The 4 C’s of Ridiculously Irresistible Articles

blockbuster articles Nov 11, 2021
 

Everything you write, from a tweet to a 10,000-word essay, needs to pass the 4 Cs:

Is it clear?

Is it concise?

Is it compelling?

Is it credible?

As far as unconventional content creation formulas go, the 4C’s acts more like a series of content creation principles, but it does provide one with a basic framework for writing articles that genuinely benefit the reader, especially since your article has to be “credible.”

And I believe this is the keyword for this formula: trust.

The 4 C’s enable you to write articles with the clear goal of earning a reader’s trust:

  • Clear articles help readers build an easy-to-follow mental map.
  • Concise writing shows that the blogger respects their time.
  • Compelling articles overcome objections and reduce friction.
  • Credible writing provides proof, research, and data that can help readers internalize the importance of taking action.

Is It Clear?

If readers don’t understand what you write, you might as well have written nothing at all.

It’s never the idea but rather its execution that matters.

It’s not what, but how.

Fantastic writing should contain new, interesting, and complex ideas. It should challenge readers and, hopefully, resonate with them. To be effective, this kind of writing must be crystal clear.

Clarity of purpose

A good introduction maps out the logic of what follows, and in my experience, this strategy is powerful across all forms of writing.

Telling the reader what to expect will assist them in following your logic and making sense of your ideas.

If readers know from the outset what you’re getting at, they’ll be able to look at each key point you make and get a sense of direction and purpose.

In other words, people don’t just read articles because they want to learn something new, they also want to gain clarity of purpose, to understand how to do it, what it takes, and why they should do it.

Use formatting as street signs

Using formatting to emphasize key points is a simple way to add clarity to your articles. That’s not to suggest readers will only read the text you’ve emphasized. Rather, bolding tells the reader “this is particularly important.”

Sub-headings perform a slightly different function when it comes to clarity. They help break your post down into distinct sequences of ideas and notions.

An interesting fact: most hard news stories in the papers follow a strict formula of one sentence = one paragraph.

This is good for readability, as it gives each sentence space to breathe. Writing that’s easy to read is always easier to understand.

That’s not the only reason paragraphs are important for clarity, though. They also help prevent distinct ideas from bleeding into each other.

On top of that, paragraph breaks give readers time and space to digest each point you make.

Graphics act as billboards

Another important aspect is your use of custom graphics, charts, graphs, and images not just to break down long paragraphs, but also to draw attention to key elements.

You must consider the fact that the vast majority of your readers are actually scanners. To them, a well-placed graph containing the most important takeaways from a specific section of your article can mean the difference between understanding what your article is about and feeling confused as to what the actual point was.

Keep it simple, stupid!

When it doubt over which word to use, always choose the simple word.

As a matter of fact, one thing you should consider: you’re a blogger, not a writer.

The rules of engagement are similar, but not the same.

For instance, as long as the writing doesn’t stand in the way, you should be okay. Present your ideas by using words anyone can understand, limit your use of embellishments, and emphasize presenting your ideas in a clear and simple manner.

Clarity in the form of allegories, similes, and metaphors

Plato explained a set of complex philosophical ideas by presenting them as a story of prisoners trapped in a cave. The result was his Allegory of the Cave.

Analogies, similes, and metaphors work so well because they use an idea the reader already understands to help them comprehend one they don’t.

Is It Concise?

The best way to understand the definition of concise is to read Ernest Hemingway, one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

Hemingway was famous for his minimalist style of writing that got straight to the point.

Short sentences, short paragraphs.

Hemingway did it with great effect in Big Two-Hearted River:

Nick looked at the burned-over stretch of hillside, where he had expected to find the scattered houses of the town and then walked down the railroad track to the bridge over the river. The river was there.

He went to the river. The river was there.

Probably the 2 sentences that best explain his philosophy of writing.

📝Warning:

My caution on this formula is that you should not cut important, meaningful phrases or words in the interest of being concise. That’s such a rookie mistake, it’s crazy. Be concise, but don’t take that to mean “short.”

In other words, and to paraphrase Stephen King, kill your darlings.

Constantly be on the lookout for sentences, phrases, and, yes, entire paragraphs that sound good but might actually confuse readers.

If you can delete it and the article still makes sense, delete it.

Verbal narcissism = intellectual vertigo

A lot of times we love to feel ourselves punching the keys. We love the act of writing so much that we fail to grasp the fact that we’re not saying anything meaningful, or worse, we’re just going in circles.

Think of editing your article to ensure is as concise as possible like peeling the layers of an onion. It’s going to make you cry, as you delete a lot of words, but you are ultimately sharing nothing but the essence of what your article is about.

No fluff, no superfluous notions, no redundant ideas.

Is It Compelling?

A compelling article is familiar, yet new. It does so by presenting old ideas from a different angle, or by connecting seemingly unrelated dots.

A compelling article takes into account the objections, struggles, and pain points of its target audience, and weaves them into the narrative, addressing them in an empathetic manner.

One exercise that works is to write for the skeptics. Imagine that every single person who is reading your article is asking questions like:

  1. Why should I trust you?
  2. Will this actually work?
  3. What qualifies you to give me this sort of advice?
  4. What if I do this and fail?
  5. How long does it take to see results?

Writing compelling articles is nothing more than being able to weave a narrative that addressed your audience’s main objections in a believable manner, which leads me to my next point.

Is It Credible?

Every single element of your article, from your headline to your call to action, should be written with credibility in mind.

If you fail to deliver on the promise you make in your headline, that’s clickbait.

If you fail to explain why something works, your article will be dismissed as an amateur trying to bite off more than they can chew.

If you want to write credible articles, you need to:

  1. Be aware of skill levels. Both yours and your target audience’s. Don’t write articles for experts if you’re not an expert.
  2. Social proof is the secret ingredient. Add plenty of it. Mention other bloggers within your niche, quote authority figures, and link to all relevant resources that can make your article more believable.
  3. Build trust by sharing the results of personal experimentation. This is the easiest trick you can use to write credible articles.

Credibility is simply your ability to show others that you are friendly, trustworthy, and quite competent.

How to Apply The 4C’s Formula:

  • Do proper research before writing your article. Add relevant resources, mention reputable sources, and link to data that can be trusted.
  • Think of all the objections that a reader might have, and share compelling reasons why they should discard them.
  • Aim to provide mental clarity above all else. Provide key takeaways at the end of each section within your article and an additional set of steps at the end of your article, enhance your article with graphics, charts, and graphs
  • Edit for conciseness. Remove superfluous paragraphs, keep only the essence, the actionable steps, the research, and the data that compel the reader to take action.
  • Format and design your article accordingly (lists, bullet points, graphics, charts).
  • Add the elements of credibility. Social proof, first-hand experience, skill levels, empathy.
  • Always aim to be perceived as friendly, trustworthy, and competent.

When done right, the 4 C’s can provide you with a framework for writing truly remarkable articles, while earning your readers’ trust and admiration.


This article is one of more than a dozen unconventional formulas in our latest course, The Art of Writing Blockbuster Articles.

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