A cool breeze is blowing when it comes to marketing writing for technology companies.
Technology companies have long been rightfully known for their impenetrable writing style. It’s a style characterized by ponderous and passive sentences. A lot of dry discussions about technology speeds and feeds. Considerable vendor chest beating.
But with the spread of content marketing, more and more marketers are realizing that this writing style needs to change. The wonders of the technology aren’t going to make the product sell itself. Style counts. If companies want to entice people to read their writing, they better make sure it’s written in a lively and engaging style.
This is all for the good. If customers are going to have to read material for work, why not have it be a pleasant experience rather than a chore.
What are the elements of this new style that you can incorporate into your own marketing pieces? Here are a few.
- Interesting lead paragraphs. The title and first paragraph are the most important when it comes to engaging your reader. Yours should immediately draw the reader in. Think customer anecdotes, interesting lists of facts, or a new twist on an old story.
- Short sentences. Many white papers in particular use sentences of two to three lines long. It’s easy to get lost in these sentences. Keep yours short. For promotional copy, try five to 10 words. For a white paper, think no longer than 20 words.
- Active voice. John bit the apple. The apple was bitten by John. Even with a simple sentence, the reader can follow the one using active verbs more easily.
- Strong verbs. Verbs are the workhorses of good writing. It’s always better to use a descriptive verb rather than a verb and an adverb; for example, stride versus walk forcefully.
- Focus on people not institutions. When you write a case study, focus on the person using the product rather than the company. What was the person thinking? Feeling?
- Use first and second person where possible. Any type of promotional copy or marketing collateral will benefit from using first and second person. Emails. Articles. Datasheets. Using second person will make the piece sound like it’s talking to you. That said, most companies prefer white papers to remain somewhat more formal and will continue to use third person.
- Vary sentence length. On occasion you may need to use longer sentences. Don’t worry about it. Varied sentence lengths are better than monotonous sentences. Use short. Long. In between.
- Sentence fragments. Marketing writing in consumer markets has always contained sentence fragments. Used strategically, sentence fragments can make your writing less formal and more conversational.
- Break grammar rules where it makes sense. Know your grammar, but dare to be ungrammatical. Start sentences with a conjunction and end them with a preposition. Not always. But where it makes sense.
- Think rhythm. How do you know when to break the rules? It’s all about the rhythm of the writing. The best writing has a musical quality that draws the reader in.
Better writing is a trend that all marketers can get behind. And all readers will appreciate. There are many other tips for good writing. For more, go to the masters: Strunk and White's “Elements of Style,” and William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well.”
What are your favorite elements of style?