Friday, June 29, 2007

Writing To Get Their Attention – Five Suggestions

Do you wonder whether your audience actually reads what you write? How often do you glance at an article title or first sentence and just skip reading it? Or read something very quickly just to get to the bottom line?

We have become a scanning society. With the abundance of information in hard copy as well as on the web, taking time to read something thoroughly doesn’t happen often. No matter how many good things we have to say, if we don’t present it properly, it will be overlooked.

Today’s readers tend to be distracted, disengaged, disenchanted and busy! How can you get them to slow down and focus on what you’ve written?

Five suggestions that really help to draw in your reader are:

  • Make it about them
  • Write at an appropriate reading level
  • Include visuals
  • Tell a story
  • Simplify


Start writing with a question that relates to them specifically. In order for you to hook your reader there has to be some connection between their life experience and interests and what you have to say.

As you’re writing, if you want them to connect with you, it’s important that it is really you speaking in the words. If you write like you talk, your reader will be more apt to listen.


How tempting it is to write using all of our wonderful vocabulary and beautiful sentences! Have you stopped to consider what the reading skills and interest of your audience are? The average American reads at a ninth grade reading level. Ernest Hemingway actually wrote his books at a fourth grade reading level! Ads and marketing materials for consumer products is done at a seventh grade level. The New Yorker is written at a 10th grade level.

One’s reading level does not correlate directly to educational background. It also depends on how extensively a person reads on a regular basis. Oh, if you’re wondering about your own reading level, you can check it out at


Visuals are important in keeping the reader’s attention. This is particularly true of anyone under the age of 32 because of the type of reading materials they’ve had growing up. The more complicated the writing is, the more visuals are needed.

Visuals include color, icons, charts, graphs, and tables Clip art, illustrations, and maps also add interest.


People like to be entertained more than being lectured. My guess is that you still remember stories years after you’ve heard them. That experience of hearing a story really draws people together.

Stories can convey a message in a subtle and indirect way that can make a huge impact. They allow our emotions to be expressed in a less vulnerable way when we’re talking through a story.


“If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.” Mark Twain

Mark Twain certainly expressed it well! It can definitely be more difficult to write something in a succinct way than to go on and on with many words.

Keep what you’re writing short. Short words, arranged in brief sentences, paragraphs, and sections will hold your reader’s interest as they scan what you’ve written. The average USA Today article is 300 words.

Boil down your message to its essence. Choose one concept that you really want your reading audience to know. Illustrate and explain everything so that nothing is puzzling to the reader.

What is the one concept you want to get across to your reader? If you are working to clarify your message, it might help to work with a coach. Visit for resources of interest to the businessperson looking to create a Healthy Bottom Line plus quality time for your family and fun.Contact Suzanne Holman, MAEd at, your exuberant productivity coach.

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