Some things are more interesting to read about than others. It is this truth that challenges us when writing much commercial copy. Many people will milk every last word of celebrity gossip and yawn when faced with breakdown of their savings account. With this in mind editors are often asked to liven things up and make the driest subject all the more interesting.
There are no golden rules for doing this but let us look a few things to try or avoid. It is never wise, for instance, to lead on numbers. Unless the story is the statistic, then leave the numerical breakdown for the end. Jargon too can be much loved by the in-house writer, but even people who know what it means find their eyes glazing over.
Instead, try to relate the information to characters, places or interesting events. Although it is not always possible, try to tell a story.
There are two passages below, one about strawberries and one about cabbages. Neither is going to thrill you and both have been edited down to exactly 123 words. You might think that strawberries are inherently more interesting than cabbages, but which information do you find more engaging from the two?
The strawberry is a widely grown hybrid species of the genus Fragaria. It is what is known by growers as an aggregate accessory fruit with a distinct aroma, colour, and sweetness. This ubiquitous desert was thought to have been first cultivated in 18th century France. It was later improved by an introduction of a cross between the North American Fragaria Virginiana and the Chilean Fragaria Chiloensis.
The wild strawberry, of course, has been around since antiquity. The French developed this interest in the wild fruit from the 14th century although it was earlier known to the Romans for its medicinal properties. This smaller sweeter variety was handicapped by the pips, as the diminutive fruit tended to make eating medieval strawberries a crunchy experience.
The cabbage comes in a vast array of colours and species and could be the answer the problem of feeding the world. Although loved by the Chinese and much of the planet, it has met with a prevailing unpopularity in most of Europe. Indeed the Ancient Greeks believed that the growing of cabbage would taint the grape and so spoil the wine; refusing to grow it anywhere near their vineyards. The Romans considered it unfit for a senator’s table and only the dour killjoy Cato thought it worthwhile.
However, this versatile foodstuff is highly nutritious and easy to grow and in recent years the United Nations has noted a significant increase in cabbage production in the most over populated countries of the world.
Perhaps you saw no difference, but consider, the first is about the French claims to pre-eminence in strawberry growing. The second is about the growing importance of cabbage as a food source.
The first has various dates and a lot of Latin jargon to obscure its message. The second tries to get you on side. It does this after hitting you with the key fact by giving you a version of the cabbage image that you will probably identify with.
Both passages return to their theme, but which one still holds your attention?