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How To NOT Repulse Readers And Send Them Running Scream… Um…I Mean Clicking Away

Posted By Darren Rowse 5th of March 2010 Writing Content 0 Comments

A Guest Post by Cori Padget from Write Syntax and Big Girl Branding.

In a word?

engaging-readers.jpgEngage. Engage, engage, engage, engage. Get it yet? ENGAGE! OK, I’m thinking you get it now, kinda sorta. But in case you don’t, let’s discuss it further. EN… Just kidding!

If you’re a writer, or a blogger, or someone who likes to share their thoughts and feelings with words in print (no, hair pulling and pinching don’t count… that’s over sharing and it’s not possible in print!) then you know what it’s like to write something you’ve poured your heart into, only to find it seemed to fall with a resounding splat once you exposed it to the rest of the world. The silence after streaking in all your naked glory was deafening. Not a single comment. Not a single Tweet. Heck, you couldn’t even get a lousy thumbs up! Can I get a ‘Amen’?

You’re not alone fellow wordsmith.

I feel your pain. It sucks when you write and it seems no one is interested. Or maybe they were and they did read… and just didn’t respond. Who knows? But kudos to you for baring it all and putting yourself out there anyway, even when it feels as if no one is listening.

Writing takes guts. And writing honestly takes guts and sweat. And writing honestly and in a way that engages people takes guts, sweat, and a lot of mental cursing and swearing and ice cream and chocolate. Hmnn… maybe the ice cream and chocolate part is just me.

But the reward of all that guts and sweat and ice cream and chocolate is that slowly people begin to respond. Slowly they begin to answer your questions. Slowly they begin to ask their own questions. It doesn’t happen quickly… but when you write in a way that draws your readers in and engages them in what you’re saying… responding to you becomes almost a compulsion they can’t help but obey. It’s like secret wordsmith mind control.

Dry, boring information=deafening silence.

Engaging, compelling information=deafening silence… at first. It’s a bit like sharing a first kiss with a new lover. In the eyes of one another you’re both hotter than Mister and Mrs. Smith in their skivvies. Volcanic even. Dare I say… engaging?

But you don’t kiss on the first date. You share company and spend some time together engaging, and then eventually you work up the nerve to share that first kiss. Then you share another kiss. And another. And then, all of a sudden, you’re past that first kiss and engaging like mad mating love bugs in June!

And I’m sure you’re sitting there reading this right now, getting all hot and bothered and wondering where exactly I’m going with all of this. Right?


Dang, I must not be engaging enough today. Sheesh. Stroke a girl’s ego a little bit why don’t ya. This is our first kiss, and first kisses are scary!

My point is this…

If you don’t want your readers to run screaming in the opposite direction when you decide to get naked and engage them, you have to be WILLING to get naked and engage (metaphorically speaking of course). You have to be willing to write with honesty and authenticity. You have to be willing to sit down and have a conversation with your readers… one human to another.

Writing to engage people isn’t just about writing with the proper punctuation, using conjugated verbs, or avoiding fragmented sentences. It’s not about the technicality of writing it’s about the emotion of writing. It’s about the feeling behind the words you are sharing. It’s about connecting with your readers on some sort of emotional level, and making them want even more from you. Making them want to share things with you.

OK, fine… now you might be wondering how the frig you’re supposed to do that exactly. Well, glad you wondered! It’s really not rocket science, and the rules are pretty simple.

Here are my top 8.

You can also check out some more of the best writing advice. Ever.

  • Write to a specific person. Doesn’t have to be a real person, just has to be a specific person. Think of it like this. You wouldn’t write the same way to your best friend Peggy as you would to your Grandma Dot. You wouldn’t write the same way to your neighbor Jim Hanson as you would to your brother Fletch. Get specific about who you’re writing to and get on with it.
  • Write the way you talk. I’m not saying go all crazy and use a bunch of street slang and shorthand. But if you can’t read it out loud without stumbling and tripping everywhere then it’s probably not written in the same way you speak. Fix it.
  • Use simple language. Most people on the web have a grade school reading level. A handful will be at college level. Very few will be beyond that, so save that particular style of writing for the text books. Keep your writing simple and easily understandable, and it makes it easier for people to relate.
  • Tell a story, make it funny. Or heartwarming. Or motivating. Or some other suitably rousing emotion. The point is, stories engage and when you pair it with emotional triggers… you’ve got a winner!
  • Relate to your readers. Use words and language that lets them know you understand where they’re coming from and that you’re just as human as they are. They really like that. It’s when they start thinking you’re an alien that you should probably start to worry a little. Just a little.
  • Make it easy to read. Big fat paragraphs with long run on sentences send your readers screaming to people who DO know how to write properly. Break it up, use bullets, use subheads, even use occasional pictures to help break it up and engage your reader more.
  • Sleep on it. Don’t publish something at midnight, it’s a sure bet you’re slap happy and exhausted and that 10 mile long article on social prosperity is nowhere NEAR to being as compelling and engaging as you are currently deluding yourself into believing.
  • Finally, enjoy it! Write about what fascinates you. What you’re passionate about. Write about what you love. When you write about things that are important to you, it becomes clear to readers with every single new word they read, that what you’re saying is important to you. Therefore it becomes important to them!

There you have it. 8 ways to NOT repulse your readers and send them hot-footing it to the hills. How about you? Do you have any writer’s voodoo that you work on your readers to keep them hot for you and what you have to say? Are there any tidbits you can share with the rest of us on how you turn that first hesitant kiss into a full on make-out session? Do you have top secret ways to engage, engage, engage that you’re willing to come clean with? I’d love to hear them.

Warm regards,


Cori is a freelance ‘ghost’and the creative brains and dubious brawn behind her blog Big Girl Branding. She’d also like to note that ‘big’ does not mean what you think it means. It was meant to indicate being a grown up. Sigh… Of course you probably didn’t get that, and it totally loses its effect when she has to explain it. So I guess she’ll just have to put on her ‘big girl’ panties and deal with it. She’ll feel better about the whole misunderstanding though if you just visit her and say hello.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Summarises the aim of my writing pretty much. Just a shame I haven’t got there yet!

    Writing in this way is certainly one of the most important things to do. It separates you from the pack.

  2. Great ideas! Being real and honest is hard work. Thank you!

  3. Great post – the advice is definitely appreciated. After writing nothing but business communication, it’s tough to break out of that mindset so those are some great tips.

    I think I’ve been all over the map with who I’m writing for as I fumble my way through the first steps, so picking someone and sticking with that person as my audience is something I’ll immediately incorporate.

  4. Resounding post. Checks all the boxes; but suspect there are a lot of introverts on the blogs who play cool with full on engagement even with a preliminary warm up. Question of tailoring to audience?

  5. Here are my entire thoughts… I must have been a real scarecrow! :D Time for a writing style change!


  6. I fight the tug of war daily between trying to write less formally and feeling like I’m dumbing down my content. I haven’t quite struck the right balance yet, but I hope to get there soon.

    One tactic I’ve been using is mixing it up so that some posts are written with a bit of an academic tone and others are just me chatting, depending on the nature of the topic.

    I love the “sleep on it” suggestion. It’s saved me from putting out stuff I can’t be proud of on more than one occasion.

  7. I especially like the point “write to specific person”. It’s really useful.

    On my blog at first I wrote all posts like talking to myself. It wasn’t really good. Now, I write everything like talking to someone, explaining things. It’s definitely better! I can even see the result after a short period of time.

  8. I find that throwing a picture or two in the lot usually helps. It gives people a mental frame of reference about the piece you’re writing about. So… pictures are a great way to engage (also a great way to draw out emotional responses). I usually use a picture of two little people dressed up like clowns boxing.

  9. Telling a funny story about a personal experience that conveys your point is always a great way to engage your audience. Another good way to keep your readers engaged is to make it easy for them to read your post by using bold text or headers that make it easy for them to absorb meaning.

    Then an engaging and fun writing voice like yours is always a super plus!!
    Thanks for sharing these tips.

  10. Good advice.
    The most important thing to me is making something that sets your work apart from the masses. You have to be different. You can’t just churn out the same thing as everyone else and figure people are going to choose to read your blog over the hundreds of others with the exact same info.

  11. As an additional point I would stress the importance of regularly publishing fresh content. I took a few weeks away from my blogs when my son was born. I used to have plenty of subscribers and good engagement, but that break away sent me back to square one.

    If you stop publishing, your readers are going to think you have dissapeared and without fresh content they will abandon your blog – no matter how engaging your content was.

  12. “Not a single comment. Not a single Tweet. Heck, you couldn’t even get a lousy thumbs up! Can I get a ‘Amen’?”

    I can just imagine how many individuals experienced this first hand and pretty much said “what the (Fill In Blank)” , really, its the worst feeling in the world.

    “Write the way you talk”

    Very true advice, some of us write so darn perfect that it gets boring and non explosive, nothing like building up to the moment and then !!!!BOOM!!!!!. Keeps people come back for some more adrenaline.

  13. That’s called learining on example! Write engaging content? This was it.

    We learn as we go and I guess all of these points are what partly helps us create our style in the long run. That’s something we all have to really work on and it seems like starting from scratch when are starting a new blog or writing about a topic we haven’t written before.

  14. Hey All! Thanks so much for the comments, and so glad you enjoyed the post! :)

    @Ben…totally agree. And separating yourself from the pack is important because lets face it… redundant is a time waster. People can find redundant everywhere… much harder to find content that ‘speaks’ to them on some level. :)

    @Roman.. exactly! People often don’t really care so much about you. It’s like they say in ad copy… wiifm. What’s in it for me? Talk TO your readers, not at them if you want to develop any kind of rapport.

    @Kiesha… thanks so much for the compliment! ;) And you’re definitely right on all points… breaking things up, and bolding, using sub-heads, bullets, etc are all great ways to draw the eye and keep a reader engaged.

    @Surgery.. exactly. :) I’ve always been a little different. lol Think black leather pants and rainbow eyeshadow in high school, coupled with mountains of jewelry and you’ll get the picture!

    @Chris Too true! It’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but it’s also really important not to take it personally. The ‘Net is just so inundated with info sometimes it’s hard to make an impact without being overly sensational or really doing something to stand out from the crowd. And writing the way you talk draws people in rather than repelling them and making them feel excluded in some way because your trying so hard to be perfect. :)

  15. extremely true I went through that exact same process for years and it frustrated me almost to the point that I wanted to quit luckily I stuck in there and ended up with great results :)……

  16. I can totally relate to your thoughts here. Whenever I write a post that I know is more for informational purposes than something I am actually passionate about, it is like pulling teeth to get something on the page. But when I get on a topic that I enjoy, I usually ave to cut myself off because I know that a reader wont spend that amount of time on a blog.

    I also love the advice of writing to a specific person. I have written some of my best stuff in instant messenger conversations back and forth with friends. if I can convert that writing style to my blog, then I will be in business.

  17. Well I can relate to this very much. I think we all can. It felt like a Wednesday at the mall. No traffic. No shopping. Just you in your store. I’ve felt those days too. But now that more people are coming to my store it’s begging to look pretty popular.

    That’s how I can express my feelings of how my blog was, is, and will be the more I writing better and better.

    Thank you lady’s for the advice it was great.

  18. No kissing on the first date? Whoops…;)

  19. Being conversational is the only way I can write, which is a blessing in some ways but in other ways it is a hindrance. I would like to sound more business like so I can sell more and make more money.

    But, I am too laid back and relaxed for all that,

  20. Cori,
    GREAT advice. The suggestion of picking a person to write to is quite helpful. I give this advice to my 8th grade English students, but I haven’t thought of using it for my own blog. (DUH!) Thanks!

  21. I think the best piece of advice here is to write the way you talk. Most people try to go out and emulate the style of somebody else. AS Jonathan Mead told me “Be yourself because everybody else is taken.” Telling stories is key too. It always amazes me what posts do really well and which ones don’t.

  22. I wonder if this advice applies to blogs that are relatively newer. I have been blogging for over 4 months, consistently and have received few comments.
    And most of my posts adhere to the principles Darren has mentioned. However, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that when I blog, I am taking to nobody but myself.
    I wonder if you get more of a following as the blog ages and more and more people find out.
    If you have 1000 visitors who view a post and only 2-3% comment regularly ( thats about 20-30 people commenting..and its usually the same 2-3% that regualarly comment…IMO..I may be wrong )…
    However, if I only have 20-30 visitors viewing my blog, then for people to comment on it, my post would have to be EXCEPTIONAL or the percentage of commentators would have to be at least 5% for ONE person to comment.
    Does that make any sense ?

  23. Cori, you made that very easy to read and, dare I say, engaging. I think from now on I’m going to write naked. Or maybe just with chocolate close at hand. But anyway, I really enjoyed the post, and I’m bookmarking this for future reference. :-)

  24. Write the way you talk and write like you’re talking to one person. Great tip Darren! Telling stories make it unique to your readers will still educating them at the same time.

  25. @Joseph.. see? Persistence pays off! :)

    @DJ.. thanks hun.. it does help to be passionate and write to someone specific.. and when you find yourself running long, do what I do.. break it up into a series! ;)

    @Wilson.. excellent analogy! lol Like an empty store at the mall. :)

    @Ms. Freeman.. I think conversational style is important, but I don’t think it means you can’t write more professionally as well. It should depend entirely on the topic itself, and your audience. Knowing your audience is key, and sometimes laid-back sells just as well. :)

    @Srinivas.. agreed… It’s been almost a game with me, guessing which post or which headline will do the best or worst. lol I’m constantly amazed at what people respond to and what they don’t respond to. And definitely being yourself is key in anything you do, not just writing.

    @Jack.. thanks Jack.. glad you enjoyed the post! :)

  26. Very nice and helpful 8 tips. I often wrote at midnight. I ll have to change this habit..

  27. Going to make this required reading before any of my clients start a blog. thanks!

  28. Some good advice here.

    Writing like you talk is, as others have said, some great advice. More than that though I’d have to say relating to your readers means more than anything.

    If I came across a somewhat poorly written article that covered a topic I really was interested in, I’d probably still read it through unless it came off nonsense.

    I’ve looked at many blogs through comment links on ProBlogger, but I only stay around to read ones that I can relate to. Even if the blog covers a topic I’m interested in, but is either too basic or advanced I won’t stay because the content doesn’t pertain to my level of experience/interest.

    This all comes back to having a target audience, since you can’t please everyone. I’m rambling now though, so I’ll stop haha.

    Thanks for the article!

  29. I like your style of writing. It has a lot of energy in it!

    I do realize that after I finish writing an article, it would look perfect even if I had read it over 10 times. Usually I wouldn’t know what else to add. So now I make it a habit to be patient before publishing by taking a break. Reward yourself by going for a walk, playing with cats or whatever. After the few hour break, I’d notice that my article would have so much errors and so many points in my story that didn’t make sense. I would re-order my paragraphs to make the story sound better, take away whatever paragraphs that had nothing to do with the article, and add in a few ideas that gives it a good touch.

    I sometimes try to read out what I write, but sometimes I don’t because my family members would come in and they’d be wondering what in heavens I’m doing. But yes, its one of the best tips out there.

    About big chunky paragraphs, what I’d do is split them in half and add a question or two in between them to keep people focused on what I try to blabber about.

    Good job on this article, Cori! :)

  30. Cori I must say I appreciate the post but I was not compelled to visit your blog at first. Don’t take it personally, because I rarely do, I am stubborn and always look at as buying a product because of a commercial I saw. However, when I noticed that you responded to just about every comment, I was like damn, this girl is super serial and had to visit your blog. Great work Cori.

  31. That being said, why doesn’t pro blogger have a comment plug-in that allows for replies?

  32. @Business.. yes definitely avoid the late night writing! Unless of course you’ve happened to have slept all day and are nice and fresh!

    @Bonnie.. awesome, so glad you enjoyed the article! :)

    @Randy.. definitely knowing your audience is important. They tell you to ‘know your target market’ when you’re writing ad copy, but I think folks tend to forget it’s just as important on a blog too. Sure you might not always be selling something, but if your content isn’t resonating with the reader they’re not going to stick around… so know who you’re writing for.

    @Adib.. thanks so much for the kind words! And definitely, sitting on a piece for a day or so can never hurt. You get to return with it renewed, with a fresh eye and it allows you to see flaws and ways to polish it up even more. :) And LOL… just tell them you’ve gone crazy and have decided to talk to yourself! ;)

  33. Such perfect common sense advise, which is by the way what makes it very hard to do. Such is life! Thanks for the great reminders here, Cori!!!

  34. to tell them more jokes, perhaps?what I’d do is split them in half and add a question or two in between them to keep people focused on what I try to blabber about.

  35. Wow. I have bookmarked this page because it’s such good advice. And Cori, you are an excellent writer. I must admit halfway through the post I was thinking “She’s writing about engaging readers, she’s not engaging me at all here!” But by the end I was compelled to comment. Also love the description at the end.

  36. OK, whew… here goes!….LOL

    @Farnoosh.. Thanks so much Farnoosh! Glad you enjoyed the post!

    @abercrombie.. questions are definitely a good way to keep people engaged!

    @Ben.. Don’t give up.. trust me, 90% of people who fail in anything, fail because the gave up too soon. :)

    @Fun Mama.. it IS! LOL Totally agree on that one!

    @Joel… Thanks hun.. it can be hard sometimes switching from business communication to ‘blog talk’ but it’s very worthwhile in terms of the response you end up getting. :)

    @Nexi.. thanks glad you enjoyed it! I think that typically you will have a lot of blog lurkers no matter how hard you tailor to your audience… it’s just the nature of the beast, many folks online like to stay hidden. But the more you can keep at it, keep trying to engage them… the more likely you will be to coax them out of hiding!

    @Internet.. LOL Thanks Ed.. don’t fret, scarecrow isn’t so bad! But change is good. ;)

    @2 Cents.. excellent strategy.. the best thing with anything new you try is to test it and see how response increases or decreases.. I know it sounds ‘ad copyish’ but I’m an ad copy writer and a lot of the same principles apply to other types of content as well. :) And mixing it up can be a good thing, to both attract new readers and keep old ones on their toes.

    @Roman.. definitely so glad your seeing a difference there! :)

    @Remy.. agreed! LOL Pictures are definitely helpful in keeping readers engaged and looking for more. Two clowns boxing? LOL I’d definitely keep reading after seeing that!

    @Robert… yes, I agree regular posting is important..it’s something I struggle with myself! I’ve been sick all week, and so haven’t posted a thing.. it’s a battle but I’ve decided I’m going to pick a day to write several ’emergency posts’ so that if I find I can’t write one week, I have a back up! lol

    @Stella.. thanks so much! :) Learning as you go is definitely the path we all seem to be on. lol

    @Jillian.. LOL yeps.. I think we both have a ‘whoops’ there!

    @Joy… Isn’t it funny how we can give advice to the world and totally forget to take it ourselves? LOL

    @Harsh.. I think it’s more than just about your posts.. You need to be actively marketing your blog as well. If you write a ton of great content but don’t actively try to market your blog to others, it’s like setting up shop on a highway noone travels… noone knows you’re there. So pick a day every week to focus on your marketing efforts as well, and you’ll likely see an increase in reader engagement as well.

    @Michy.. LOL thanks so much hun! Writing naked WITH chocolate is even MORE fun. ;)

    @TheYoungLib… awww…thanks so much for visiting! :) I understand the resistance, but I’m glad you decided to stop by anyway, and thanks so much for the comment and kind words.

  37. thank God we are following all and I liked the concept of make it read like a story, thanks for the advice.

  38. Cori my dear – what a first kiss! I loved the article and am off to read your blog right now.

    It is great to find people with your sense of humour doing it for themselves.

  39. I am always editing my wife’s posts by removing contractions. Darn journalism class, but I always find contractions in print funny looking. Like the wife says, “Online media is a brave new world…time to rewrite old rules!”

  40. Great post as always Darren!

  41. Hey, Cori… great post. Couldn’t have said it better myself… and I’ll happily stroke your ego, anytime you like. ;)

  42. Thanks Cori! Great post. I’m a whopping 1 week into my career as a professional blogger and revel in a buck naked (emotionally naked peeps, get your mind out of the gutter!) and entertainingly helpful post. Keep it up!


  43. I’m trying to improve my writing style to write more the way I talk, but it is easy to get sucked into FORMAL mode.

    Thanks for this post – this has really pulled me back to earth by the scruff of the neck!


  44. You made me chuckle for no other reason than your words were speaking right to me. I kept saying “yep, that’s happened to me.” I am glad I’m not alone.

    The good news is that the more you write, the more you find your voice and your audience.

  45. Cori, you’re one of the most engaging writers I know! Thanks for the awesome tips. I loooooove the personality in your writing :)

  46. Nice work Cori hoping to run an idea by you SOON :)
    Digging your email newsletter Thanks

  47. Way to go Cori – you’ve started a new generation of naked writers! Hot dog!

    Of course that is a subjective term.

    “Writing like you talk” is a huge takeaway. If everyone wrote in corporate drone-speak (no offense intended, corporate dronespeak writers!), we would most likely discontinue reading…everything…not even the Sunday funnies…(gasps in horror…)
    Mr. Dithers: “BUMSTEAD! How are our synergies today?”
    Dagwood: “The philosophies of our institution stand firm to this day, sir!”


  48. I’m on the verge of becoming an “old fart.” That means a lot of things. First, I have to come to terms with being a greeter at Wal-Mart sometime soon-ish. Second, it means I have a lot of “old fart” sensibilities, and “I-can’t-seem-to-keep-it-to-myself” ideas. So to keep myself out of Wal-Mart and to keep my wife from smothering me in my sleep, I think I want to start blogging. I discovered ProBlogger today and your article says exactly what I think. Thank you! A little more confidence every day and I may get this thing going while I still have fingers that work.

  49. Very good article. It is interesting how sometimes you can pour your heart into an article and expect it to do rather well, only to see it flop. Whereas, sometimes those fast and furious blogs take off like wildfire. So, I think there is something about the author’s passion in their writing that is essential. Getting real, transparent, connecting with the audience.

    Thank you for reminding us with this wonderful article.

    Mark Parsec

  50. It was really interesting article and I am happy that I found this post. I have my own blog and I think I learned some tactics from here to make it better. Keep posting similar stuff.

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