Great writing in the real world is NOT meant to reveal what’s on your mind. Yep, you read that right.
Do you feel that your writing is valued less nowadays and falls flat? That it doesn’t engage your readers enough and doesn’t get the results you hoped for? There’s too much content out there, so how can you get noticed?
The answer is simple: Assume that all the rules of writing that you’ve been taught in school or university were wrong. Think back: Your teachers were paid to read your work, and they always did.
Great writing in the real world is NOT meant to reveal what’s on your mind. Yep, you read that right. Here's how to keep your writing focused on your readers. Click To Tweet
In the real world, your readers will either read your writing or they will not. And to make them read your work, or even pay you for the privilege of reading your work, your writing has to be valuable to them. Language is social; you enter into a relationship with your readers. It is not about you. It is about them.
Your writing is not meant to reveal what’s in your mind or to show your abilities, but to redeploy that knowledge to offer value to your readers and affect their minds. Writing is NOT rule-following but helping your readers to process your writing and to gain knowledge. And with that, you’ll provide them real value along the way.
So, your best writing changes your readers’ thinking about the world around them; it entertains, distracts, or changes them. And with that, always assume that your readers don’t trust you, that they believe you’ll waste their time or won’t offer them any value.
Here are tricks to keep your writing focused on your readers:
- First, clarify who’s reading your text and establish its focus. Know exactly who your readers are, where they’re at and what they value. They become the subject of your writing.
- Then, make sure to focus on how your readers think/feel before you tell them.
- Open with what they need, not what the text is about. Since they might not (yet) see the value in the subject.
- Sell its value to the reader upfront: What questions the text will answer. Those answers, and options you give, will then offer real value to your readers, provided that your readers have been pondering the same questions.
- Always stress what’s most valuable to your readers (or their main focus) at the end of your sentences. What you read before the period, sticks the most.
- Offer real, concrete tools, not just lofty ideas.
- Talk to your readers directly, even if you assume they might be wrong.
- Listen to them and offer them another option to think about.
- Entertain them, offer a distraction (conflict, tension, trouble…) that gets their attention, so they engage with you from the get-go.
- Forget what you’re learned about using active voice only. As if the active “The fox chases the hen” is better than the passive “The hen was chased by the fox”. It is not. By using the active voice, you focus on the fox. By using the passive voice, you focus on the hen. What’s more important is to ask yourself, what do your readers want to focus on? Help them process the text to reveal what is valuable to them. Your readers care more about what they want to focus on in the sentence (the fox or the hen) — and not always what you want to stress by using the active voice.
- Throughout your writing, be constantly mindful of the subject of each sentence to make sure you are still addressing your readers; change your focus when you’re not.
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