Blog Writing

10 ways to make your readers feel at home

HomeI don’t know if you ever get a sense of recognition when you’re reading, a sense of familiarity maybe, or a feeling of being at home?  I know I do.  It’s a mixture of feeling comfortable and relaxed in the ‘space’ that they’ve created for me, and the sense that I ‘know’ the writer behind the words.

Liz Strauss reminded me of this the other day with her stated intention to “make space for other people” on her blog.  There are lots of things that you can do to be hospitable on a blog site - not least the way you welcome visitors and people who leave comments.  But her post got me thinking about how we can build hospitality into the way that we write.

So, what techniques can writers use to make their readers feel at home?

Some suggestions for starters:

Use plain, simple language. Keep your language simple.  Use words that most people will understand.  That way you won’t be talking over people’s heads.  Focus on writing something of value and you won’t be talking down to them either.  They’ll be able to follow your meaning - and see where you’re coming from.

Use signposts. Think of your writing like a place.  If people are coming for the first time they like to know where they’re going.  Signpost your own content (headings, bullet points, clear titles) and point the way to other useful places to go (things to read, links to websites).

Give people space. Most people like good service, but don’t enjoy being fussed over.  Apply the same principle to your writing.  Avoid flowery, over-elaborate language.  Keep your sentences well pruned.

Identify your reader.  Do you know who you’re writing for?  Can you boil it right down to an individual person?  Think about them as you write, what you’d like them to know, what you want to say to them, how you’d like them to feel when they read your material.

Hit the right note. When you’re being friendly, courteous or hospitable (even just in the opening and closing lines) you want to hit the right note.  Work out how formal or informal your readers will be expecting you to be, and match it.

Pace current experience.  This is great for establishing rapport.  Acknowledge where your readers are ‘coming from’.  Think about what they already know.  Stating the obvious will make them frustrated, that the service is slow.  Jump ahead too far and they’ll be left wondering where you went!

Quality. A quality product has got to be part of what we understand by hospitality.  Make sure you’ve got something of value to offer.  And take the time to weed out any obvious (grammar) mistakes.

Leave room for more. If your readers like what you’re writing they’ll come back for more.  You don’t have to overdo it in the first sitting.  Keep your writing brief: as long as it needs to be, but no longer.  Let your readers know where they can get more if they want it.

Be yourself.  Think about your experience of great service.  You probably knew something about the person who was welcoming  you.  Their name I guess, but maybe they said or did something that made them more than just a name badge, revealing a little about themselves, what was important to them.  Taking off the mask will give your writing a human voice, helping people to feel at home.

Smile. This one works for me.  Smile when you’re writing - it’ll help you select language that reflects your mood and intention (warm, welcoming, friendly).

Those are my starters for ten.

But I know there are lots of great writers out there - so what do you think?  What are your favourite techniques for making your readers feel at home?

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11 Responses to “10 ways to make your readers feel at home”

  1. On June 25, 2007 at 1:00 am Rebecca responded with... #

    You are also smiling by having a picture of yourself smiling here. :)

    ReplyReply
  2. On June 25, 2007 at 9:14 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Rebecca, that’s true. I hope you can also ‘hear’ me smiling in the words I write :)

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  3. On June 25, 2007 at 11:17 pm Rosa Say responded with... #

    This is a great list of “starters for ten” Joanna. “Be yourself” is the one which fits in best on our ‘Writing with aloha’ journey of discovery, for people will feel they are in the good intention of the writer when they can recognize the author’s spirit in the words that seek to be both alo (outside appearance) and ha (inner meaning) for that author.

    With blogging, your advice to “pace current experience” is the one I find the most challenging, and where the most empathy is needed. When we write every day we are in a flow of momentum and continuing, whereas most of our readers have actually dipped their toes in the water, but have not decided to swim with us yet. As our blog communities grow, we can lose sight of this so easily, when in fact even our ‘faithful readers’ could more accurately be described as more frequent dippers versus occasional swimmers!

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  4. On June 26, 2007 at 10:41 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Rosa, you really do have a great way with words!

    I am drawn to this way of thinking about writing - finding the words that create an outside appearance and also reflect an inner meaning. I can’t wait to learn more about how we can write with aloha!

    Your second point about how much prior knowledge to assume - especially in the blog format where you have regular readers and occasional visitors - is very interesting. I think I’ll come back to this in another post.

    Joanna

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  5. On June 27, 2007 at 5:14 pm Emma Bird responded with... #

    @Joanna. Great checklist there. Like Rebecca, I especially like the advice ‘to smile’. And yes, you can tell you are.

    @Rosa. I’d never thought about occasional swimming or frequent dipping in relation to a blog before. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Thanks for sharing that insight.

    ReplyReply
  6. On July 2, 2007 at 5:00 pm Talking Story with Say Leadership Coaching responded with... #

    Ho’okipa grabs a Running Start!

    Ho’okipa has been causing some excitement, as it well should! Ho’okipa has been on my mind for months now. I’ve felt the need to write more about this value of hospitality since last December during Ho’omaha, my annual sabbatical, when

    ReplyReply
  7. On July 13, 2007 at 5:52 pm Talking Story with Say Leadership Coaching responded with... #

    Writer, reader, place: writing with ho’okipa

    My favourite topic is writing about writing, so when I got the invitation from Rosa to take part in the Talking Story series on ho’okipa I knew I had to make writing with hospitality my theme. I started warming up

    ReplyReply
  8. On November 25, 2007 at 3:24 am Lisa responded with... #

    I’m a friendly, outgoing person, and I write the way I speak in real life. I think (hope) that comes across.

    ReplyReply
  9. On November 25, 2007 at 10:32 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Lisa, I’m sure it does. I think a frame of mind of friendliness makes a big difference to the way that we write. I wonder though if you ever find times that your writing doesn’t quite come out that way? I know it does for me sometimes, and it’s often because I’m distracted, short of time or somehow resentful of needing to write. When that happens I try and focus on one or two people that I’m writing for, smile with affection, allow myself to feel that sense of connection with them… and then write.
    Joanna

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  10. On November 26, 2007 at 4:33 pm Lisa responded with... #

    Hi Joanna, Yes, that does occasionally happen, usually in email. Sometimes if I’m rushed and don’t give much thought to what I’m writing it will come out all wrong and be misunderstood. It’s always best to slow down, right?

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  11. On November 26, 2007 at 5:16 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Lisa, yes, absolutely. ‘Slow down, you move too fast’ is one of my favourite mantras… and you might just have inspired a blog post for later this week. Thanks :-)

    Joanna

    ReplyReply

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