I’m one of those people: The kind who tears at her hair when she hears DJs talk about a “new album entitled …” (it’s TITLED, people!) and corrects TV characters who fail to use “whom” correctly. Because they can totally hear me through the screen. I’m a Creative Writing major with a superiority complex, and I freely admit it. But I’m also a blogger and someone who prefers to write in a conversational tone, so I’ve long since learned to ease up on the sentence structure strictness and let go of some rigid grammar rules. Hence the need for me to create five quirky online writing tips.
If you’re writing a grant proposal, you’d better be damned sure all of your sentences are complete ones with subjects, predicates, and proper punctuation. But online and in your email newsletter? That style actually might turn off your readers. It pains me to recommend fragments, alternate spelling, and slang over grammatically correct, formal sentences, but embracing these online writing quirks will keep you from sounding like a stodgy dinosaur.
That said, you don’t wanna go overboard. If you best. day. ever. your readership to death, they’ll flee just as fast as they would from those stiff, uncool full sentences. Here are some tips to loosen up your online writing style without seeming like you’re trying too hard.
Use sentence fragments and single-word sentences
The practice of using a period after each word in a phrase to create emphasis is trendy, but somewhat overused. Instead, make your online writing more conversational with carefully selected sentence fragments and the occasional single-word sentence.
FINE: Wondering if my pottery glazes will fade over time? Not. a. chance.
BETTER: Wondering if my pottery glazes will fade over time? Not a chance. Seriously. And I’ve got testimonials to prove it.
Address readers directly
And I mean in a verging-on-over-familiar way. Call them “guys” or “friends” or “y’all” or “people” or whatever feels aligned with your brand and voice. Doing this creates a sense of camaraderie and gives readers the impression that they’re part of a little club.
FINE: I have some exciting news to share about my llama farm!
BETTER: You guys! I have mega-exciting llama farm news!
Pose (technically rhetorical) questions
On a related note, stick a few questions into the text to make it seem more like a dialogue. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t looking for answers: Questioning phrases make you appear caring and humble. Like you don’t know all the answers, and are fully aware of it.
FINE: I believe that waffles are the best breakfast food.
BETTER: Because waffles are the best breakfast food ever, am I right?
Use all-caps for emphasis. Carefully.
It’s weirdly but almost universally true that people read all-caps text as shouting. Like the voice in their head is shouting the text at them. So use this online writing tip sparingly, but embrace all-caps as a way to add flip, funny emphasis to certain ideas or phrases. All-caps can stand in for exclamation points, too, which can seem twee if overused.
FINE: Wanna know if unicorns are real? Of course they are!
BETTER: Wanna know if unicorns are real? OF COURSE THEY ARE.
Fun online writing
Now, if you’re a financial advisor, lawyer, corporate CEO, or other person who relies on formal tone to convey gravitas, ignore everything I just said. But if you’re a small business owner, blogger, freelance service provider, or other person who wants to engage readers with an upbeat, modern tone, give some of these online writing tips and tricks a try.
Also published on Medium.