Is your writing getting your message through to your audience?
It’s one thing to actually convey a message that’s understandable, but another to keep people engaged long enough to read all that you have to say.
You could have the most profound and life-changing message to deliver, but if readers click away from the start, what good is it?
People skim online writing looking for a particular tip or bit of information. They don't settle into their reading the same way you would with a book or magazine.
Some people are just not typical 'readers.' They may be folks who don't read much at all, and rarely (if ever) open a book. They simply hunt and skim for a solution to their problem.
Having said that, you certainly don't have to be Shakespeare to produce excellent, valuable content for your audience. Below are some tips to give your online writing its best chance for getting read.
1. Start with a Good Title
This may seem obvious, but it’s more important than many people give credit to. It’s the hook that draws the reader in from the get-go.
It should grab the reader’s attention and give them a reason to read what you have to say. At the same time, be truthful and not deceptive. That is, be sure to deliver what is promised in your title.
Vague, curiosity-style titles are okay, but then be sure to clarify that title by the end of your writing.
A good or bad title can mean the difference between someone reading your content or clicking away. The next six tips will keep them reading and have them finish with satisfaction.
2. Use Headers to Break Things Up
One long stream of text – even if broken with blank lines – can be either hard to read and/or hard to skim for specific information.
Use headers to break up your articles into sections. They will tell the reader what each paragraph or section is about.
Headers are great for people that like to quickly skim content. You can write your headers after your initial writing is done. They can be just a few simple words describing what that section is about.
In the same way headers break up text, so do images. Wherever appropriate, using photos, illustrations, or graphs can help reinforce your message and support what your header promises. They also help make your work more visually appealing.
3. Use Everyday Language
If you have some kind of scholarly (or very professional) content to write, then you may want to use the appropriate jargon and language. Otherwise, simple and plain language is much better.
If your readers need to run for their dictionary, they are more likely to run from your content first. Keep the language simple and plain with mostly short sentences.
Not only is it easier to read, but easier to absorb your message as well.
4. Use a Casual Tone
This is kind of an add-on to the simple language style mentioned above. When you write in the same way you would talk to a friend, your reading becomes more relatable.
In fact, it's good to address the reader as “you.” Write like you're writing to a friend. It helps build that personal connection with your readers. It's also makes the content harder to read and very formal.
An exception to this is if you are writing scholarly or professional content that demands a more formal style.
5. Use Small Chunks of Text
Using headers to break up your content may not be enough. If you still have long blocks of text, it’s very hard to read.
Paragraphs should be short. There's nothing wrong with a paragraph being a short sentence.
The entire passage your readers see in front of them should be visually appealing. If it’s not, they may never even attempt to start reading. Chances are that you turned away from an article at some time just because it looked to messy to the eyes.
6. Give it the “Double” Quality Test
After you are finished writing, you can “qualify” it before publishing. By checking these two things first, you can have confidence it’s ready for your audience.
First, read it over and ask yourself, "Does it offer some value?" If it does, it passes that quality test. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader. What are they looking for before reading? Does your content deliver on that expectation?
The second quality test is about the writing style itself. Don’t just read your article. Read it out loud! How does it sound? Does it make sense? It’s easy to mix up words as you are writing.
Sometimes our brains and fingers can get out of sync when writing. This test will catch those kinds of mistakes.
7. Use YOUR Voice and Personality
There’s one big reason I advocate creating your OWN content. It’s your chance to show who YOU are. If you write with your own voice and let your own personality shine through, you will have a stronger connection with your audience.
When you have someone else creating your work, you get their voice, style, and personality.
As mentioned earlier, write like you’re talking to a friend. Just be you!
Perhaps the Most Important Tip?
If you follow the tips above, and combine that with valuable content, you should have something amazing that your audience can’t wait to read.
However, there is one thing that keeps many people from making their work public. The one thing that denies your audience the value you have to offer.
That thing is the need for perfectionism.
Don't be a perfectionist. You can fuss over and rewrite your content a hundred times over. When exactly is it perfect? If your content passes the quality test and gives your readers the value they are looking for, it's good enough and it’s ready to publish.
The more you write, the more your writing will improve. Plus, in many cases you can go back to previous work and make edits if you feel the need. But chances are that you don’t need to at all.
So, now it’s time to get writing and get your message to your audience.