Write Like A Chameleon

Anyone who has ever been paid a dime to write understands at least one thing: It’s not about you. It never was and it never will be. Sorry about that.

And more than likely, those of us who have had the privilege of having our essays decorated in red by an English teacher realized a long time ago that the business of writing is a very subjective matter.

It’s time to bring those lessons home.

When it comes to crafting your blogs and website content, make sure you don’t get attached to it. Think of your audience first. It’s a solid launching point for moving on to the next step. And depending upon how much you’re writing for your company, you should be constantly adapting your style and your approach.

In other words, be prepared to change like a chameleon to make sure you’re getting your messages across to your users.

Here are 5 ways to make it happen.

1. Envision your audience.

OK. This one is obvious, but how many of us actually do it on a regular basis? Develop the habit of picturing the people most likely to be reading your article. This serves several purposes. First, it helps you determine the type of content you should be writing about. Secondly, it should help you pick a writing style that fits that audience. Third? It should help you gauge how long your article should be. Apply this rule of thumb to the different types of articles you will be writing, and you will find yourself changing your writing approach for each audience.

2. Minimize your bounce rate.

What are you going to do to keep your audience’s attention? Avoid high bounce rates (people taking one look at your site and quickly moving on) by tailoring your content to fit the circumstances. If the content is technical in nature and designed to help your audience figure something out, be thorough and straightforward in your writing. In this case, you would expect your users to be committed to taking the time to dig deep to gain a better understanding of the subject. Make sure you’re coming across as engaging but authoritative. Don’t get cute with this type of content. On the other hand, if you’re promoting a service or a product, consider taking a lighter, more conversational approach that would be enjoyable to a user quickly checking several sources to get what they want.

3. Ask yourself, “What’s really the point?”

This will help you think outside of the box. It can be tempting to just regurgitate the facts and throw in a few comments to support your point of view. Don’t take the easy way out. If, for example, you’re a financial planner, don’t simply write about the latest tax hikes and how they might affect the user’s retirement. Take the time to outline several scenarios that users can quickly relate to. How will increased income taxes affect a single woman in her 30’s who is earning $50,000? Or a one-income married couple in their late 50’s? This may require a bit more legwork, but it will help your readers latch on to something they can relate to and apply in their own situations.

4. Serve up visuals when you can.

Give readers something to hang on to when reading one of your articles. I used “chameleon” to reiterate the point that, as writers, we should be constantly changing things up to best reach our audience. I could have used Mystique, the mutant shapeshifter of X-Men fame, but somehow “Write like a Chameleon” just had a better ring to it. A visual helps the writer connect to something they’re already familiar with to better envision the point you’re trying to make. Besides, it’s just fun.

5. Don’t hold on too tight to old habits.

Whether you’ve had experience as a journalist who kept an AP Stylebook as a virtual Bible or are more accustomed to a marketing style of writing, always keep your user in mind first. Bend the rules a little. AP would have you spell out all whole numbers under 10, including five, but it’s not as attractive to users as the Arabic version of 5. Think of the best way to grab your audience without going overboard.

Now, go out and write like a chameleon.

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