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Five Ways to Keep Your Readers Front and Center

December 10, 2009

I recently read Mark Ragan’s post, The cure for ‘writer’s block,’ and it got me thinking. Not only can writers suffer from “information block,” but we often struggle with keeping our readers front and center. And, without our readers, what’s the point of writing something in the first place?

Spread the Joy

I know, I know, the point of writing is to express oneself, document thoughts and ideas, and otherwise serve as a catharsis for our soul. But, for those of us writing in the business world, our personal reasons for writing are often irrelevant.

It doesn’t matter that the very process of molding, sculpting and honing once-nebulous thoughts into well-formed words capable of invoking powerful emotions boosts our creative juices and otherwise makes us jump for joy. We’re asked, instead, simply to write as a means to educate, inform or promote.

Even so, there’s no reason we can’t transfer that  joy to our readers. And we should.

Five Ways to Keep Your Readers in Mind

Make sure your readers stay front and center – regardless of topic, style or intent:

  1. What’s in it for me? WIIFM is the old standard for a reason. It’s critical to think about what you’re saying from your reader’s perspective. What do they want out of the article? Knowledge? Instruction? A good story? If you understand why someone will read your piece, it’s easier to focus the message and give them what they want.
  2. What do you want your readers to do? Once someone reads your article, what action do you want them to take? Are you asking them to visit a website, make a phone call, send a tweet, forward or repost the article, something else? Make sure your writing drives them to that action in a clear, yet compelling way.
  3. What emotion do you want your readers to feel? After reading your article, should they be happy, sad, moved, outraged, excited, surprised, empowered? Weave in thoughts that encourage that outcome.
  4. What tone is right for your readers? Depending on your article’s focus, you may choose a conversational, formal or instructional tone. This also can set the stage for evoking a particular emotion from your readers.
  5. What connection do you wish to make with your readers? Do you want them to think of you as a confidant, a friend, an expert or not to think of you at all?

All of these choices, infused with your own personality and writing style, contribute to the overall texture of every piece you write. And that can, in fact, help you express your joy of writing – even while keeping your readers front and center.

I’d love to hear how you keep your readers front and center.

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