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9 common writing mistakes that repel your ideal readers
Our words can’t possibly please everyone.
When we write words online, our primary goal must be to resonate with the readers who matter the most.
And it doesn't make much sense to spend time and energy writing if it doesn't attract the attention and emotions of those with whom we want to connect.
They can be subscribers, buyers, potential clients, customers, fans, friends, and potential mentors.
Here's how not to send them away before they get to the end of what you have to say:
1. An uncompelling header or hook.
The first thing people tend to see when scrolling through their feeds, or checking their emails, is a header or subject line.
This is also known as the 'hook.'
This is your opportunity to grab someone's attention - the right person - before they get bored and move on.
It's as simple as that.
Your header needs to encapsulate a promise relevant to your ideal person.
What can you tell them that is tantalising and makes them want to click through?
If you can, include the problem you can solve, who it's aimed for, and why they need to read it now.
The header of this very article is a good example.
You can also check out hundreds of my other articles for more examples on my Medium.
2. Overcomplicating your meaning.
Often, we attempt to impress the reader more than is necessary to convey what we want to communicate.
We use complex words when simple ones will do. We write what we blurted out without truly getting it ourselves.
Read over what you write and make sure every word makes sense to you. Keep it simple.
You're not here to gain marks in English class, nor are you writing a complicated thesis.
Reduce your sentences to the bare essentials of what you need to say.
Read your words aloud, so they sound right to you and have a musicality that doesn't come across as awkward or jarring.
You are serving your reader precisely what they need.
They don't need to be confused.
3. Lack of relevance.
If you've ever read good writing that makes you feel emotionally connected, it is because the words are relevant to you personally.
Even if you're writing about your battles and experiences, the reader always interprets your words to be about them.
This is why there needs to be some consideration about how the reader interprets your words.
They will replace themselves as the protagonist in the piece.
The writing must, ultimately, serve your ideal reader's needs, desires and goals. As I said, you can't please everyone.
What do your people need to hear?
How can you tell your story so it speaks directly to your reader?
4. Poorly worded with mistakes.
I often suggest using a conversational approach to your written expression.
But shoddily crafted writing is a turn-off for most, especially if you want to attract a discerning and high-level reader.
This also detracts from the meaning and can confuse people. Cut out those spelling mistakes and tighten up that grammar.
Write freely to start.
Make mistakes when you're in the writing stage, but make sure it's tidy and crisp when it comes to edit.
5. Too broad.
A common mistake in all forms of writing is to try to cover too much.
Whether you're writing a tweet, thread, landing page, newsletter or book, there first needs to be a clear idea of the one point you're trying to make.
What's the one main problem you want to solve with your piece?
This is the foundational and pivotal point on which everything else hangs, even if your work is composed of several points.
This article, for example, is focused on this one point: how to keep ideal readers from a loss of attention.
Don't be afraid to narrow your topic right down. Trying to do too much is often a reflection of inexperience as a writer.
The best writers focus on a single point.
6. Communicating down to the reader.
Good writing approaches the reader on an equal plane.
Talking down to a reader will be met with resistance.
Much of this concerns whether you are telling people what to do instead of showing them using your stories and examples.
There is nuance here because I tell people to stop doing stuff all the time, but when I instruct, it's often done with a light-heartedness.
If you repeatedly tell people what to do in a dry tone, as though you are a school teacher or BootCamp instructor, the reader will push back, and they will want to do something else.
Write like a human, and in the spirit of collaboration, rather than talking down from a high horse.
7. Too dry.
Good writing awakens all the senses of the reader.
It's about more than just imparting information.
Your washing machine manual does that very well, but that's not what we're here for, is it?
Speak to the ears, eyes, touch, smell and taste. This isn't only reserved for fiction.
Allow the reader to play in their imagination.
You can do this by bringing in more stories, examples, vivid descriptions and other forms of wordplay.
Employing metaphors or analogies is also a great way to stir enthusiasm for your words.
8. Skirting the point.
People have limited time. You need to respect it.
Walls of text that float around the point are for dry books, not to-the-chase articles and most forms of shorter-form online writing.
Excellent writing serves the reader what they want and need on a plate without wasting their time.
Every word must count.
So know your point, and get to it quickly, or you will lose their interest.
All your examples and stories must serve their purpose instead of being tangential streams of thoughts like phantom limbs.
9. Lack of assertiveness.
People can sense your belief in the points you're making.
You want to avoid coming across as hesitant because you are the authority on the point you're making.
People want to be led.
Phrases like 'I think,' 'I'm pretty sure,' or 'Maybe' are far less likely to draw a reader in than words that demonstrate assertiveness.
Say it like you mean it, even if you aren't 100% sure.
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