April is National Poetry Month — a time to celebrate poems and their ability to help us understand life with a fresh, inspired mind. On my best days, I read and write poetry to connect with others and the universe, and the ritual has made me a more attentive and kinder person.
Poetry also helps me write and edit with precision, clarity, and thoughtfulness. I’ve found that the same tools I use to write poems have helped me craft effective business writing. Regardless of genre or purpose, the following three poetic devices can make your content more effective and engaging:
Tip 1 – Words: Make every word count.
Every single word matters in poetry. Weak or bland language will dilute a poem and lose an audience’s attention. When I’m attempting to explore an idea, I focus on language that evokes meaning, holds power, and makes a little music.
Poems don’t need to contain obscure or pretentious words. Often, the right word for the job is simple and direct. Take “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks. She uses common language and woos the reader into the sounds, rhythms, and lives of the pool players at The Golden Shovel.
And, the same is true of business writing. Many professionals mistake clichés, jargon, and antiquated language as standards within their industry. As an editor, I replace flat or confusing words with language that accurately and clearly expresses purpose while holding the reader’s attention.
Tip 2 – Imagery: Ignite the senses with tangible descriptions.
My favorite poems ignite my senses and help me dream. Take, for example, “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop. Instead of telling us, “I caught a fish and felt alive,” Bishop builds a world of concrete images. When I read the poem, I feel the weight on the line, smell the oil leaking from outboard engine, and see the fish in the afternoon light.
I use sensory details to share the qualities that make businesses stand out. Though your brand may not call for a flowery description of fish gills, concrete images allow for deeper content engagement that leave lasting impressions on your audience. I focus on how to illustrate the benefits of a business, so potential clients or customers can understand their specific value.
Tip 3 – Structure: Support engaging information hierarchy.
Poets always consider how their poems look on the page. Short lines and stanzas make for a quick and punchy read, while long lines and dense stanzas require patience and focus.
A poem about a basketball might use short lines to mimic the speed of the game, while a poem on love may use longer lines to slow us down and appreciate the moment. “Just Before,” a poem by Jorie Graham, does a little of both — she combines longer and shorter lines to surprise the reader and manipulate energy.
When writing or editing client business content, I focus on sentence structure and order. Good content states its purpose up front and uses organizational and transitional cues to guide an audience’s reading and understanding of a text. Headings, bulleted lists, and white space help break up content and improve flow.
Writing poetry and business content both require patience, precision, and curiosity. By taking the extra steps to consider words, images, and structure, you can turn mediocre writing into sharp and engaging content. When you invite poetry into your professional writing, you’ll build meaningful connections with your audience and clearly express your purpose.
Check out Rob’s poem: It’s Hard For Me To Think Of My Heart As Anything.