Whether you are a professional writer, a student or a small business owner who prefers to tackle your own blogging and web content, you’ve probably read about the importance of making your writing “engaging” to your intended audience. Here are some tips to help you out:

What It Means

Let’s start by saying the word “engaging,” as we use it here, means to attract the interest of your target audience and keep it until you’ve gotten your message across or persuaded the appropriate action. An engaged audience is an interested audience, and in order to keep an audience interested, you must know the who you are writing to. 

Know Your Audience

Before you even write one word or create an outline, it’s important to know who you are creating it for. It’s always a good idea to write in a conversational style in the 2nd person, so it seems like you’re speaking directly to the reader.

Beyond that, the specific words you’d use writing an e-newsletter for orthodontists would be a lot different that the language you’d use in an annual report for automaker shareholders. By figuring out who you are writing to and using the language they use, the engagement factor will go up no matter what type of document you write.

Write for Readers & Skimmers

Within every audience, some people like to read the whole thing word for word and some prefer to skim. Unless the rules and parameters of what you write state otherwise, use headlines and sub-heads throughout your text to appeal to both kinds of readers.

By using sub-heads through the writing you draw the reader into the piece, and help guide him through without having to read every word. A high percentage of online readers like to scan, and using sub-heads effectively is a great way to indulge them, without bothering the ones who want to read it all.

Keep’em Short

You may have a lot of writing experience and a wide vocabulary to choose from, but just because you can use longer, more complex words doesn’t mean you should. Keep your words and sentences as basic as possible without affecting the meaning, and they’ll also be as engaging as possible.

Make It Active

As a writer, you’ve heard about the active and passive voice, and to keep your writing engaging, you’ll want to make it as active as possible. To do this, go over your work and modify sentences where the subject follows the verb. An example of this would be, “The bridge was jumped by the car” changed to “The car jumped the bridge.”

Watch those Adverbs

Overuse of adverbs is another way your writing becomes less engaging to the reader.  Adverbs are those words that modify verbs in your sentences. Many adverbs end in “ly” or “like.”

Removing adverbs also gives you another opportunity to use more active verbs in sentences. “He walked quickly to the boss’s office to correct his paper” is less engaging than “He bolted to the boss’s office to correct his paper.”

If you can follow these tips when writing your first draft and during the editing phase, you’ll find that everything you write becomes easier to read and your audience will stay with you right until the end.