Who doesn’t enjoy a cheeky shortcut?
Especially when it comes to the uphill effort of writing.
A template here, a productivity hack there…
What’s not to love?
Same goes for online tools… there are some incredible ones out there these days. Grammarly, HemingwayApp, Word Counter, StayFocsd etc.
Me? I couldn’t imagine life without Thesarus.com. Not a tool as such. But it’s always open on my laptop when I’m writing, it’s my go-to tab.
Now, if you’ve been wondering how to harness online tools to write better content, here’s a quick exercise for you.
It features two of my favourites: HemingwayApp and Headline Analyzer. I guarantee, if you’re looking to improve any piece of content, it’ll help. At the same, muscling-up your writing skills.
Let’s try it, shall we?
1) How to brighten dull, stodgy copy
First, grab a piece of your writing.
Doesn’t matter whether you wrote it yesterday, or a year ago. It’s just to see if we can massage and tweak it to make it better and more compelling.
It could be an email, a newsletter, a report, a piece of web copy, a blog post — anything.
Got it? Now copy and paste the text into Hemingway App and follow the prompts to improve readability.
You’ll see how it highlights lengthy or complex sentences, so you can prune them into submission, instead replacing your copy with lovely clear, succinct sentences that keep your reader hungry for more.
It also handily takes a sledgehammer to passive voice, adverbs and weakening phrases.
Now let’s try this exercise with the two paragraphs you’ve just read.
As you can see from the screengrab below, I’ve cut and pasted them into Hemingway App.
My second sentence was too long, too rambling and very hard to read. So the red highlight indicates it needs attention. I need to make it less meandering and get to the point quicker.
The word “handily” is also flagged, signifying an adverb.
Quick reminder: adverbs can weaken your copy if overused. Instead of saying: Charlie smiled happily, it would be stronger to say: Charlie beamed. The adverb “happily” is unnecessary here.
“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”
So, bearing all this in mind, I’ve now tweaked the copy to erase the highlights and — BANG! — more engaging, more succinct, more graceful copy that draws the eye down the page. That means better, stronger content that’s more likely to achieve its goals.
Don’t you think it reads better?
2: How to nail a punchy headline
Okay, now it’s time to power up your headline using CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
Drop in your blog post headline or your email subject line and click analyse. This helpful little tool tells you if your headline has enough punch to make people click. It scores it out of 100, based on things like: character length; type of headline; sentiment; and word balance.
I don’t get too hung up on the how’s and the why’s of how it scores. Instead, I whack out headline after headline to see if I can upgrade my score. It’s a useful exercise.
The stronger your headline, the more chance your content has of getting opened, read and shared. Which after all, is what it sets out to do.
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
Now your turn. Have a go at busting out some headlines. How can you tweak them to make them better? Can you swap a mundane word for something more surprising? How about a power word?
The more you test it out, the more you’ll learn about the art and science of a good headline.
Here are some versions I came up with before deciding on the one you see at the top of this post…
As you can see, you need to play around with variations and keep refining. With practice, you’ll craft something that scores well and sounds good.
Side note: although the headline I chose had a slightly lower score than some of the others, I felt it best reflected what I wanted to say. That’s important to bear in mind.
Anything above 70 is good. So go for green if you can. But don’t get too hung up on it. Remember, it’s a guide, not a mandate.
Doing this will improve the chances of people reading your content; as well as sharing it and linking to it.
How’s your copy looking?
Now you’ve completed both exercises, how does your new version compare to the old one? Read it out loud. Does it sound slicker and more persuasive? I bet it does.
The best thing about this is, the more you use these tools, the more your copy will improve. So it’s a win-win scenario for you and your readers.
Want more copy tips like this? Sign up for The Complete Copywriting Course.