How to Write Stuff People Will Read

Books & Writing July 29, 2015

We all know good grammar is essential to writing effectively—but grammatical correctness alone does not get people reading. Think about it. When was the last time you read a scholarly article? Unless you’re still in school or are currently working in an industry that requires you to do so, chances are it’s been a while. While scholarly pieces are usually written with impeccable grammar, many still find them too tiresome to read.

So, what’s a writer to do? Read on for some tips!

Use Fewer Words

Word COunt

In our SEO-obsessed world, word count is everything—and it’s killing effective writing. Instead of just saying “I caught the ball,” writers use “I was able to catch the ball” just to make it easier to hit the target number of words. It doesn’t seem much if it’s just one sentence, but it can get overwhelming if it’s a whole article.

As a general rule, use just enough words to get your point across and not one more. Your readers will thank you for it.

And Even Fewer Big Words

English Dictionaries
“English Dictionaries” by John Keogh on Flickr

Unless you’re writing a technical paper, there’s no real reason to use jargon. All it does is alienate your readers.

The same goes for using fluff words. Take “I avail myself of erudite terminology so as to give the impression of intelligence,” for example. All it means is that you’re using big words to seem smart, but it’s written in an annoyingly lengthy and pretentious way.

But Don’t be Bland Either

A boring event
“A boring event” by nataliej on Flickr

In the previous section, I used “annoyingly lengthy and pretentious” to describe how I feel about long-winded fluff-filled sentences. That’s what I mean by not being bland. I painted a vivid picture for you using adjectives.

You, too, should not be afraid to use descriptives to add color to your sentences. Your goal should be to elicit some form of emotional response from your reader. It doesn’t matter whether it’s excitement, curiosity or wonderment, as long as you’re reader feels something, you’re on the right track.

Break Down Your Walls (of Text)

Inscription = γράψιμο
“Inscription = γράψιμο” by Phillip Hughes on Flickr

Dividing your material into smaller easily digestible sections is another great way to keep your readers interested. Just make sure that your subheads are interesting enough to make people want to read on. The key is to make readers feel like they would be missing out if they skipped the next section.

Make it a Conversation

“Friendlies” by Mo Riza on Flickr

Imagine your reader sitting right across you. How will you talk to them? That’s how you should write. Make it personal. Make your reader feel like they’re talking to you face to face. It’s all about establishing (and then keeping) a connection through conversation.

Make an Offer

NYC - Gray's Papaya
“NYC – Gray’s Papaya” by Wally Gobetz on Flickr

Treat your reader as a customer—and keep in mind that the consumer is selfish. As I’ve said before, they only have one question on their mind: “what’s in it for me?” And whatever you write should be able to answer that.

You can put together the most interesting grammatically correct article in the world, but if it does not address a specific need, then it would still be virtually impossible for it to build a large audience.

How about you? Do you have any writing tips to share? Post them in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *