Writing Content

Writing, Writing Advice

How Article Headlines Attract and Mislead Readers

I have written in the past about the importance of headlines for articles or blog posts because they influence whether someone will go beyond the headline to read the full piece.   In 2014, in a perceptive article in The New Yorker, psychologist and writer Maria Konnikova said, A headline changes the way people read an article and the way they remember it. The headline frames the rest of the experience. A headline can tell you what kind of article you’re about to read . . . and it sets the tone for what follows. Psychologists have long known that first impressions really do matter — what we see, hear, feel, or experience in our first encounter with something colors how we process the rest of it. Articles are no exception.  Journalists know headlines are intended to serve several purposes. They help the reader decide quickly whether she is interested enough in the story to read it. They deliver…

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Blogging, Blogs, Client Alerts, Content, Journalism

Why Traditional Legal Writing Fails in Content Strategy

Sometimes, lawyers need to write as if they were journalists. Here’s why. Let’s start with the idea that the “inverted pyramid” is the basic structure of any news story. Under this plan, the most fundamental facts, the ones the reader really needs to know, appear in the first paragraph of the story. This is usually the information that corresponds to the “five W’s” of journalism – who, what, when, where and why. Less essential information appears in later paragraphs, roughly in order of its importance. This time-honored structure, which was born in the days of linotype machines, continues to work well in the busy online world, where so much content is out there competing for the reader’s attention. It gives the reader an immediate idea of what the story is about and permits him or her to choose to read further in the article — or to move on to…

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Social Media, Writing, Writing Advice

When to Choose Vanilla Ice Cream over Rainbow Sherbet

I had lunch yesterday with Katie Wagner who owns Katie Wagner Social Media in Orange County, California. Our lively conversation over veggie burgers about posting content on social media turned to how creativity in writing can often get in the way of communicating a client’s message. We agreed that there are times when creativity works and other times when it’s better to just be straightforward – even when vanilla does not seem as exciting option. To understand the advantages of straightforward writing, look no further than The Elements of Style, the “writer’s bible” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White that was originally published nearly 100 years ago. Strunk and White say: Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not…

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Client Alerts, Content, Writing, Writing Advice

So What? How to Write Client Alerts That Get Read and Get Results

When you are writing or editing a client alert, have you asked yourself, “So what?” That is the first question you should ask according to Peter Darling of the Repechage Group, a consultancy that advises law firms and others on content strategy. Peter was the featured speaker on a Legal Marketing Association Webinar hosted by the PR SIG on November 29. During the webinar, Peter provided detailed advice and examples to help law firms increase the odds that client alerts do not become a wasted effort. Peter shared the first thing he learned in his writing career: before you write something, you need to ask who is the audience and why the content is important to them. More importantly, the author needs to give the reader a reason to care. As a former practice attorney, Peter said lawyers are trained to ignore the key principles of creating great content, largely because they…

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Why Are You Writing That Client Alert? The News Is Old.
July 11, 2013