How to Write Captivating Copy that Engages Readers
Do you ever wonder how your favorite bloggers get so many followers and why their work is so engaging? Do you know how to grab a reader's attention, get them focused and wanting to read more? What is it about your favorite author that makes him/her so appealing?
No matter what you write, whether it's a short story or ad copy, there are techniques you can use that will help pull your reader in and hold their attention. Once you know the point of your piece; you can learn to speak directly to your intended audience according to their learning style(s) and this will enhance your writing more than any “grammar book” ever will.
Know Your Intended Audience
If I am writing a recipe hub for example, my audience is going to be people who are looking for specific information on how to do something. They probably don't want to read an epic saga of my life, they just want to know how make a pie.
A 1500 word article to explain how to make a flaky pie crust won't hold my readers' attention Why? Most people who are doing a DIY project are tactile/kinesthetic learners who are not really avid readers. They want to get the information and then get started. For this type of person, you want to get to the point, keep it punchy and “active” to keep them engaged.
Product reviews can be a bit longer, so long as they are informative and not full of fluff. People looking for reviews typically want detailed, but still highly engaging information about a product they might want to purchase. This type of writing should appeal to all the senses and should be visual, auditory and tactile. When you are looking to make an investment; you are more detail-oriented.
With fiction, you need to hook your reader into the story right away. Appeal to all your reader's senses immediately to draw them in. Your writing shouldn't just tell what happens.
“John walked downstairs to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee.” … yawn, boring. Instead you want to engage the senses. “John walked fast, following the smell of fresh brewed coffee that cut through the crisp morning air.”
A quick example, but you can see how it is more interesting – it has action, movement and the use of senses. Chances are you relate more to the second example, because it gives you a sense of the experience.
You can do this with ad copy also – in fact, you see examples of this all the time. There is usually a backstory going on to pull you into the ad; you connect with it, because it has been designed to connect with you.
Before sitting down to write anything, ask yourself the following:
- What is the goal of my piece? (Is it a review? Are you solving a problem or answering a question?)
- Who is my intended audience? (someone needing a fast answer? Someone researching more in-depth information? Someone seeking entertainment?)
- Who will be reading? – what learning style are they most likely to have? (See more below)
Appealing to Readers Senses
Every one of us learns in different ways. We all use some blend of sight, sound and tactile/kinesthetic (hands-on/feeling) learning techniques. Most people will have one area that is highly dominant over the others, but everyone uses all three to varying degrees. The type of writing you are doing, and your audience, help determine what type of words to use in your work.
Writing for the Auditory Person
When you engage in a conversation with someone, you will notice if they are a more auditory person by how they respond. An auditory person will say phrases like “I hear you” instead of “I understand” for example.
When you talk or write about something that is geared to those who are more auditory, you should use a lot of words that appeal to that sense.
“She listened intently as he explained the process”.
“Quiet! He shouted in a booming voice. “I can't hear myself think!”.
"The silence was deafening."
Notice how this appeals to the auditory part of the brain. Chances are, as you read – in your mind, the mental voice got louder with the “Quiet!”
Writing for a Visual Audience
Then there are the visual people, those who primarily relate to the world by what they see. They will relate to the stories that are appealing to their mind's eye and need something that helps them visualize what you are saying.
“The leaves changed colors” is bland, but if you punch it up a bit –
“The leaves were the most vivid shades of red and yellow. As the sun began to set, she was entranced by the vision of leaves and sky that glowed like fire”.
Use visual descriptors in pieces you write that are designed for visual learners. This is great for writing reviews for example, since people can't actually physically see the product in detail, the better you describe the item, the more apt you are to get conversions.
In fiction of course, visual techniques are great for establishing settings and making a place come alive. You can transport your reader to a location in their mind, by carefully placed descriptive words.
The Tactile or Kinesthetic Approach to Writing
This appeals to those who learn by doing. It relies a lot on action words and a sense of motion and progressiveness to the writing. It is very useful for persuasive writing, because it directly appeals to the emotions and to a person's sense of urgency. In fiction, it's great for character development, allowing the reader to get an understanding of the mindset of the character.
A kinesthetic person will usually speak actively. Instead of saying something like
“I went to the store yesterday to buy items to bake a cake” The Kinesthetic person's words will convey more purpose, urgency and emotion.
“I ran to the store at the last minute to grab things to bake a birthday cake”
Tactile people bore easily with reading if it isn't exceptionally engaging and if the pace is too slow.
You can likely already see how this applies to a lot of direct marketing. In many ads, they appeal to a sense of urgency – they incite anxiety or a need to take action on purpose. If you are directed to take action; you are more likely to do it. Usually this is blended with good story telling or testimonials to appeal to all the senses.
Kinesthetic writing is also great in fiction, particularly when you need to heighten the plot or develop a sense of anticipation, etc. When you read a story that you can't put down, it's usually because of kinesthetic appeal - you can't wait to experience what happens next!
Practice Engaging Writing
The best way to practice these different styles is to take simple concepts or sentences and rewrite them in different ways. Use the word cues in this hub to make the sentences below more visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
- Sally has a test in her Algebra class today.
- John is taking the subway to his office building.
- This product is more expensive, but it works better.
Need more help? Try asking questions in your mind and then answering them as part of your description. Sally has an algebra test – so what? How does she feel? Is she nervous? Is she a math whiz? What does she see or hear? Is she having a conversation in her mind? Answering questions “who, what, why, how etc. can help you clarify the purpose of your writing.
The product that works best – What is it? What makes it pricier? Is it really worth the extra dough and if so, why?
So there you have a very basic explanation of the learning styles and how to appeal to them all with your writing. The most successful writers can engage all 3 simultaneously – not an easy feat! That's why the best copywriters make the big bucks of course! :)
When I read I like...
Words that sell is an excellent resource to keep handy while writing. Sometimes it's difficult to come up with just the right word that will add that extra punch to a phrase. This book is a copywriter's dream, but any type of writer will find it much more useful than a standard thesaurus. It was designed with the art of the hook and persuasion in mind.
Persuasive Content Creation
This excellent, in-depth video demonstrates how writing is used to create an emotional bond with our readers. This is from a marketing perspective, but it shows the fine art of writing that benefits both you and your readers.
In the end, that's what you really want, a way to connect with your readers and turn them into customers or fans. You want them to leave your website, ad copy, or book and say "hey, wow that really helped me!". These are the people who will help you grow and gain recognition as a writer and expert in your field.
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© 2013 Christin Sander