As a writer, one of your most important jobs is to grab your reader’s attention and pull them into your blog post or article. You want to get the reader excited about what they are going to find when they delve into your words. Keep in mind that you are competing against scores of other material that is also promising to give “your” reader the same type of exciting, informative and helpful information. You have to take steps to make your writing more engaging than another person’s material on a similar topic.
Tips for Making your Writing More Engaging
1. Decide on the Voice you will Use Before you Start Writing
What type of project are you working on? Is it an article or a blog post? The voice you use for each one is not the same.
I started off my career writing articles exclusively, and the opportunity to take on blogging assignments came later. When I started blogging, it took a little while to get the hang of the correct writing voice. Here’s how I keep the two of them straight:
Blogging is like having the reader sitting in the room with you. You’ve both pulled up a chair and are enjoying a cup of coffee in front of a roaring fire (if it’s the winter) or are sipping on ice cold lemonade or iced tea (if it’s the summer). In either case, the chairs are big enough for you to pull your legs up and tuck your feet under if you want to, and you’re having a face-to-face conversation. The atmosphere is friendly and comfortable.
An article is a bit more formal. It would be more like a teacher at the front of a roomful of students giving a lecture, if you will. It’s still important to make the information you are sharing interesting, otherwise you’ll lose the reader’s attention very quickly and they will click away to something else, but the style is not as personal as with blog writing. You can certainly share quotes, facts, statistics, but it probably is not the right place to share personal anecdotes from a first-person point of view. You can, of course, talk about things that happen in your life or to your family in general terms to introduce the article.
2. Share the Point in the Headline
Don’t make your reader work to figure out what you are going to regale them with once they click on your post or article; tell them up front what it’s about. If writing headlines is something that you find challenging, leave it to the end of your piece. Save it under a temporary name in the meantime and change it once you finalize the headline for your records. There is no writing rule that says you have to write your piece from top to bottom. Some writers prefer to start with the meat – that is, the middle part, and then write the introduction and conclusion at the end once they have clarified the points covered. You can do the same, and then add the headline that best fits the entire page. (At least we’re not working on typewriters anymore, which would make this type of working style much more challenging.)
3. Include Something Noteworthy in your Introduction
Instead of taking a “just the facts” approach to your article or post, start it off with something the reader can relate to on a personal level. You don’t necessarily need to talk about yourself (unless it’s appropriate to the piece) but you can start off with a quote, a reference to a historical event, a statistic or a recent news story. All of these can work well, as long as you can tie them to the subject you are writing about.
4. Give your Readers More Information
When you’re writing a blog post or an article, I don’t think you need to pretend that your audience belongs in kindergarten and knows nothing about the topic. That’s not only insulting to the reader, but it makes for a really boring project for you as a writer. Unless you are writing something you know is going to be read by experts (and even if it is), write as though your reader is intelligent but lacks knowledge about this topic. This person has just asked you to explain it. How would you approach it?
- If you are going to use acronyms or a short from in your piece, explain it in brackets the first time it is used so that the reader understands the term throughout. For example, if you are discussing something about “St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, NY,” you could use the full name once and then put (“St. Joe’s”) immediately following. Each occurrence of the hospital name will be St. Joe’s to make it easier for the reader to follow.
- Add links to statistics or studies so that your readers can click through and find out more information if they wish. If the statistic came from a news story, then provide it for further reading.
- If you mention the name of a product, link to it as well. Your reader will appreciate having the extra information being provided without them having to hunt for it.
When you are reading what you have written and you are left thinking that you want to know or learn more about a particular thing, company, survey, study, product, term, etc., you need to strongly consider either defining it in your piece or giving your reader a link to more information.
5. Choose Words that Will Give your Work Texture
Do you find yourself using the same descriptive words repeatedly? We tend to use language we feel comfortable with. Stretch your comfort zone by finding alternate words that flesh out your work and give it some texture. You’ll want to be very precise in your language if you want to create something that your readers will be able to connect with and in turn, share with others to boost traffic to your, or your client’s, blog or website. If the Inuit have 100 words to describe snow and there are three or four standard Arabic words for camel plus variations based on how they drink water, character/physical characteristics, color, groups of camels, etc., we can learn to write exactly what we mean when composing articles and blog posts for clients.
6. When Used Properly, a Thesaurus is can be a Useful Tool
I have heard of the Stephen King quote, “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” With all due respect to Mr. King, I can both a dictionary and a thesaurus regularly in my work and I find both of them very useful.
The dictionary is used not only to confirm spelling, since I work with clients in the US and in other countries and the spelling does vary, depending on which form of English I’m using, but I want to be sure that I have the right word for the idea that I want to convey. I, too, find that I sometimes fall into the rut of using some words too often and wonder if there are better ones to convey the idea I want to get across. If I can’t drum up some enthusiasm about the topic by making it sound interesting, why would anyone else want to read about it?
Once I find my word in the dictionary, checking it in the thesaurus is easy. I can find out whether there is another word that is a better fit for what I’m trying to convey. If there is, I use it. If not, I stick to the original word.
7. Read Other Writers’ Work
While I would suggest you read for pure pleasure, I want you to keep an eye open for style, too. Think about the rhythm of the words, and why the writer would choose to use certain words. How are they used to paint pictures and bring the work to life? (Even technical instructions have to be able to create a picture in the reader’s mind or they will be impossible to follow.)
Noticing how someone else writes won’t ruin your enjoyment of reading; I promise I won’t make anyone write a book report and pick a story apart. I will suggest, though, that you stop and look up any words you come across that you aren’t familiar with. I do, and I find it’s the only way to appreciate another writer’s style and really understand what they are trying to say. It also makes their writing more engaging.
Image Credit: istockphoto.com
Image Credit: istockphoto.com
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