You know how some songs stick in your mind more than others? And how some tunes compel you to dance, or … sit this one out?
Sure, listening to a favourite artist plays a part (like Suzi Quatro here). But so do the melody and a song’s rhythm. i.e. the beats in each bar of music. And so do the lyrics – the words – in a song.
That’s because language is musical, whether it’s set to a soundtrack or not.
It has a tempo, ups and downs, pauses and stops.
Song lyrics have a rhythm if you read them without the music – they’re like poetry. Same goes for the marketing content you write.
So, how do you create music in your messaging and content?
- The words you choose. How many syllables do they have? (Syllables are like the beats in a piece of music. The word ‘messaging’ has 3 syllables; ‘content’ has 2.)
- Emphasis on syllables also creates rhythm. ‘Content’ (as in words you write to market your business) has the emphasis on the 1st syllable. It has a slightly longer sound than ‘content’ (as in happy), which places emphasis on the 2nd syllable. So, how a word sounds can influence your choice as to whether or not you use it to create the rhythm you want. Yes, you DO get to decide on the rhythm in your writing!
- The number of words and syllables you put in a sentence creates the rhythm. Write a mix of long and short sentences to give your copy better rhythm and a more engaging, conversational read. Want extra punch? Use a few super-short sentences. Even one-word sentences. Okay?
- Punctuation is your friend: full stops, commas, ellipses, dashes, colons (AKA . , … – : ). These help create the length of pauses between the phrases and sentences in your content. Full stops indicate a long pause and separate each sentence. The other punctuation devices create shorter pauses within your sentence, adding rhythm.
- Read out loud. Write it, then read it as if you’re giving a speech. Use all the voice inflections that you heard in your head as you wrote. You’ll hear any clunky or stop-start sentences. If it sounds clunky, how can you smooth it out? (hint: try longer sentences.) But! If you can’t reach the end of a sentence in one breath, you may need to shorten it.
Ultimately, think of your purpose:
Do you want to woo your reader or tell a story? Try longer sentences with more adjectives (words that describe nouns) to give your copy a flowing, lyrical pace, invite reflection, paint a vivid picture or stir emotion.
Are you creating a sense of urgency or want to compel the reader to take action? Try short words and sentences to pack more punch. ‘Buy now!’ and ‘Save your seat!’ are classic examples.