Whenever I say poetry is everywhere, someone will respond with one of three reactions:
- A sneer, because they were taught old white guy poetry at school and think that’s the only kind, making it inaccessible to them
- A sneer, because they’re a poet and believe poetry should be inaccessible to those outside of the poetry circle
- Curiosity, because they want to find out more
This post is for you if you’re in the third group. It’s not for you if you feel poetry is only for affluent white guys and those who are big fans of the patriarchy.
Poetry really is everywhere, though. There can be poetry in the design of a room; in a music video; in a beautiful landscape. It’s just about how you look at the world.
Poetry is also great for content marketing.
When you use poetic techniques in your content, it makes your content more memorable. It can also make your content more readable, emotionally engaging, vivid, and fun. And aren’t they all things you want from your content?
So, here are some simple poetic techniques you can use in your content marketing to elevate it—for you and your audience:
White space should be your BFF in any sort of internet writing.
If it isn’t, please, I beg you, change your ways.
When paragraphs are too long, our brains get tired. Our eyes and fingers/hands aren’t moving as often, so we get bored faster. Which means we’re less likely to keep reading and more likely to go elsewhere or go to sleep. You’re then less of an authority for that person. Let’s also not forget how inaccessible long paragraphs are for dyslexics, ADHDers, people with brain conditions, brain fog, or who are just plain tired. Are you getting tired of this paragraph yet? It’s killing me to write it and my inner editor will get twitchy when I edit it. But I hope you see how you’re reading it differently to the other stuff on this page—and how much less your eyes and hands/fingers are moving. If you’re on mobile it’s going to be even more painful. It’s taking up 2/3 of my mobile screen as I type this, and my phone has the default font size. What about someone who enlarges fonts?
Ok I’m out.
That was genuinely painful for my brain.
My point is, white space is an accessibility thing.
It’s also a magical tool that can be used for emphasis, the same as it is in poetry.
Lots of poems trick your brain to focus on certain things based on where the line break is or a new stanza starts.
A concrete poem, for example, uses words to create a shape. So it forms an image in two different ways, enhancing its message.
While you don’t need to go that far, manipulating the space on the page to guide your reader’s eye does make your writing more interesting, engaging, and accessible.
Thinking about where to break it up is also much more creative than following what your English teacher taught you. (Huge respect for teachers, no respect for how English is taught. We need more creativity in language learning. End rant.)
Alliteration and assonance
Alliteration is when you start two or more words in a sentence with the same letter—like above.
Assonance is the same sound, so it’s like an internal rhyme, or a half-rhyme.
You may not always notice assonance, but you may find it mentally satisfying, or it may feel tighter or neater to you.
The letters responsible for the assonance are in bold and italic above.
Using alliteration or assonance is good for titles, taglines, and key messages as the repetition helps it to stick in our heads.
Repetition and the rule of three
Politicians looooove this one when they’re trying to emphasise a point.
Ever since Tony Blair’s infamous ‘education, education, education’ speech, it feels like every politician has tried to recreate it with varying results. (That’s an exaggeration, but that’s how it feels sometimes.)
Tony Blair’s speech also tapped into the rule of three, which is—you guessed it—repeating something three times.
The rule of three only works if it’s short. Repeating a long phrase won’t work. Three-word phrases that use something like assonance would, though, like the ‘light my fire’ example above.
Our brains really love patterns, which is why it likes repetition and the rule of three.
Sometimes, it can be impactful to start several sentences with the same word to mirror each other. Your reader may not notice you’ve done it, but they’ll tie the two points that start with the same word/phrase together.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
(See what I did there?)
How effective it is can sometimes depend on your audience, too.
Some people really don’t like repetition in any form and find it jarring. SEO tools and readability tools often advise against it, too, so being aware of your style guide is useful when you’re considering using this one.
Breaking grammatical rules
This is a hill I’m prepared to die on: the rules of grammar were made to be broken.
Do you need to understand them before you break them? Yes.
Because then you can break them in a way that causes your reader to read what you wrote exactly how you hear it in your head.
Take that why on its own line above. Why do you think I did that?
For emphasis. To make you pause and think.
When you break up a paragraph for dramatic emphasis, words or phrases become more important to your reader. They may not consciously notice it, but when you end on an interesting word it has more pop.
You may be thinking of the word ‘pop’ now.
That point will probably stick in your head because that word is unusual and also a type of onomatopoeia.
Words like pop, crash, and bang are onomatopoetic. They’re where the word sounds similar to what it’s describing.
Like the sizzle of sausages on a barbecue.
Onomatopoeia is great at creating images in people’s minds. As soon as I described those sausages, you saw them, right?
Now imagine if that’d been on the landing page of a butcher’s shop, selling sausages delivered to your door.
It’s a great image and it sells the audience’s end goal—to create a yummy meal for themselves and their loved ones. And since they read that description on that butcher shop’s landing page, they’re going to associate that image with that butcher’s shop and feel like they need to buy from there to recreate it…
…getting the butchers another well-deserved sale.
Poetry is all about having fun with language. You don’t need a creative writing degree, or even an A in your English GCSE, to play with it. Sometimes it helps if you don’t, because you might feel less confined by the rigid structures you were taught at school.
Poetry is also all about tapping into your inner rebel. You get to do things differently; to disrupt the way everyone else in your industry does thing.
And if you’re already doing that with your great product or service, why not do that with how you market it, too?