As a writer, there’s a command you must stick to: “Keep your readers interested”, and building a solid bridge between you and your readers will keep them engaged, and it’ll help you to create an audience.
Make it easy
Some time ago I was surfing the net. I was looking for some sound advice on writing non-fiction because I wanted to improve my craft, and I found a copy of William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well“. First published in 1976, the book’s been printed many times since then, an sold over a million copies.
William Zinsser offers no-nonsense strategies that all writers —fiction and non-fiction—can use, and one of the very first is that if a reader fails to understand your story or your article, it is your fault not his.
This made me think about the times when we’ve made it difficult for our readers to understand what we write, of the times that we have cut the bridges that make it possible to reach our readers. If you make it too difficult for them, your readers’ll leave you, and they’ll go and look for another writer who’s better at the craft.
Then, how can we make it easy for them?
Keep it simple
If I were to pick a single tip on how to keep readers engaged, I’d choose this: “Simplify”. We don’t need to use long, difficult words or tangled, obscure ideas to show the world how clever we are. What we need to do is to think clearly about what we want to say, and say it cutting all the unnecessary words until our ideas are neatly expressed.
Keeping our writing simple, however, isn’t easy. Few sentences come clean the first time and most of them’ll need rewriting. How much rewriting? As much as it’s needed until we can answer this questions:
- What I want to say?
- Have I said it?
- Is it clear for my readers?
Cut, cut, cut
Pompous, cluttered, strange senteces will annoy and bore your readers. We shouldn’t be afraid of taking our prunning shears and cut everything that doesn’t add to the clarity and simplicity of our stories.
We must look out for unnecessary adverbs (those -ly little bugs), adjectives that add nothing to the noun (a tall skyscraper), or senteces full of words (why saying that they’re experiencing precipitations on the Southern part of the country if we can say that it’s raining?).
Myself, I fight a personal battle against implement. Whenever I hear that new economic measures will be implemented to guarantee the wellbeing and prosperity of the country, I feel like emptying my bank account, grabbing my wallet and running away as fast as I can.
As writers, we have to show our true self to our readers using a language as clear and simple as possible. We are bridge builders.
( Beautiful sketch of a bridge by Pete Scully – https://petescully.com)