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How to Be a Total Reader Magnet: Pulling the Readers that You Want

On the platform, reading

It’s party season for writers as the year draws to a close.  It’s never been easier to write and publish your own work.  But with over 70 million blogs out there how do you make your writing stand out from the crowd?  It’s one to thing to grab your reader’s attention with a provocative headline or two, but how do you keep them interested - and make sure they come back for more?

Here are 10 tried and tested techniques to turn your readers’ heads - and then seduce them with the power of your words.

DO use headlines that demand your reader’s attention.  It’s a great way to get yourself noticed.  But make sure you deliver on the initial promise.  Follow up with a strong lead paragraph.  You don’t want your readers to think you’re a tease.

DON’T make basic grammar mistakes. They can be a real turn off.

DO use plain everyday words. They’re a sign of a quality writer, hinting at an underlying self-confidence… which is guaranteed to attract.

DON’T dress up your writing.  Fancy fonts, clever use of color and complex headings can leave you looking like an over-wrapped Christmas tree.  Forget the tinsel.  Understated does it.  Let us see the power and the beauty of your underlying message.

DO use short sentences.  They keep your reader’s attention.  Stop their eyes from wandering off.  Oh and they’re another great way to demonstrate confidence in the power of your own words.

DON’T stick rigidly to the rules. The language rules we learned at school can make our writing stilted and formal.  Playfulness can be fun.

DO include something of yourself. You don’t need to wear your heart on your sleeve, but sharing something of yourself - your story, your values, your persona - can create a most powerful connection.

DON’T witter on. Drone on with long sentences and never-ending paragraphs and your readers will soon go elsewhere for kicks.  Stick to the point.  Say what you need to say - and move on.  It’s guaranteed to keep them coming back for more.

DO get into the mood. Work on your own frame of mind before you start to write.  If you want your readers to feel - curious, amused, engaged, flirtatious… what better than to get into that state yourself?  You might just find that it’s contagious.

DON’T be afraid to experiment. Yes you want to develop a style, a voice that’s recognizably yours - but hey it’s the party season, so why not let your hair down, experiment a little, and try something new.

Who knows where it might take you?

~~~

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moriza/96724309/

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Comments

  1. Valeria Maltoni says:

    The use of short sentences is a challenge for me. I learned to write first in a language that takes twice as much to say anything… oh, but it’s very charming on its way there ;-) Wish I had a laptop at hand when I’m in a funny mood, that might be some of my best communication right there! You pulled me in with this post, well done.

  2. James Chartrand - JCM Enterprises says:

    There are two “do” statements in here that stand out the most (for me, anyways). DO use everyday language and DO use short sentences.

    When you want your posts to stand out, flowery prose and self-indulgent writing isn’t going to cut it. Online writing is fast and furious - people want the easy, shortest route to get what they want.

    I also appreciate that you say it demonstrates confidence. I never thought of it that way, and thanks for pointing it out. I agree - common language and short sentences really do reflect that you don’t feel the need to gift-wrap your words to get your point across.

    Well done!

  3. --Deb says:

    Great list, as always, but, um “Witter on”? That’s a British-ism I’ve never heard before!

  4. Lea
    Twitter: leawoodward
    says:

    I’m curious Joanna…did you enjoy writing this post in a different style from your usual one? (I think it’s great BTW - but sounds like a completely different you!)

    @-Deb: as a Brit myself I do use (and love) the word “witter” but it seems to be especially prevalent amongst the Scots…pretty much all of my Scottish friends use it.

  5. Guy Hogan says:

    Yes, these 10 points are excellent. It took me years to figure them out for myself. I wish I would have had someone to tell them to me when I was young; actually, someone probably did but I guess every writer has to make a lot of mistakes before these 10 points really sink in.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Valeria, thank you. Of course charming language can have a different sort of effect - perhaps for a different sort of seduction scene…

    Joanna

    PS You definitely want to have a means of writing with you at all times - for all moods!

  7. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    James, thank you. I think we’re on the same wave length here:

    “common language and short sentences really do reflect that you don’t feel the need to gift-wrap your words to get your point across”

    And thanks for sticking with my Christmas party metaphor :-)

    Joanna

  8. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Deb, that’s twice today I’ve used a word that’s mystified a reader, and it’s funny because I can’t always anticipate which one’s they’ll be…

    Witter (normally witter on) is chatter, babble, talk rapidly and incessantly. [By the way I cannot think about "twitter" without thinking about "witter" - I guess they didn't think of British users when they came up with the name...]

    I’m interested in Lea’s comment that it’s more likely to be used by Scottish speakers - that might be because the word is more commonplace here, or perhaps that Scots are more taciturn and less tolerant of those who witter on… Maybe this makes us ideal writers for the web? :-)

    Joanna

  9. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Lea, that’s an interesting question. Yes it is very different from my normal style, and yes I did enjoy writing it.

    I’ve kept hold of the Cosmo so I can borrow more headlines and copywriting style for the New Year…

    Joanna

  10. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Thanks for the feedback Guy. I know what you mean about learning the hard way - in writing, as in life…

    Joanna

  11. Lis Garrett ~a writer's woolgatherings says:

    I love lists, and you delivered. I’ll be the first to admit to skipping over a post if it goes much more than 1000 words, and even then it better be interesting. But I agree with keeping it clean, as in appearances. Nothing drives me away faster than font that is difficult to read or a blog that’s so decked out my eyes ache. I’m probably guilty of rambling sentences, though!

  12. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Lis, I’m smiling at your reminder to keep it clean. My initial title for this post was “how to drive your readers wild in bed” but I wasn’t sure I could blog about where it was taking me!

    Joanna

  13. Jim Murdoch says:

    Although you mention the never ending paragraphs you don’t really emphasise the importance of white space.

    Also, there are so many web pages I come across where the colours don’t work. I don’t even attempt to read anything where the background is some garish graphic or the colours clash. It could be Pulitzer winning stuff but I’ll never know.

    Lastly, I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but every blog I post gets proof read by my wife and it is amazing the typos she finds. It makes all the difference.

  14. Emma Bird says:

    Joanna

    I love it. You know, when I was playing with my question format earlier today, I was also tempted to Do and Don’t. And you’ve beaten me to it. It works a treat.

    As for driving your readers wild in bed,I’d have been curious as to how that would have ended up.

  15. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Jim, all good points. But now I’d need to think about how to turn these into party-girl advice… hmm…

    Do use whitespace - make sure you’re showing off your best assets

    Don’t use clashing colors - you want to dazzle with your wit not blind them with your color scheme

    Do check your work - those little details count when you’re making a first impression

    [Ed: that's enough Cosmo dating lessons]

    Okay, I’ll quit when I’m ahead…

    Joanna

  16. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Emma, as I said to Lea, I enjoyed this more than I was expecting. I try and avoid too much of a heavy hand when it comes to “writing shoulds and shouldn’ts”, but I think this post was flippant enough to get away with it. And as you say, the “dos and don’ts” seem to be a good format - certainly one I’ll be using again

    As for how to drive your readers wild in bed - one for us to compose in a bar in Sardinia some time? :-)

    Joanna

  17. Carma Dutra says:

    I do like the one about getting in the mood. This is a real biggie. Our moods most often reflect our intent toward our readers. Moods help to get the point across.

    Keeping your post crisp is essential. The first, middle, and last portion of any post will attract the readers attention and if the hook sticks the reader will go back to read the entire piece.

  18. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Carma, you’ve found me out! If I had to pick one, it’s getting in the mood. It makes the biggest difference, always. And if I can’t get into the right frame of mind - well I don’t write. I don’t think it’s fair on my readers, and it robs the writing process of all pleasure for me.

    Thanks for stopping by

    Joanna

  19. Kelly says:

    Great advice!

  20. Karen Swim says:

    Joanna,

    The headline pulled me in and the post delivered! You have done the impossible…convinced me to buy Cosmo. Thanks for all the great tips. You truly are masterful at your craft.

  21. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Kelly, thank you. I learned a lot from the exercise myself - from headlines to sharper prose - reminding me that there always ways we can stretch and develop our writing :-)

    Joanna

  22. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Karen, thanks for the feedback.

    I don’t normally go for such strong headlines but I can tell from the number of responses that I got to this one that it does work - better start paying more attention to that advice from the Copyblogger!

    I would never normally buy Cosmo either, but I’m keeping December’s edition by me for inspiration for the new year…:-)

    Joanna

  23. Janice C Cartier says:

    Good going Joanna! Great read and really smart site! All best, Jan

  24. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Jan, thanks for the feedback.

    It’s good to hear from you over here - how are things going? Well I hope

    Joanna

  25. Norm Leigh says:

    Joanna,
    Wonderful list. You’ve provided some memorable tips, including “Do use short sentences.” I believe a footnote should be added to this tip, though. While short sentences help with clarity and reduce clutter, one short sentence after another can make for dull, repetitive reading. As a writing instructor at the university level, I advise my students to go for short and simple first. But when they’ve gotten the hang of that style, I urge them to mix in longer sentences, which helps create rhythm and makes for better reading.

  26. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Norm, absolutely, and thanks for the pick up on this point on your own site. I’d agree with you though that you need to master the short sentences first - or is it lose the attachment to long convoluted sentences first? - and then go back to using longer sentences again for more variety for pace, rhythm and flow.

    Sadly I couldn’t find a way to write this into my ‘dating tips’ style advice!

    Joanna

  27. David Bowman says:

    Many of these can be summed up as “Know what your readers need and want,” which is good rule for both writing and editing.

  28. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    I guess that works as a dating tip too? Know what they need and want…

    Joanna

  29. Ganesh says:

    Great ! Really it works in my writings.Thank u

  30. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Ganesh, I’m glad you found the advice valuable to you.

    Joanna

  31. The Friendship that Ignited a Blog | Words For Hire says:

    [...] each one, eager to learn headline techniques (my weakness). I clicked on Joanna’s link and here is the comment that started a wonderful [...]