How to use muscular writing to grab your customer's attention

When I was studying fiction back in the day, my teacher, the amazing Barry Hannah, said something in class that's been seared into my memory ever since:


"Nouns and verbs, baby. Nouns and verbs."


(Note: he wasn't using "baby" in a weird way; it was just his perfectly unfiltered Southern way).

While this mantra was meant for fiction, it's equally important to keep in mind when writing copy for your business. Now, I'm the first one to admit that a well placed adverb or juicy adjective can be gold when you're trying to sell something. Heck, I've already broken the rule like 10 times in this short post. But! Like any mantra, the important thing isn't to have perfect adherence, but to use it as a guiding principle. (As Sarah Silverman says in the book Happy Money, "That's why mantras need to be repeated—they're fucking hard to remember!")

I like to think of nouns and verbs as the big muscles of writing—the biceps, the quads. If you keep your big muscles strong, you go a lot farther, faster. If you rely on adjectives and adverbs or, god forbid, litter your copy with passive voice, you've gone flabby. No one wants that.

Here are a few examples to get you going in the right direction.

Instead of this:
Acme is the preferred vitamin choice of the active woman segment.

Say this:
Boost your energy and transform your life with Acme.

Instead of this:
My amazing coaching services are what every smart, busy woman could use.

Say this:
I’ll help you extinguish the limiting beliefs that keep you from living your dream.

Instead of this:
Our world-class team is highly qualified to do very unique work that you just won't find anywhere else.

Say this:
Your business demands software that works. Our engineers don't sleep if yours doesn't.

See the difference?

So yes, permission granted to use those adjectives and adverbs if you need them for emphasis or clarity. But if you'll keep Barry Hannah's mantra in mind, your writing—and your business—will start beefing up in no time.