The popular blogging platform WordPress revealed that its users produce about 500,000 new posts daily. Given that number, don’t you wish the Internet had a loudspeaker system that only you could use?
But you—unlike spammers—exercise restraint. You don’t want to be the person who uses capital letters in tweets, or solicits email addresses for shady Nigerian trust funds or Viagra campaigns. You want to earn attention and keep it.
Given the fierce competition, how can you set yourself apart?
Below are five strategies you can use to engage readers without being demanding or annoying.
1. Be as specific as possible.
Most humans have voyeuristic tendencies. Why not appeal to them?
Being nosy is how we learn about the world and gauge whether we’re “normal.” If you bait your reader with a personal anecdote developed with rich detail, the reader will gladly enter the world you created.
For example, instead of writing, “I went to the store,” you could write, “I jogged to the nearest 7-11 to pick up my favorite celebrity tabloid.” Which statement piques your curiosity?
2. Avoid talking down to your reader.
Even an expert in a niche field should practice explaining challenging and/or complicated concepts in simple terms. Don’t assume the reader understands what you mean; he or she can’t stop and ask you a question.
If you don’t often have the chance to discuss your work outside the workplace, ask someone outside of your field to interview you. If you can find a friend who works in a communications-related field, that’s a plus!
3. Use transitions and section headings when possible.
Transitions are words or phrases that help your reader follow your train of thought. Examples include “for instance,” “on the other hand,” and “similarly.” Using transitions also help arrange your ideas in an understandable pattern.
Section headings—bolded titles that break up a lengthy chunk of text—will help your reader skip to relevant information and absorb the main ideas.
4. Use rhetorical questions and quotes.
A rhetorical question is a question the writer asks the audience without expecting a reply. The writer won’t necessarily answer the question in the text, but he’ll use it to make a point and slow the pace.
Use rhetorical questions sparingly, but remember that they can make a big impact, especially in an introductory paragraph.
Also, consider quoting thought leaders or other experts in your field. When you support your thoughts and opinions with those of others, you demonstrate you did your research.
5. Incorporate multimedia wisely.
Think of your favorite teacher. Did that person spend the allotted class time simply lecturing? Most likely, your teacher incorporated elements like images, videos, and group discussion.
Media shouldn’t substitute good writing in your blog posts, but it can definitely enhance it and keep readers interested. Choose media such as images, video and sound wisely, and use restraint.
Brainstorm an idea for your next blog post. If you don’t have a blog, think about your next article or email. How can you incorporate one of the above strategies into your writing, and which response do you hope to elicit from your audience?
Have you had success engaging an audience, whether through written or spoken word? Share your tips!