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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. Point #7 has helped me on numerous occasions

  2. Bravo, Cori! What a great read; you nailed everything you suggested other writers do. And don’t get me started on the chocolate and ice cream caper. I totally relate! Excellent piece, very entertaining whilst also being informative.

  3. Very *engaging* post with excellent tips! A big thumbs up to each and every one.

    Sorry to be cliche, but i find that “practise makes perfect” applies to blog writing as well. The more i keep at it, the better i seem to get. That’s not just me blowing my own horn – looking back over my trail of blogprints the reading has definitely become more enjoyable with time. And i would say that my (slowly) increasing number of Followers bears testament to that too.

    I’ve also been in that place where it seems that you’re the only person in the blogosphere actually reading your blog. But something else i discovered is that after finding yourself in that lonely position for quite some time, you actually feel quite liberated.

    You suddenly realise that you CAN write absolutely anything you want to, because no-one else is reading it anyway. So what if your opinion is not quite PC or mainstream? You’re the only one being exposed to it.

    That’s when you really start writing your best, most honest content and you’ll discover that people actually want some colour in a black and white world.

  4. If you’re at all inclined to write, the easiest thing to write is a letter to your sweetheart. You use all 8 rules and don’t have to force any of them.

  5. Excellent article…as a blossoming blogger, i often do find it hard to engage my users. Maybe it comes with the fact that I cover mostly SEO, but I’m sure that I could use some work on reader engagement.

  6. Being who you are is the critical step when you are writing. People look forward to hearing a certain voice each day. If you can become part of their daily “coffee” routine, then you can keep a customer for life.

    I definitely like the part where you explain that you can’t be bland or boring. When I have some interesting fact that I want to share, I try to fill it in with something funny or a personal story.

    People remember stories well, and it usually only takes one telling, because we think in pictures and not abstract concepts.

    Great post.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

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

    This really resonated with me and whilst I tell myself that I must write good content and build up traffic, which I am, I must also be more engaging if I am to build community.

    Thanks for the kick,


  8. debra says: 03/06/2010 at 3:50 am

    Hi Darren!

    My beginning in writing started with journalling. I had lots of things to express, but couldn’t get the pen to paper. The block ended when I created an audience by writing to someone by giving my journal a name and writing letters to the name. Over the years, my developing spirituality caused a re-direct, and they were my letters to God. It overflowed into creative writing: at least feeling my audience helps get the pen to paper and thoughts out there.

    Also, I find it interesting in my experience that I can recreate reports with ease, but creative writing loses it’s sense of immediacy if I try to recreate it again. May be there is a key to engaging writing in that personal observation that can help someone else.

  9. @Dave..Thanks so much hun! So glad you enjoyed the post. :)

    @Rick.. Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post!

    @Aaron…Hee…that’s my style..grab you by the scruff of the neck and shake ya till you get it! ;)

    @Dave G.. LOL I like it! The Naked Writers Generation N! And totally agree… corporate speak can get a bit bland.. luckily I don’t work for a corp! ;D

    @Jenn.. awww..thanks for stopping by hun! You’re no slouch yourself, you’re one of my favorite mentors! Heck I started this writing stuff because of you! LOL XoXo!

    @John Sullivant… Thanks John, glad you’re enjoying my stuff.. you know where to find me! ;)

    @WAHGO.. Awesome! I LOVE it when that happens! lol And too true.. I’ve progressed a ton since I first started not so long ago… practice makes perfect!

    @Kristen.. LOL Thanks Kristen.. we naked chicks gotta stick together eh? Congrats on biting the bullet and going after what you want, I’m sure you’ll do phenomenally well… fyi took a peek at your blog.. I like your style as well.. :)

    @Caliban.. HAA!! LOL Thanks hun for stopping by and showing some love.. appreciate it much! ;)

    @IPBrian…LOL..that’s funny! She’s right, it’s a brave new world.. throw out the old, in with the new!

    @Gina.. Thanks so much Gina, glad you enjoyed it! Mnn..chocolate and icecream… two words that melt my heart!

    @Kaushik.. that is awesome! I hope you find some use for the other suggestions as well. :)

    @Pandora.. Thanks so much Pandora! So glad you enjoyed it and found it useful.. I’m sure you’ll do killer on your own blog. :)

    @Darylhb.. excellent comment, and totally agree on all points.. it’s definitely important to be you, as people respond more to that than some persona you invent just to ‘look good’. :) Thanks so much for stopping by.

    @Mark.. aww..thanks so much Mark! :) Definitely, I find it funny sometimes, noting which articles seem to do really well, and which I expect to do well, fall flat! LOL And what’s funny? I wrote this one late at night like I advise NOT to do, and it went rather fast… LOL But luckily I sat on it for the night before I submitted it, otherwise there might have been some rambling and a few typo’s! ;D I guess because it IS a topic I love to write about, it came through loud and clear, which I’m grateful for.

    @Kirk..LOL.. OK, just on your comment alone, YOU definitely need to get your butt in gear and start blogging. I can see I’d enjoy reading you already, so stop waiting around for Wally-Mart to come a knockin’! :)

    @John.. True! Good idea, I’ll have to try it sometime. Although my sweetheart would laugh if I said I was blogging just for him! LOL

    @Jacob.. Definitely Jacob.. SEO is a pretty tough topic at times, but you could definitely lighten it up and make it more engaging for readers.. make it fun to learn. :)

    @Joshua.. thanks so much Joshua! And you nailed it.. stories do get people for that very reason.. the same way children remember moments and feelings rather than actual events.. I think for someone to remember something it has to connect emotionally with them in some fashion.
    Wow.. sorry for the delay in responding boys and girls.. woke up this morning with an email box full of wonderful comments! How killer is that?!

    Unfortunately I’ve been a bit sick all week, so not as fast as usual..but here goes!

    @Adrian Swincoe… Thanks so much Adrian..definitely work on engaging your readers, not just talking at them and you’ll do great I’m sure.:)

    @Debra.. thanks so much Debra, glad you enjoyed it. :) I think with creative writing it’s hard to create the same thing more than once.. Invariably the new versions don’t measure up somehow to the orginal, or perhaps it supercedes it.. but it nevter really repeats it no matter how hard you try. Thanks for commenting!

  10. I struggle with content all the time. Gaining new inspiration ideas come by the millions, but you have to focus your efforts by reading “inspiring” blog posts like yours. Your article’s tips are very appropo. Keeping on the cutting edge in “interesting” and “engaging” is hard to pin down. Sometimes the definition of a word (or blog) strikes the reader with curiosity. Artfully worded titles fit nicely into engaging your readers. This blog http://www.edparton.com/blog is an exercise in variety. There are several categories of stories and links which lead the reader into new areas of the Internet. Exploring and surfing for new content or just plain fun ideas are enchanced by the edparton blog’s pictures, lists and top 10’s. One is sure to find something of interest and learning is a distinct possibility.

  11. Awesome Post! I normally like to add to the conversation and value, but I really have nothing to say, the article speaks for itself.


  12. Some solid tips there … but I never understood the advice to “write the way you talk.” Adopting a conversational style is just that — another way of writing that you have to learn and practice in order to execute well.

    As for conversational writing, yes, certainly — if you can pull it off. We’ve all read chatty obnoxious pieces that adopt a bogus familiarity with the reader.

    Unlike your post, which is lovely and kind of hot.

  13. @William.. Thanks so much William! At a loss for words… I’m cool with that, job well done! LOL :)

    @Glenn…LOL.. hmn.. thanks Glenn! I think. :) Appreciate you taking the time to comment, and I agree that sometimes you can go overboard in being ‘conversational’. Again it’s that whole practice makes perfect thing, and experimenting with a style and tone of voice that works for you and your readers. Great point!

  14. Wonderful, eye opening post Cori! Your writing style gave your article a vivacity that carried me through, like I was riding a wave. So I’ve decided: I want to be like you.

    After reading your piece, I realize how dull my posts can be: “We did this. And then we went here, etc.” Well, maybe not that dull–but my writing could use a serious infusion of B12, or Ginseng; I forget, which one give you energy and sparkle?

    Thanks for the inspiration and fab tips!

    (ps: I love how you sign off: ‘warm regards’–quite engaging!)

  15. Yes! I absolutely agree with you that we really need to write the way we talk. And we need to make our writing as simple as possible so that many people can understand it. Thanks for your sharing! I really find it useful!

  16. @Kristin.. Lol..I think it’s Ginseng! Maybe. :) Thanks so much, so glad you enjoyed the post! Riding a wave… I love that analogy and glad I could facilitate it!

    @KS Chen.. You’re very welcome! So glad you find it useful, have a killer day!

  17. Cori, I’m trying to imagine the “black leather pants and rainbow eyeshadow in high school, coupled with mountains of jewelry” LOL!
    Looks like you’re getting a great response to your awesome post. ^.^

  18. @Jolly.. thanks for the comment hun! I agree focus is key when trying to write great content.. taking inspiration and drilling down to something spectacular. :)

    @Marie.. Hey! Thanks for stopping by hun! :D Yes, I was quite the goth/rainbow girl. lol Sad thing is that I hardly took any pictures back then, so I’ve got very little proof! LOL

  19. 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.

  20. Hi Cori,

    This is a great read and very informative. We are looking to put a blog up on our site SevenFigureBlueprints.com so this is going to be very useful for us.

    We’ll be sure to take your advice on board.

    Thanks again!

  21. One more thing:

    Readers can tell when you’re trying too hard to generate community. Rome wasn’t built in a day and no matter how many times you say it there are always gonna be people who want rewards NOW. There

    What works:
    Humor. Authenticity. Honesty. Being bold. And not being perfect. People generally hate people who appear too perfect. These are far more important than asking a question and waiting for a comment to pop up in your inbox.

    People are naturally mistrustful of blogs that don’t have comments and/or bloggers who don’t show a personal side of themselves. Be bold and they’ll be back. Your job is not to be liked your job in blogging is to be admired.

  22. @abercrombie.. definitely! Perserverence wins everytime my friend. :) Even when it hurts to perservere!

    @Dom.. You’re very welcome Dom, so glad you found it useful! :)

    @Blog Your Passion.. agreed. I’m guilty of the ‘want it right now’ mindset on occasion but I think as I’ve grown older it’s been tempered a bit by the knowledge that anything too easy ain’t worth having to begin with. :) Of all the wonderful things in my life that I value the most, not one of them came easy. So that’s something folks should chew on now and then when they feel like something is just too hard or taking too long to see results. Thanks for commenting!

  23. Haha i love the title very creative. You have to create good content. Spell right along with knowing how to make good content. If you cant write, hire somebody.

  24. @Killer.. Hee.. thanks hun. :) Glad you enjoyed it and totally agree. If you can’t write or don’t like to write, outsource it to someone who does, even if it’s not me! ;)

  25. Ahhh yes, I must admit I’ve been guilty of the midnight post, only to have to take it down and fix it on rereading it the next day. Another great post, thanks

  26. @Martin.. Thanks hun, glad you enjoyed it! :) It’s definitely always a good idea to sit on it for bit.. revisit with a fresh eye! lol

  27. So I used your encouragement, Cori, and took the step! Check me out at http://www.zerostupid.com
    Thanks!!! <3

  28. @Kirk.. Ha!! That is awesome! Love it, and love the domain name, very catchy. :D Can’t wait to see future posts, keep me updated! :)

    One recommend, your post area is very narrow, which crunches your paragraphs together and makes them looonngg. IE hard to read. So consider breaking them up even more, into just a couple sentences perhaps. :)

    Excellent work, keep it up man!

  29. One certainly is to give a good topic and warm at this time. They’ll love it

  30. These are some good tips. If anything, they help me to realize that I am not alone when I write something that nobody comments on. One could also review more successful blogs to find writing styles that hold a large audience.

  31. @Tim.. thanks, so glad you enjoyed it! :) And definitely studying other successful blogs could be a huge help to make your own a success. I’m a firm believer that modeling successful people catapults you to success yourself.

  32. I found it rather funny when I realized that my hesitant beginnings were not quite me. I changed to, taking a big gulp and writing like I was talking to a friend and it does indeed change the whole ‘mood’. Great tips you have shared! :)

  33. It’s so hard to get into that emotional writing place when you are sometimes writing about technical content or really specialized content! Thank you!!

  34. @Gin.. thanks hun, so glad you enjoyed it! :) And yes, it does change the whole tone of a piece when you write conversationally. :) Glad you found it helpful!

    @Multi.. yes I understand. If you can learn to inject a bit of humor into it, and to break it down into somewhat simple language, I find that it’s much easier to engage readers even on somewhat dry topics. :)

  35. Clicked through your website to this post because I saw the word “naked.” (admit it, guys, so did the rest of you!). Glad I did, even if the promise of WriteSyntax nudity wasn’t fulfilled. I enjoy your conversational tone, and the humor that you bring to the topic.

  36. I was intrigued to read your article. it gives sense, no wonder you pull the crowd. I have gained something that I can use to be a good writer!

  37. @Cyber.. LOL.. freakin’ boys. :) Thanks hun, glad you enjoyed the post! Appreciate you dropping by and leaving a comment. :)

    @Charles..Thanks Charles, so glad you enjoyed it and found the info useful!

  38. You raise a lot of questions in my head; you wrote a good post, but this post is also thought provoking, and I will have to ponder it some more; I will be back soon.

  39. Cori,

    I think I’m going to print this and post it next to my computer to read before I write. I have a bad habit of devolving into a sort of long-winded absent-minded-professor type in person and when I write. It’s something I’ve been working on. Truly, I believe it comes from fear of exposing what I really think and feel (big words, and sweeping statements of fact are much more impersonal and, in my mind, safe).

    I’m going to work on this, not just for my writing as I get prepared to launch a brand new blog, but for my interactions with friends, family, and eventually, hopefully, business partners and co-workers. Saying and/or writing what you really think and feel is darn scary…but to be good at writing you have to over come that.

    Thanks for sharing this, Cori, it impacted me in a big way.

  40. @Dawson.. aww..thanks so much hun! So nice to hear that the post resonated with you so much! It’s definitely better to step outside of your comfort zone, and say what you really think and feel rather than trying to hide behind big words and superfluous ‘junk’, so good on you for recognizing you need to improve in some areas and working for it! Thanks so much for the comment!


  41. Hey, Cori! Well, I’m about a month in, and I kinda like the feel now. Finally posted on my FB page about it. We’ll see. Don’t know where I’m going from here or how to get there. baby steps! Thanks for the encourage!!! Give me some thoughts if you get the time!

    <3 Kirk

  42. Hey Kirk! It’s looking good man! :) Read through some of your posts, good stuff! I’d suggest sitting down with yourself and deciding what your ultimate goals are with your blog, so you can begin mapping out some sort of plan of action. Figure out where you’re going, so to speak. :) But I think you’re off to a great start and I love your ‘voice’, so I’m sure it will begin growing before you even know what to do with it! lol

    Keep me posted!

    Warm regards,

  43. Hi Cori,

    Your command of the English language is commendable. What I like the most about this original post is that your tips are not based on some theory, your article is living proof of those tips in action.

    Would really appreciate your take on the text I’ve use on my homepage, if time permitted.

    Looking forward to learning more from you,

  44. Hey Paul! Thanks so much! :) I appreciate the kind words and so glad you enjoyed the post.

    I’d say the quality of writing on your page is great, and you definitely have a way with words. :) The only thing I’m a little unclear on is the purpose of your page… is that an about me page?

    Are you trying to tell people why they should hire you to help them improve themselves? It’s a little murky, so I’d work on clarifying what you’re trying to do with your words, in that instance. :)

    Hope that helps some.


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