With the kids at my in laws for a few days my wife and I (mostly her) embarked on a toy purge. As you can see from the picture, we accumulate lots of toys. The first thing she did was dump all the toys on the floor. This would make sorting easier. At least, that’s what we thought.
Here’s the problem. Once we dumped out the toys the goal became unattainable. Of course, the number of toys that needed sorting stayed the same. It just felt like more. It created a sense of overwhelm. That overwhelm dampened the enthusiasm to tackle this problem.
That Feeling Of Overwhelm
Do you ever get that feeling of overwhelm with certain tasks?
“Ugh. I’ll never get through this. I don’t even want to start.”
When it comes to persuasive writing, overwhelm is our enemy. When your writing feels like a bear, you’re in trouble. Unlike our toy situation your reader doesn’t rally his energy and dig into your piece. He simply clicks away.
Instead of overwhelm we strive for clarity and simplicity. Instead of drudging up every possible angle to cover our bases, we aim for a single point. We keep our sentences simple and paragraphs short. Whatever we can do to eliminate overwhelm is always at the top of our mind.
Does that mean our writing needs to be short? No, but we shouldn’t waste words. Every word must earn it’s place. Any argument that fails to advance the sale gets cut. Setup, background and random stories often detract from your message.
Five Tips To Keep You Out Of Overwhelm Zone
Break Up Paragraphs
Long paragraphs look daunting. It gives the perception of overwhelm. Keep in mind that the smaller screens on mobile devices amplify the problem.
Use headers to break up the monotony. The headers should give an outline of the overall piece. One header for every three hundred words is a good rule of thumb.
Do you know the part of books, articles or stories you glance past without reading? That’s what I’m talking about. If it’s not essential to your sale then remove it. If it’s part of a story, make sure your story is compelling enough to stand on its own.
Stay On Topic
The best pieces focus on one big idea. The reader easily follows along a single themed piece. When you force your reader to keep track of what’s going on they may feel overwhelm (or worse). Avoid the urge to squeeze in extra arguments or factoids. I know it’s hard. Trust me, it detracts from the overall clarity.
Use A Language Tool
Languages tool like the Flesch Reading Ease or the Hemmingway App provide readability scores. In copywriting or persuasive writing you always shoot for super easy to read. See my scores for this article below:
Finally, take a break from your piece. Come back to it the next day. Give it the eye test. Does it look daunting? Read it over from beginning to end. Where do you struggle? What did you have to read twice? These offer clues as to where you need to edit.
Follow these tips and you will avoid overwhelm.