Pastors: 4 Tips to Write Better Online
Writing for an online audience is not the same as writing a formal letter or preaching a sermon.
In a lot of traditions, there is a certain formality to the way a pastor writes and preaches. Often, there is an elevated style or cadence that can lift the pastor to a higher level than the reader.
Maybe it’s an effort to elicit an air of holiness in the words and message.
Maybe it’s because a pastor’s training is academic in nature.
As a pastor, you speak differently to people when chatting in your office versus preaching from your pulpit.
It’s not a bad thing. We all speak and write differently for different situations.
It would be weird if you delivered the same cadence in your office as you do the pulpit.
Unfortunately, that’s what it feels like sometimes when pastors write for social media. Your message falls flat because people consume content in a different way online.
Good news. Writing more effectively for an online audience is simple.
Here are four ways to help you communicate better online as a pastor whether that’s social media, blog posts, mass emails, or anything else.
1. Get to the point, fast.
Our attention span online is short. Very short. We’re like the dog in Disney’s UP who’s constantly distracted by a squirrel. You may have my attention for 2 seconds, but the third is not guaranteed.
In a sermon or formal letter, you might open with a greeting and illustration that sets up the point you are about to deliver.
If you do that on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve already lost your reader.
Get to the point. FAST.
Hit the problem you’re addressing for your audience immediately and pivot to the solution and call to action.
If the problem you address is an actual problem your audience is experiencing, you’ll have their attention without a greeting or illustration.
2. Lose the Formality
Formal vocabulary and language will lose your reader. If you try to speak in a way that sounds overly pastoral, holy, or professional, people will tune out quicker.
As Ann Handley writes in her book, Everybody Writes, “Don’t sacrifice clarity on the altar of sounding professional.”
Write in a way that feels like a one on one conversation in your office. In fact, a good trick is to think about one person you would want to hear your message and write your post for them (without using their name, of course).
3. (Ruthlessly) Remove Unnecessary Words
In the same vein as getting to the point, remove as many useless words as possible.
Write your post, let it sit for a bit (minutes, hours, a day…whatever time you have) and read it again.
Which words are filler and fluff? Remove them.
- Ruthlessly remove useless adverbs → Ditch useless adverbs.
- Know (that) you almost never need the word “that.”
- You get the idea.
Often, removing unneeded words is the fastest way to clarity.
4. Keep it Short
Facebook and Instagram will let you be a little wordier in your posts. That doesn’t mean you should.
Think about each post like a tweet. Twitter allows 280 characters per tweet. Try and get your point across in 280 characters. Then, if you want to deepen your message, add from there.
If your post is too long, people might quit reading. Make your point in the first sentence or two, then expand. That way, people can read a tweet’s worth and get the idea then decide if they want to read more.
Just be you.
The best advice for writing online is to just be true to your real personality and voice. No need to put on a show or be overly academic.
Write in a way that everyone can understand whether they’re in 6th grade or an 85-year-old with nine degrees.
Make every post accessible and personal. Your audience wants to feel like you’re writing just for them.
What struggles do you have writing online? How can I help you connect more effectively with your audience? Leave a comment.
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