Keep it punchy

Three sentences is the optimum length for an online paragraph. The first sentence sets up the idea, the second develops it and the third hammers home the proof. See how I’ve used the technique throughout this post. 

Encourage skim-reading

Your paragraphs may be punchy, but people might still skim-read. To make sure your message gets through, use informative headings that summarise what you’re saying. Ideally, the reader should be able to get the broad sense of your argument just from the headings.  

Get straight to the point

A lot of posts and articles take so long to start that the reader’s bailed out before the plane gets off the ground. If you’re feeling frustrated with your draft, try deleting the first paragraph. The effect is dramatic and you’ll rarely go back. 

Talk to them

To make your text involving and immediate, address the reader as ‘you’. This post could have been about ‘the writer’, but by making it about ‘you’, I’m making you feel you have a stake in what I’m saying.

Do the same and you’ll engage your own readers from word one. 

Keep it real

Abstract vocabulary and concepts, like the ones manifested in this sentence, are challenging to comprehend. But vivid, colourful word-pictures, like the one I’m painting now, make it easy for readers to see what you mean. Use sensory-rich language to help people grasp your meaning and hear what you’re saying. 

Write like you talk

When I am deploying formal language patterns, you do not feel warmly disposed to my communications. But if I’m using contractions like ‘I’m’, ‘it’s’, and ‘you’re’, it’s a lot easier for you to feel we’re getting along. To engage, be conversational. 

Be active, not passive

Clarity is not well served by passive constructions like these, which describe something ‘happening to’ something else. When you use active language, like this, your words feel immediate and engaging. Avoid the passive voice and take the direct route to meaning.