Making Your Writing “Sing” Like the Beatles

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Mike Loomis. Mike is a writer and Senior Team Leader with Vaughn Street. You can follow him on Twitter: @MikeLoomis

I’m no songwriter, but I remember when I first discovered the Beatles. After listening a few times, I could hum the tune and was instantly hooked. Why was this?

The Beatles
Photo credit: Andy Doyle (Creative Commons)

What made John, Paul, George, and Ringo so epic? The same answer is true for what makes a good writer.

Eventually, I realized why their songs were so catchy. Ninety-nine percent of The Beatles’ songs have the same structure:

Verse / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Bridge / Chorus / End

As it turns out, we can learn a lot about written communication from a good pop song.

A hit single

I’m not talking about books here. Creating The White Album is another story. This is about crafting short blurbs that earn you the privilege of having your other works read.

In other words, if I like your “single,” I will check out your “album.”

Years ago, on a sabbatical from consulting, I took a position at a church where I was in charge of communications.

As the church grew, I personally emailed about a hundred people each week. Many of these emails contained a request for an investment of time, so getting a “yes” from volunteers was extremely important.

The people you communicate with are no different. They have options and don’t need to invest time reading your work. So what will you do to get their attention?

No reply

If the subject line of the email wasn’t compelling, it would never get opened. If the first sentence wasn’t interesting, the it would never be read. If it wasn’t catchy, I’d get no response.

Getting a “yes” with your writing is important. It’s the secret to writing a winning book proposal or sending a compelling newsletter. And it requires the same elements of crafting a great song.

After someone has read your article or appeal, what’s their takeaway? Unforgettable pieces of work don’t leave this to chance. They give people a reason to care and clear language to share the message with others.

Hello, goodbye

Think about the emails and letters you hate to open — and have stopped opening. Long, random, with multiple topics and no clear call-to-action.

Now, look at the last few emails you sent. Were they a work of art? This applies to more than email.

How about your blog? Or the last magazine article you wrote? Can a website get inside your head? Is your brand a timeless ballad, a great song with a hook?

The long and winding road

Whether you write five or five hundred words, you should be crafting a message that is unforgettable. Improvisation is good, but the more a musician practices the fundamentals, the better they are at spontaneity.

So how do we do this?

We practice. Here are some basic elements to make your message sing:

  • A fresh introduction
  • Engaging tone and personality
  • A simple message that builds
  • One main idea that sticks with you
  • A clear purpose or call-to-action

Think about all the ways you introduce your ideas to the world. Are you singing a song that others will recognize? Are you taking chances by being fresh, honest and bold?

What do you want people to remember about you?

Sing that.