Although many people write, few write stories and articles that hold the reader’s attention beyond the first few paragraphs. Whether writing to sell or to entertain, good writers use the same techniques.
Here are five basic techniques to keep your readers engaged.
Know Your Readers
People who know each other communicate well. In fact, spouses and friends can often finish each other’s sentences. The same is true for readers of stories and articles. Every word on the page or the screen should be communicative, descriptive, and interesting. However, writers must be aware of their reader’s vocabularies. Avoiding jargon, colloquialisms, and unfamiliar words makes articles understandable without a reader needing to refer to a dictionary. Writers should use a style that flows smoothly, with no jarring interruptions.
Inform Your Readers
If you know your readers, you are familiar with their needs. Each story or article should address needs and provide solutions. It is okay to write articles about some older problems, but articles and stories should address current issues to stay relevant. Readers want to be informed about the newest equipment, methods, and events affecting their lives.
Readers like to see characters in situations that they’ve experienced. Has someone found a better solution for their situation? Good fiction writers present and solve problems. Creative writers find new ways to present traditional stories of man fighting man, man struggling against nature, or man overcoming himself. Creating fictional characters in believable situations can keep the readers on the edge of their chairs.
When writing to sell products, you should visualize the people who will use the product. Write about every conceivable way the readers can benefit from using the product. Explain how the product works in clear, concise terms. Remember, readers cannot ask you questions, so everything they need to know should be readily available to them.
Organize Your Writing
Articles and stories should be well-organized and lead the reader step by step to the conclusion. Organization of information and details can mean the difference between an engaging piece and a confusing jumble. Lists should begin with the least significant and progress to the most significant characteristic. Describe buildings from the outside in or the inside out; don’t bounce back and forth between the two. Confused readers cannot follow a path that leaps forward and backward.
Make certain that each sentence moves the story forward. Although repeating something for emphasis is sometimes helpful, you should have a good reason for the repetition. Otherwise, the story must go on.
Create action with verbs that stir your readers. Although many verbs are available to express the same action, each verb creates a different image. Killing a bug is not the same image as crushing it or smashing it.
You may use both active and passive voices, but notice the difference that it creates.
When using the active voice, the subject is acting. John killed the bug. John crushed the bug.The passive voice forbids the subject from acting; things merely happen. The bug was killed. The bug was crushed. The most engaging sentences use the active voice.
Completing the Article
Read your article to be certain that it flows smoothly, and all necessary words are eliminated. Since spelling and grammar errors irritate readers, you should remove as many of them as possible. Don’t submit your article until you can’t find another way to improve it.