Writing for effect is a technique that can be applied effectively for both creative, entertaining writing and technical, business focused writing. This article examines five key elements to writing for effect that can be used in business writing to capture people's interest and make the material more provocative and memorable.
- When she went to the beach, she thought about her childhood. She remembered good times and bad at the beach.
- She went to the beach that day and everything she saw reminded her of growing up near the ocean. She had mixed feelings about her childhood.
- She stared out at the ocean; The wind teasing at her hair and clothes, the taste of salt on her lips, the smell of sea brine – she was a child again. She loved the beach. But, even as she smiled into her memories, a shudder of dread inched up her spine.
Three different approaches to beginning a story … which one is most appealing? Which one would you want to read? Most people find the third approach more enticing. Why? They are all about the same woman, the same experience, why is the third one preferred to the other two beginnings?
The third opening is an example of writing for effect. It does more than convey information; It relates mood, feeling, atmosphere. This technique is essential in creative writing. The writer seeks to engage the reader enough so he or she will walk willingly through any door the writer wants to open. This is the magic inherent in the relationship between reader and writer. The writer spreads the trail of breadcrumbs; The reader follows faithfully until, before he knows what is happening, he is locked in the ogre's house along with the main character, waiting to be devoured.
But, writing for effect is not just for entertaining fiction or spicy factual accounts. It can also play a part in technical and business writing. Whether constructing a business letter, a product description, or a detailed proposal, writing for effect makes the message powerful and memorable.
There are five key elements to writing for effect. The writer uses these five elements to engage the reader as well as evoke an emotional response.
I. Active Voice
Active voice is verb-driven; It describes what or who is taking action rather than what is acted upon. "We built the parking deck in only six weeks" (active voice) is more compelling than "the parking deck was built in only six weeks" (passive voice). Writing in an active voice helps to connect the reader with the subject. When writing in active voice, just keep in mind the noun-to-verb / subject-to-predicate sort of relationship. You want to emphasize what or who is taking the action – the noun – and then the action itself – the verb – more than what or who is acted upon or the results of that action. This will assist in giving your writing the immediacy and focus of active voice.
Along with writing in an active voice, using words of action lends a strong momentum to the messages. Compare these two menu descriptions. "Our steaks are grilled over an open flame to a juicy perfection" is good. "We sear our steaks to a perfection over a roaring fire to seal in the natural juices" is a little more mouthwatering. The word "sear" conjures images of flames bursting up to char the steak, and evokes the sounds of sizzling, the smell of smoky goodness. The "roaring" fire reinforces that audio-visual imagery. Active voice was also used with the action words which gives the feeling of being in the very moment the action is taking place. And that leads us to the next writing for effect technique.
III. Present Moment
Writing in the present tense is always more powerful because we all live in the present moment. It has a sense of immediacy that demands attention. A video game designer is introducing a new product. The company could run ads that read: "We are launching this exciting new combat game in September. It is a revolution pounding at the gates and bursting through the barriers – grab a weapon and jump in!" Or the ads could read: "We plan to launch this exciting new combat game in September. It will be a gate-pounding revolution that will burst through all the barriers of the past. In! " The first ad makes the heart beat a little faster because it has that sense of something happening at this very second. Another example is from a business letter. "We have made a decision; half of the staff in this department are gone if the sales stats are not 50% improved by March." This is referring to a possible event in the future, but it conveys seriousness and urgency by relating the action in a present moment way – "we have made a decision; half of the staff … is gone …" It It certainly commands attention .
IV. Descriptive Words
When I wrote for construction engineers for 11 years, I created project description sheets and resumes and boilerplate materials that explained processes and protocols. The engineers were interested in conveying the facts, the statistical information. They were technical people who processed things in a mathematical way.
But I am a writer. I am always more interested in how something feels, because that is the heart of what it is to be human. The tug of war between us was time consuming and often annoying, but we managed to compromise enough to create some very effective materials. I developed a way to convey the facts but still include sufficient descriptive words to engage the reader's interest at an emotional level.
Descriptive words are one main pillar of creative writing. This does not just entitle adjectives and adverbs; It is employing the right nouns, the right verbs, and literary tools such as alliteration, tone and metaphor. Here's two examples to consider – one is descriptive and the other just informative.
"When vacationing in Hawaii, the Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki is an excellent place to stay. The hotel is located close to Waikiki Beach and many other attractions, such as the Ala Wai Golf Course, Hawaii Convention Center, Honolulu Zoo, and Diamond Head The hotel boasts two towers of 17 and 38 floors, 8 suites, 837 rooms, meeting and event facilities, and a 280,000-gallon indoor oceanarium. It offers all the amenities and conveniences you would expect from a hotel in its class. Anyone can imagine. "
OK …. we have all the facts. Now let's experience this place.
"White pristine beaches, clear sundrenched skies, blue crystalline waters, and attractions steeped in history and tropical wildlife – all part of the magic of Waikiki. And your vacation sanctuary in this Hawaiian paradise is the one-of-a-kind Pacific Beach Hotel This beachfront haven is a city itself: two towers, 837 rooms, 8 luxurious suites and a 280,000-gallon indoor oceanarium all present endless opportunities to sink into a world of pampered relaxation and exciting discoveries. Enjoy exquisite views, sumptuous dining on the Freshest seafood you've ever tasted, first-class amenities and dedicated personal service. All of this is located in a location only 4 miles from the airport, 2 blocks from Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, and within minutes of Diamond Head Crater, Ala Wai Golf Course, countless wildlife parks, and a vibrant nightlife of popular restaurants and bars .. It's like a dream … even better. "
Have you packed yet?
V. Sensory Appeal
In the last section covering descriptive words, we could not help but touch on sensory appeal. It means exactly what it says: appealing to the senses. Our senses are our base of reality; They are what brings information to us and make it all real, make it interesting, make it count. Perception is the child of our senses; So what could be more powerful in communicating a message than dialing through the five senses?
Like description, appealing to the senses is accomplished through words that have emotional impact. It is actually the next level of descriptive word because it has to appeal to the emotions directly through the senses. "It is a fresh, bright orange" is descriptive. "It is a juicy, sunny, orange that smells like an orchard in Spring" is sensorial appeal. Even if information is highly professional or technical in nature, it can still be related in a way that appeals to the senses. If I am creating a brochure for a cleaning service, for example, I could include sensory appeal in this way.
"Your floors will shine, your wood will glow and your windows will sparkle when our crews work their magic. Cleaning is what we love to do, and it shows. Your home will look and feel and smell like an ocean breeze just whisked right through Your windows and swept every speck of dust and winter blues away. Trust your home to us … we'll give you back a castle. "
I hope that this has illuminated the subject of writing for effect. May this be a challenge for you to further explore this approach in your own writing, whether personal or professional. Writing is a bit like yoga. It takes constant practice, long-term commitment, and the willingness to stretch beyond comfort levels to master the skill. It may not be easy, but the rewards of mastery are great. So, use all the tools available, strike a pose, and twist those words around to lotus position. Who knows where those words will take you. Nirvana?