6 Resolutions for Creating Reader-Friendly Content

Come December 31st, 2015, I want to feel good about my accomplishments for the year. And you know what feels good? Clearly communicating my messages to friends and family, colleagues and clients. No, that might not be as fun as taking five weekend getaways, but it is more fun than giving up dessert or losing five pounds.

This year, my resolution is to practice these tenets of strong communication:

  1. I will value my reader. Yesterday, I eagerly clicked a link that promised 12 style hacks. Engaging headline: check. After a brief intro paragraph, the article dove into the magical hacks, which were maddeningly divided into a gallery of 12 images – a financial practice that puts advertisers before readers – strike one. (I’ve shared my thoughts on the page-view model before.) Then, the actual hacks were disguised in text, requiring the reader to click through to yet another page for a previously published blog post on the site. A great way to refresh old content, yes. But also annoying for today’s time-challenged reader – strike two. How many links did I click? Zero.
  2. I will make it easy for my reader to “share the conversation.” This is an extension of my first resolution. Use social media links on websites and, more importantly, keep brand hashtags brief. There’s nothing worse than having to edit a tweet just to fit in your thoughts along with a brand’s clunky, 20-character hashtag.

  3. I will be smart first, and then fast. For every successful “Dunk in the Dark” there are infinitely more brands desperately clawing to sound hip and relevant. Let’s not even go there, bae. ‘Tis better to be authentically you than sound like someone else.

  4. I will write skimmable paragraphs. I will write for the reader standing in line at the post office, commuting on the bus, and definitely one who is on a mobile screen. With apologies to my high school English teachers, I won’t even draw a breath tapping out a hard return after a one-sentence paragraph. And my reader will thank me.

  5. I will link to the original source. In the course of my daily consumption of media sources, I’m often guilty of sharing an article that contains a small, worthless clickbait summary of a trendy topic, or a piece that’s republished from an original source. Sure, a re-publisher like Gawker or Slate exposes content to more eyeballs and may have a deeper conversation brewing in the comments. But it’s time to stop rewarding those clickbait publishers and link to the original source with the full story intact.

  6. I will say no to “So”… In NPR’s top 10 list of grammar grudges, starting sentences with “so” came in at #2. (*note to self: double donation to NPR this year.) I’m all for evolving language (see resolution #4), and you’ll see my work littered with sentences that start with “and” and “but.” However, I’m not quite there yet with “so.” Perhaps on December 31st I’ll feel differently, but for now, I’ll strike it with gusto.

Agree or disagree? What resolutions for creating strong communication would you add to this list?

 

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