Writing with Rhythm: How to Create Cadence in Your Copy
Do you have a feel-good song?
You know, the one song that never fails to pick you up and put the smile back on your face.
Mine’s Paolo Nutini’s Pencil Full of Lead (Sunny Side Up is a great album by the way!).
But apart from its life-affirming lyrics, why does this song always improve my mood?
The tempo of this swing jazz track is 184 BMP (Beats Per Minute). Now that’s fairly fast.
According to Dr. Jacob Jolij, a neuroscientist at the University of Groningen, feel-good songs have, in general, faster tempos. Apparently, the average pop song has a tempo of around 118 BPM, with most feel-good tracks having speeds of between 140-150 BPM.
But it’s not just the tempo of a song that creates a connection with the listener.
It’s also its rhythm.
Now, don’t be fooled into thinking rhythm and tempo are only for poets and musicians. They’re not.
All copywriting, if it’s good, readable writing should be rhythmic and have an upbeat tempo. After all, you don’t want your prospect nodding off. You need them to stay engaged.
Whether you’re writing a brochure, blog or by-line, you should always aim to write with rhythm.
Writing with Rhythm
Writing with rhythm is about listening to the sounds your words make.
As Stephen Wilbers says in Mastering the Craft of Writing:
‘Listen to the sound of your language. Read your words out loud. Pay attention to their rhythm and cadence and flow’.
Now reread this quote. Out loud if you like.
Notice how the sound of the words mimic the message Wilbers is trying to get across.
‘…rhythm and cadence and flow’.
The rhythm of these words creates the up and down motion of the ocean.
He could easily have written: rhythm, cadence and flow.
Does it make sense? Yes.
Does it mean the same thing? Yes.
Does it have the same sense of oceanic ebb and flow? No.
It seems like a small matter; this example comes down to a simple connective and the difference to the sound of the sentence without it.
But it makes a big difference to the rhythm of the writing.
The difference it makes is style.
Writing with Rhythm and the Sound of Style
Style can be pretty hard to pinpoint in writing. But if writing has style, it has power.
According to E B White, ‘[s]tyle is the sound your words make on paper’ (or on screen, as the case may be). So one of the ways style is realised is with rhythm.
The rhythm of your writing has the power to influence your reader’s mood, connecting with their emotions, changing the way they think and feel.
But writing with rhythm and serving up a serious amount of style to your reader takes time.
It takes writing and reading. Writing and listening. Reorganising words and phrases, and editing again. Times ten.
Although adding rhythm alone to your writing won’t guarantee amazing content (achieving excellent copy is a combination of many different devices!) — it will make it better.
So, how do you go about writing with rhythm?
Write with the Rhythm of Speech
When you’re having a conversation with a friend or business associate, do you always speak in complete sentences?
Of course not.
We use sentence fragments all the time when talking. So don’t be afraid to use them in your writing.
Using sentence fragments will help add rhythm and colour to your copy. Honestly.
As in music, rhythm in writing is created by sounds and stops.
By paying attention to punctuation and stress patterns in your writing, you’ll be able to create contrast — the light and shade needed to generate rhythm.
By listening to your sentences and varying their length, a natural ebb and flow will start to develop.
Sentence length will also help you to match the mood you’re trying to create.
Long, meandering sentences are great for description, relaxing the reader in and helping them experience the scene you’re trying to set. Short sentences add urgency.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Writing is a creative process.
Language is not static; it’s fluid; it’s flexible. It changes over time, reinvents itself and becomes something new.
When listening to your writing, don’t be afraid to change words and swap phrases or paragraphs around.
Move your words and make them better on the ear.
Pay attention to what sounds best, making sure your writing is smooth and stumble-free.
Just like music, listen to the arrangement of your piece.
We hope you’ve found this post useful and it will help you to create cadence in your copy.
However, if you’d like us to write for you, we’d love to hear from you. Whether you need persuasive copy for your new marketing literature or engaging seo content for an online article, call us on 01782 914155 or send us an email.