Short-form content includes things like ads, social posts, snippets, and direct messages. This is a vital tool for any copywriter to have, and it’s way harder than it looks.
I think short-form content is much more difficult to do effectively than blogs or long-form content. Some people have a knack for it, but whether or not you do, you can get better with practice.
Here are four short-form content exercises you can use to practice your short-form writing skills.
1. Hooks and Openers
Hooks are key. With short-form content, they may be as simple as a single word.
- Open your social media feed, preferably Facebook or Instagram (because they’re so ad heavy).
- Scroll until you find an ad.
- What’s the hook/headline?
- Write it down.
Copy and paste the headline of at least 5 ads into a Google Doc.
Compare what you see.
Deconstruct them. What parts do you like or don’t like? Which would you click on?
- What words do they use?
- Any in common?
- Any stick out to you or catch your attention?
Train yourself to perform this evaluation and it will help you build a lexicon of good hooks and openers you can use in your own copy.
2. The Verb is the Word
Action words play an important role in short-form copy, because they arrest our attention. We’re trained to STOP and GO and YIELD and I don’t know why I’m harping on traffic signs but you get the idea. We’re conditioned to respond to verbs.
Use them well, and you’ll illicit even an unconscious response from readers.
Google “lists of verbs.”
Pull the ones you like into a Google Doc labeled “Verb Ideas” or “Action Words” or similar.
Categorize them if you want — positive, negative, etc.
Start doing this on the regular, building an “idea parking lot” of verbs and verbal phrases that you find particularly piquant.
3. Reduce Connectors
Connectors are the key to making short-form copy intelligible; to making it flow.
Ironically, I just used a semicolon instead of a connector.
Connectors can provide emphasis, contrast, or comparison. This is helpful and fine if you have a lot of time. But with short-form content, time is at a premium. Connectors can almost always be ditched or drastically reduced without losing meaning.
Connectors are words like these:
Write a sentence with a connector. Then, write it again without the connector.
The practice will help you understand the role a connector plays and possible substitutes.
It’s that time of year again!
Instead: It’s that time of year!
You can do it too.
Instead: You can do it.
Although, it won’t work.
Instead: It won’t work.
I like concise. In short-form copy, that’s the whole goal.
In short-form copy, you typically want to stay away from too many connectors as well as adjectives, prepositional phrases, and too much context or narrative. You simply don’t have the space.
You must use words that imply something, rather than having to state it explicitly.
4. Sensory Language
Sensory language is one of the most powerful tools of a writer in short-form copy. Sensory language can convey meaning without a giant wall of text, inviting the reader to feel something. As we know, that’s the surest way to get them to do something.
The only way to get better at sensory language is to improve your powers of description. There are a few ways to practice.
Exercise 1: Describe sounds.
- Take a walk.
- What do you hear?
- Pinpoint at least three different sounds.
- Then, sit down or go home and describe them *in one sentence.*
“The blare of the horn.”
“The tinkling music of a bird’s song.”
“The whistling wind between the buildings.”
Exercise 2: Describe smells.
- Cook a meal.
- What do you smell at every stage?
- Pinpoint at least three different smells.
- Then write about them *in one sentence.*
“The velvety rush of curry.”
“The sharp, watery onion.”
“The blazing, sharp burst of pepper.”
Exercise 3: Describe sights.
- Sit down in one room of your house.
- What do you see?
- Sit and observe for at least one minute.
- Then, write about three objects *in one sentence.*
“The chipped blue bookshelf.”
“The depressed middle sofa cushion.”
“The rigid formal end table.”
Related - you should def. bookmark this to read: LANGUAGE ALIVE: THE MAGIC OF SENSORY WRITING.
Short-Form Content Practice
These exercises are just a few ways you can improve your short-form content writing. Practice is everything for writers. Get out and observe the world. Read as much short-form copy as you can. Take it in and evaluate it with a critical eye. All of that will sharpen your abilities and improve the outcome of your short-form work.