Sifting through the subjects out there, you’d struggle to find many much duller than accountancy. Accruals, Aged Creditors, Aged Debtors—they’re hardly the most thrilling of subjects.
Yet they’re what I was faced with after taking a job in-house last year, an online accountancy firm offering me an opportunity to make my freelance job full-time.
As such, I was tasked with making accountancy-based copy interesting, or at the very least readable. Worse still, having spent the bulk of my time reporting on soccer, this represented a significant sea change…my copy going from Beckham to Balance Sheets.
It’s been a year or so since I took on the task, and I’m still employed remarkably, so here’s some things I think I’ve learnt to cultivate interesting copy, out of things that really, aren’t too interesting…
Know Your Audience
First and foremost, get to grips with whom your copy is aimed at. Know your audience’s depth of knowledge, their likes, their dislikes, and their needs. This will help sculpt your copy and shape how you create interest.
Before anything, consider the publication, product, or company you’re writing for and tailor everything you write around them and their audience. Think long and carefully about what they’re interested in.
Apply the 5 W’s
Who, What, When, Where and Why—If you’ve spent any time writing journalistically, you’ll have had this drummed into you by editors and the like. It’s something that you can apply outside of journalism and to more generic copywriting, too, especially when confronting the drier subjects.
Applying the five W’s should help you find angles that you hadn’t considered at first, sparing you from creating bland and boring, listless copy. It can instigate a different, more interesting
Solve Your Reader’s Problems
This will apply less if you’ve already been given a strict brief, but if you have been given a bit of freedom and you’re still struggling to tackle a boring subject, try to seek out what your readers want to know.
Yahoo! Answers, Quora, Answer.com and similar sites are filled with queries that’ll give you a rough idea of the questions out there. Answering them, you’ll soon pique interest.
Make Your Copy Relatable
There’s little worse in reading terms than feasting your eyes upon something littered with jargon (as the famous Eddie Izzard iTunes sketch reflects), so with this in mind, attempt to avoid this style of writing wherever you can.
Instead, endeavour to keep your sentences short, colloquial and informal—unless the publication, product or company demands otherwise. In short, try to inject some personality into your copy.
People like to laugh, so play to this if you’re facing a dull subject. Where you can relate it to your content properly, use humour.
- crack a joke
- reference pop culture
- refer to an internet meme
Make them laugh and it’ll keep your audience reading. Bear in mind their likely tastes and interests though, as there’s little worse than a joke falling flat. Even in print form.
Grab Their Interest!
Shock and awe are useful for generating attention and interest. So try searching for some piece of information that’s surprising and which turns the readers expectations upside down—maybe a shocking statistic.
If you’ve done point one properly then that will help here. If you’ve got a good idea of the type of people you’re writing for, you’ll know the type of stats and information that’ll grab their interest.
Break. It. Up.
And last but not least—
As you’ll have (hopefully) noticed throughout this piece, I’ve tried to break things up.
That’s as big blocks of text tend to put people off, even more so when the subject’s a dry one. Rambling prose can pose problems for the reader.
With that in mind, always endeavour to abide by the writing philosophy of Hemingway rather than the writing policies of Kerouac. Minimalize and try to break copy up. It’ll make it more readable, especially when a subject’s verging on the dull side.
About the author:
Mark James is a former freelance writer who now works in-house for Crunch Accounting, a UK based online accounting firm. A keen soccer fan, you’ll normally find him on the terraces supporting his local team Brighton and Hove Albion. Check out his soccer blog here. (Warning: contains swearing and British slang)