing at all. Just stop modulating the way you express yourself. Write as you’d normally talk, and the emotion will shine through.
Talk about personal experiences
It’s very common for online writers to maintain a stiff and formal tone because they don’t want to bring too much attention to themselves. They might think that no one would want to hear about them, and people only want to read about the topic, or maybe they’re just very self-conscious and don’t feel comfortable touching upon personal experiences. Sadly, this makes for incredibly dull content capable of sullying even the most interesting subjects.
If you don’t want flat copy, then you’re going to need to start bringing your life into it somehow. Am I saying that you need to write at length about the minutiae of your childhood? No, definitely not, so modify your expectations if that’s what you fear. Instead, follow ChronicleVitae’s suggestion to start working in minor anecdotes that are relevant to what you’re saying — and talk about how things make you feel. If something disgusts you, saddens you, angers you, or inspires you, then mention it.
Use emojis (but only sparingly)
How do you feel about emojis? Some love them and use them obsessively, while others steer clear of them at all times, thinking them childish, sloppy, and decidedly lowbrow. Others (and this is my camp) accept that they can add a lot to language when used tastefully. Text is typically abysmal at conveying tone and emotion, and we already turn to stylisation to address that problem — so why not take things further with emojis?
Something as simple as a smiley face at the end of a post can completely change how it’s perceived, particularly if you suspect that you come across as cold (maybe you have quite an irreverent and laid-back style of humour that shines through in spoken conversation but is often mistaken for indifference in writing). The New York Post put it like this: “The emoji’s primary function is not to usurp language but to fill in the emotional cues otherwise missing from typed conversations.” So investigate the available options and think about what your readers might be willing to accept — then start testing the waters.
In the end, the biggest driver of emotive text is sheer passion for writing, whether that passion stems from a love of writing itself or a deep affection for the subject you’re writing about. If you have no such passion, then you’ll always struggle — but if that enthusiasm is there, you likely just need to refine your technique. Try the tips we’ve looked at here. They should get you going in the right direction.