For our last Workshop Wednesday our Digital Marketing Team Leader presented a detailed overview of how to both understand and reflect the tone of a business in your writing. Nothing is more important for content and copywriters, nor for social media marketers, or really for just about anyone writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). It can be easy to get bogged down by the technicalities of SEO and forget about the user experience, but the more you understand your brand and understand how to best write for it, the more valuable and engaging your content will be. The more valuable and engaging your content is, the more Google will appreciate it and rank it highly. Good writing is fast becoming the most important technical tool for SEO practices.
If good writing is now becoming such an important technical tool, then the technicalities of writing are very important indeed. We all learnt about the basics of sentence structure in school, and a lot of the following information will be things that you are subconsciously aware of and instinctively carry out. However, by bringing these techniques for sentence structure to the forefront of your mind, and by engaging these techniques consciously, you’re going to find that your writing has a vastly higher impact. Not only that, but it’s incredibly interesting to be aware of these techniques because guess what? They’re everywhere, and you’ll start to notice it in adverts across all devices, all mediums, all industries. Writing is clever; be clever with it.
As the SEO Team Leader, I wanted to run a workshop that went back to these basics on sentence structure, to ensure that we were all starting with strong foundations that we could then build upon. I’ve put together a presentation which you can find at the bottom of this blog post. However, below are some of the key points outlined.
The Very Basic Basics
However, if in our quest to ‘make it new’ we break what’s old and established about sentence structure, we’re actually just creating a painful ride for our readers. Therefore, no matter how tangled and unique you’re hoping to make your sentences, stick to the rule of what a sentence is. A sentence should express a complete thought, and must include a clause – which is a verb and a subject. From there, you can play with structure to inspire a range of emotions in your reader. My presentation below lists these and points out the impacts they can achieve. Most importantly, though, you must endeavour not to miss those fundamental components; by always including a verb and a subject, you shouldn’t lose your reader.
Which Sentences Do What
A loose sentence starts with the point that you’re trying to get across. The relevant information in the sentence is presented at the start. It not only gives the reader instant information, but also a clue as to how to interpret the rest of your sentence.
A periodic sentence, in contrast, is all about the suspense. The information isn’t given to the reader until the last moment, which means they’ve had to follow your train of thought before finding out why you think it or what you’re trying to tell (or sell) them.
An active voice is generally advised. Strangely, I have a penchant for the passive voice, which is why I can comprehensively say that it’s a good idea to be aware of which you’re writing – overusing the ‘wrong’ sentence structure can weaken your writing: as I have (begrudgingly) learnt. An active voice is when the subject of the sentence is acting on the verb of the sentence:
The passive voice makes the reader work harder: that much is true. If one were to fill their writing with only the passive voice, it’s going to be a difficult read and it’s going to prompt a lot more work (and possibly anger) from those reading it. If you’re going to use it, make sure it’s justified. Some amazing creative works use it heavily and to great effect – but it’s never done without a reason. The passive voice is when the subject is essentially ‘passive’ to the verb. The object and verb become the focus of the sentence:
Headlines and titles can use the passive voice to great effect. Has your client or company completed a service for a person that is particularly attention-grabbing? Let’s say a clothing store styled Angelina Jolie. In the active voice it would read:
For more ways that sentences can be structured and used, and a cheeky plug for the Oxford Comma (because I couldn’t resist), take a look at my presentation below. Also, make sure to watch out for our next Workshop Wednesday, as we’ll be moving onto more data-driven aspects of technical SEO with a look at Google Analytics.