We know how some writers have the ability to grab the reader’s attention attention with the very first line, and then hold on to it for the rest of the piece. Then, there is another class of writers whose very first line makes the reader yawn.
Whether a piece of writing will grab the reader’s attention, or bore him, will depend, to some extent, on the subject being written about. There are, however, a few simple things that you, as the writer, can do to make sure that the reader can’t help but be enthralled by your words.
1. Make sure you make no spelling mistakes. A spelling mistake is a big turn off for the discerning reader. As soon as the reader comes across a spelling mistake, he wants to stop reading at once. If it is a blog post, we are talking about, it won’t take him long to click on the little “x” button on the top right. Using a spell checker is one easy way to take care of the problem. These days most word processors have good spell checkers, and even a few browsers come with inbuilt spell checkers. The risk with a spell checker, however, is that you might type out a wrong word, but with the right spelling, and it won’t show as a mistake. A program can be very good, but, for the present, it can’t replace a human. So, do read your piece at least once before you hit that submit button.
2. Good punctuation makes for great reading. Punctuation marks are like spices. Too much, and you can’t swallow your food. Too little, and the food tastes bland. So, try to ensure that you use the right amount to make your food finger licking delicious.
3. Know your grammar, and use it accordingly. This is one area where I falter at times. As a kid I never paid any attention to grammar. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my English books. It’s just that I didn’t think I needed to study grammar. After all I was acing the exams without studying it. Now, I feel, that it is very important to know your grammar and use it appropriately. Improper use of grammar can make it difficult for the reader to understand what you are trying to say.
Those were the fundamentals, now let’s move to the trickier parts!
4. Write unique content. You will find these three words on every site that claims to make you a better writer, or a better blogger. Though these words have been over used, they are still relevant. If you can write unique content, you can even afford to make some spelling, punctuation, or grammatical mistakes. The mistakes will still bother the reader, but you are producing unique content, and the reader will be interested to know what you have to say.
5. Use real life examples. When you are trying to explain something to the reader, try to use examples from everyday life and relate them with the subject you are writing about. I am sure posts with titles like “What My Dog Taught Me About Writing” never fail to capture the reader’s imagination. If you have read any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, I am sure, you must have noticed how his use of real life examples underlines the point he is trying to put across.
6. Avoid long sentences. Sometimes the thought process gets the better of the writer, and the sentences he writes become as long and winded as his thoughts. This can be rectified by revising the writing, and breaking down the longer sentences into shorter ones. It is however even better to change the structure of your sentences every now and then, so that your sentences don’t become monotonous. Don’t do it too often though – a bump or two during a long ride help you stay awake and alert, but too many bumps tire you out and make you want to take a break.
7. Understand your audience. It always pays to remember that you are writing for your readers, not yourself. So, write in a language and a tone that your readers can understand and appreciate. You are not writing to show off your knowledge (you can always get a PhD for that), you are writing to share your ideas and thoughts with your audience. It is about them, not you, and you should always remember that.
These are the seven points I can think of at the moment. What do you think a writer can do to make his writing interesting?