The term neuro writing sounds sinister and creepy, doesn’t it? It isn’t. Based on neuroscience, its goal is to entice readers and grab their attention by triggering fundamental cognitive dispositions.
Reading and understanding are complex neurological concepts. We want to “get into our readers’ minds” to give them what they need when they need it in an understandable and valuable way. We want to motivate them to appreciate and consciously act upon our writing.
Neuro writing helps do that. It is a neurocognitive tactic that uses persuasive, engaging, honest, straightforward, easy-to-grasp, yet stimulating language.
Writing is not only an art — it’s a science. Neuro writing is based on science to engage your readers. Click To Tweet
Here are a few concepts in neuro writing to help trigger your readers’ emotional and cognitive responses:
- Use numbers in your headings and lists in your copy. We seem to be wired to pay attention to numbers and numbered lists. They provide a sense of order. And there is even psychology behind odd and even numbers: even-numbered lists imply something is missing (was the list rounded up or down?) and then trigger us to dig deeper; odd numbers are thought-provoking because they seem haphazard.
- If you want a particular bullet point to stick in your readers’ minds, put it last. The last (odd) number seems intriguing, and our readers will ask themselves: “Why was this point added last and not cut off? Must be interesting.” Our memory formation process ensures that what we read or hear last stays with us longer. So, in a longer narrative, reinforce and summarize the main points in your writing to ensure their retention.
- Add unexpectedly matched adjectives that entice readers to keep reading. For example, everyone has encountered “free XYZ or “new XYZ.” Boring and predictable. So how about using lesser-matched adjectives that radiate positivity, like “free innovative XYZ” or “new unique XYZ”?
- Highlight cause and effect, the why and the how. Involve your readers. This writing tactic makes your narratives easier to recall. That is also why storytelling is so important: something happened. Let’s find a solution!
- Ask questions readers want to be answered. Use quotes to cement your message. It signals expertise and authority. Use single quotes in headlines and double quotes in your text.
- Enter into a (friendly) argumentative dialogue with your readers, where they formulate questions in their heads while you provide the answers. Or you ask three questions (according to the “Rule of Three” in content/graphic design, where bundled content in chunks of three is most memorable). Your readers will nod their heads in anticipation of your answers before they continue reading.
- Use descriptive, powerful, thought-provoking, action- or sensory-stimulating words that trigger your readers’ positive or negative responses. Engage them emotionally; make them want to speak out and participate. (This point is important; it has an odd number, and I put it last.)
Write with human psychology in mind. Your readers are, after all, humans. Good writing should not just convey information. Your readers are not passive bystanders, but active back-seat drivers. They crave stories and engagement.
Writing is not only an art — it’s a science.
More on the topic:
From mind to design — how neuroscience shapes UX storytelling (UX Collective)
I’ll be in your inbox every other Wednesday with actionable content + design tips and tricks, checklists and tools that you can apply immediately. I’ll share with you links to relevant blog posts (mine and curated recommended must-reads) and other engaging content that will help you amplify your message and find the right site design.
Copyright © Tekla Szymanski Content + Design LLC. All rights reserved. Please share/quote with attribution.