There is plenty of great advice around for creating compelling blog content. We read it, but knowing something and doing it are two different things. The missing link is often understanding the why.
Why is great writing irresistible to your reader? And how to you do more of it? Here’s six tips from psychology for creating content your audience can’t resist.
Tip 1: Don’t write like a psychologist
It has taken me years to unlearn the habits of indecipherable academic writing. Dry, disinterested and difficult to read, it’s the opposite of clear communication.
“Your reader should be persuaded by the message. She should not notice the words” was the sage advice of a once-upon-a-time writing tutor. Good counsel that could be spread to better effect around university campuses methinks.
Tip 2: Elicit emotion
Use words that your reader automatically associates with an emotion. ‘Angry’ and ‘fearful’ describe emotions but ‘cruelty’ and ‘spider’ trigger real feelings. When we read our brains recognise and process each word, one by one. A neutral word elicits no particular response. An emotionally-charged word lights up part of the brain’s limbic system – the bit that triggers your emotions. What you feel you will often remember. Want to create memorable content? Use words that make your reader feel something.
Tip 3: Tell a story
Human beings are wired to look for meaning in everything we see – or read. In 1944, 34 college students were shown a short animated film of two triangles and a circle moving across a screen. When asked to describe what they saw, all but one interpreted the scene as a complex story complete with characters interacting with one another. There were fights and drama, scenes of innocence and rage. Nothing is without meaning to the human mind.
Enthral your audience with a story – a beginning, a middle and an end. Find something that matches their experience and creates a connection. You can keep it simple. Your reader’s brain will fill in the blanks.
Tip 4: Speaking of simple
The writing process is cognitively complex. To write well, you engage a lot of brain power. You’re focused on the bigger story or purpose of the piece while juggling the individual words and imagining how your reader will interpret it. All at the same time.
Keep your sentences short, your language simple and your point clear. You work hard to write well so that your reader doesn’t have to work at all. Reading should be seamless and painless.
The added bonus? Studies show that writers who use simple language are seen by readers as smarter and their work as more impressive.
P.S. To keep it clear, don’t forget to edit, edit, edit.
Tip 5: Imagine
The best way to connect with your audience is to give them what they want, but when you’re writing you can’t always ask. Your next best strategy is to use your imagination to connect with what they want to read, not what you want to say.
Understanding another person’s intentions, goals and beliefs is known as Theory of Mind. Imagining their feelings is empathy. Both are uniquely human skills. Before you lay finger to keyboard, sit and ponder your reader, her interests, her problems, her challenges and her dreams. Sit in her skin and imagine her life and experience. Now go ahead and write what she wants to read.
Tip 6: Practice
Becoming an accomplished writer is a lifetime’s pursuit. Writing what you know for your benefit can be done by the time you’re 25. Conveying what you know for your reader’s benefit takes a lot longer. Practice is the key, so go forth and write!
Ellen Jackson from Potential Psychology is ProBlogger’s psychology expert and a specialist in how people work. She writes, teaches, coaches and consults to organisations across Australia. Ellen can teach you everything you need to know to be happy at work and in life.