Disgruntled Readers: 4 Tips on Why Your Writing Isn’t Connecting With Readers
Kazuo Ishiguro, 2017’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, and someone whom I profoundly admire, had this to say about his writing. “One person writing in a quiet room, trying to connect with another person, reading in another quiet – or maybe not so quiet – room. Stories can entertain, sometimes teach or argue a point. But for me the essential thing is that they communicate feelings”. Once all is said and done, the words we put into writing are simply a way for us to be understood.
To connect with readers is a cliche, but it is a cliche for the basic reason that it is true. The New York Times’ Modern Love column, Jerry Maguire’s 25 page manifesto, this short sentence a 10-year-old girl left on her 3DS about bullying, every single time we put pen to paper, we did it with the very simple hope that someone in a quiet room somewhere would read it and understand just what is it we’re trying to say. Even in content marketing, this connection should be the first thing you’re striving for.
The marketing connection
Building a connection through your writing doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a good writer. Plenty of writers out there carve out a career for themselves simply by speaking in a language their readers understand. That’s why you’ve got different kinds of medium and genres serving different demographics. If you’re seeing that your writing simply aren’t making any waves with readers, it could be simply because you aren’t speaking in a language that’s familiar to them.
Writing, as with any art form, is inherently subjective. What works for one person or a group of people might not work with others. More often than not, it’s more about the style of the work instead of the quality itself. That being said, there are things that I consider to be simply verboten when it comes to writing, which are:
- A lack of personality
This forms the core of the connection you have with your readers. Every business need to ensure their readers that there’s an actual, emotional human being behind the corporate speak. This is why storytelling has gained quite a bit of traction in content marketing, crafting an actual narrative is a surefire way of appealing to a person. After all, who doesn’t like stories?
The tricky thing is when we’re dealing with a technical article as there’s not much personality to be had with numbers and statistics. This is when you, the writer itself, has to pick up the slack. Insert a pop culture reference, a personal anecdote or even a joke if you’re feeling confident, anything to remind the readers that these particular words they’re reading is coming from an actual person. Do take care to not put too much of yourself however, too professional is boring but too personal can be off-putting.
- The use of purple prose.
Let me give you an example. Desiring to be liberated from this numbing stupor reality has impaired me with; I decisively pushed the circular dial attached to the rectangular apparatus sitting in my chamber. As I’m washed with the familiar hum of the machine coming to life, I readied myself to be transcended into a world unbound by the ennui of the physical realm. Translation: I was bored so I turned on the computer to play some video games.
That’s an example of a purple prose, a needlessly and deliberately ornate choice of words used to describe an otherwise mundane occasion. I mean I get that as a writer, you’d want to exercise some of that creative muscles every now and then just to show the world how good of a writer you are but do that only in moderation. Remember, the idea is to connect with your readers and let’s just say that showing them that you’re a narcissistic, conceited writer isn’t what I would call a good start.
- Too much rambling
Longform contents are especially prone to this. Before you start writing, you need to clearly define the scope of your subject and prepare an outline of how your writing is going to look like. Do you need one or two opening paragraphs? How many section is this piece going to consist of? Are there any bulleted/numbered lists in there? If so, are there going to be a description on each point? Last but not least, is the piece in question completely fits the title?
Those are just some of the questions you need to have an answer for before you start writing the first sentence. And even when you’re done with your writing, take time to read it again and edit as necessary. If a particular line could be removed from the piece without any impact on the piece itself, ask yourself why it was there in the first place. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, putting in a personal touch here and there is my MO as well but again, everything needs to be in moderation.
- A lack of readability.
This particular advice probably applies more to me than it does to you. Complex sentences and long-winded paragraphs are my Achilles’ heel. Not surprisingly, 40-word sentences with 6 commas aren’t actually a hit with readers and neither does a paragraph consisting of 3 of such sentences. It’s not just about composition, typos and grammatical errors can seriously impact readability as well, and so can purple prose and excessive rambling.
The problem with this is that you aren’t exactly a good judge of your own writing. Again, having an editor would work well with this but luckily; technology has progressed to a point that there are tools available across the Internet that could help you with this. Grammarly for example is a comprehensive tool covering spelling mistakes and readability score while specific tools like Readable.io deals mainly on readability. None are available for free however but the improvements they offer are quite substantial.
In a world where multimedia offerings like YouTube, Instagram and Netflix are readily available, connecting with people simply by the use of the written words is hard but far from impossible. The rise of content aggregators like Pocket and Longreads certainly point to a society still enamored with excellent journalism and writing in general. The keyword here is the word excellent. Only the cream of the crop gets the VIP treatment and avoiding the pitfalls listed above should help you in achieving that status.