My husband is working on his MBA, and he sent me a picture the other day of the page he was reading from his accounting textbook. A quick glance at the photo made my eyes cross. Facts, figures, rules, lots of big words and indecipherable acronyms. If you would like a prime example of how not to engage your readers, try reading an accounting textbook. (Sorry accountants! I’m sure you find it…riveting.)*
There are innumerable techniques for writing what people want to read. Some of it’s basic, like proper spelling and grammar and compelling stories. But I think, ultimately, you can boil it down to a few ideas.
First, personality. (They may forget your words, but not how you made them feel.)
All the great authors have a style, and you come to know them—their beliefs, their passions, their faults—through their writing. You crave more of a person’s words when the writer’s personality bleeds onto the page. Take Maya Angelou. Her spirit, her heartbreaks and triumphs, echo in her books and poetry, and when you hear her speak in person, it’s like listening to your best friend. Readers who care about you will care about your words.
Positivity. (And I’m not talking about rose-colored glasses.)
There is real, hard stuff in this world that needs to be addressed, but there’s a way to do it that leaves people with hope. Some of the best reporters, like Oprah and Barbara Walters, can expose the dark secrets and ask the impossible questions, because they do so not to spread the dark, but to infuse the light. Whether you’re writing about politics or religion or just the lousy day you had, you can explore it in such a way that readers feel like they’re engaged in the solution.
Purpose. (Because now humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish.)
Whether that’s true or not, we do have a lot competing for our attention. Busy jobs, busy lives, and technology exist around every turn making us (more?) efficient. If you want your readers to stick with you, you better have a point, and it better be clear. Stick to topics you know—or that you’ve researched well—to ensure your readers know you’re a trustworthy source, have a clear plan for what you want to say, and then say it, short and sweet.
Food. (Wait, what?!) This isn’t really a tip for engaging readers…except it kind of is. A quick scan of Pinterest will show you the popularity of recipes and food blogs, and whose mouth doesn’t water at the vivid description of a delicious dish? You can always show some personality, positivity, and purpose with a favorite meal, so in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I leave you with a beloved recipe for Shepherd’s Pie. Is it authentically Irish? No, but it tastes incredible and, holy cow, your house will smell good.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day!
Writing is something we all do, but it’s not always easy to keep personality, positivity, and purpose (and spelling and syntax and…) in mind. If your style runs more toward ‘accounting textbook’ or your schedule says, ‘I have time for none of this,’ let Writing by Design give you a hand. Plus, we can bond over food!
*In fairness, I have two business degrees and actually enjoyed accounting both times. But those textbooks…
With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business and more than 11 years of diverse marketing experience, Tara understands that clear communication is the key to customer satisfaction. Whether it’s consumer product goods, higher education, insurance, or healthcare, developing a solid strategy that leads to concise, targeted messaging creates a framework for successful projects and sustainable growth. Tara is experienced in writing copy, designing ads and recording radio spots, and is responsible for leading the Writing by Design team and its clients through each communications project. A native of several warmer climates, she hopes to fully defrost by mid-July.