Write to bite

Sound bites have long been a staple of news coverage. Politicians know that a quick and catchy phrase can deliver a prime spot on the TV news or YouTube. As great leaders have discovered, the best sound bites live on in our memories and lexicon. Sometimes they even change the world.

Bloggers, tweeters and almost anyone who writes should go for word bites, to enliven their content and make it memorable.

Before you can create a word bite you need to clearly and concisely identify what you want people to understand and remember. Then brain storm, applying these time-tested techniques.

Repetition, with a twist
Constantly hammering the same words is annoying, though sometimes effective. But add a twist and you can write with bite. Remember these examples?
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
I have a dream.
I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.

Similes and metaphors
All that glitters is not gold
Living next to you (the United States) is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant.

Compare and contrast
One step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

The paradox
What is the sound of one hand clapping?

So the next time you have an important point to make, ask yourself: What do I want people to remember? How can I make it more memorable and inspiring?

You may not end up on the evening news, let alone the history books. But if you create effective word bites, your message will live on in your audience’s minds. And maybe accomplish even more.

Write memory glues and cues

Whether it’s an email, presentation or blog, getting your audience to remember what you’ve communicated is like trying to place sticky notes on their brains. You want the notes to stay there long enough to leave a good impression, persuaded to buy your services or take another action. So where can you get the glue to keep your sticky notes from fluttering away in the next puff of freeze?

To help your message stick to busy multi-taskers who are continually bombarded by information, strong glue is vital. There isn’t one formula for this kind of glue. It varies with the reader or audience and the circumstances.

Here are some suggestions.

Deposit into the memory bank

  • Make sure your communication offers value and relevance to your readers or listeners. That’s how the brain prioritizes memory deposits. If you’re selling a service that will help people, demonstrate that you understand them and inspire confidence that you can help them.
  • Make sure your communication is easy to understand. Speak in your audience’s terms, not the jargon of your business or profession.
  • Give people a context in which to remember. Tell them, for example, they will want to remember this information the next time they go to write an important email or talk to a prospect.
  • Focus on what’s important and avoid the clutter.
  • Organize your information, guiding your audience with numbers, categories, acronyms, subheads or other devices.

Add grip to the glue

  • Use a strong visual to represent what you want them to remember.
  • Link what they already know to your new information.
  • Create a catchy slogan.
  • Persuade your audience to repeat your message out loud.
  • Give the audience a followup exercise to reinforce what they’ve learned.
  • Tell stories and anecdotes that play on emotions or connect different points.
  • Rhymes. Who can forget: In August 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue?
  • Sounds, as in the Windows chimes.

Retrieval cues

  • Followup communication that repeats the graphics and other cues you provided originally.
  • Emotional prompts. “I’m scared. Now what did Oprah tell me to do when that happens?”
  • Problem solving. When people encounter the problem you can solve, they will dip into the memory and retrieve your solution.

More suggestions to share?