How to keep readers engaged for 500 words or more

by Stratton Craig

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Coming from a journalistic background, I understand the temptation to show off all the hard work you’ve done in compiling a piece of writing. You may have spent hours researching evidence to support your arguments or inform your opinions. Perhaps you’ve put in time arranging interviews, then speaking with experts, then rounding out your information with academic studies and any pre-existing content on your subject. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had three-to-four times the number of words in notes compared with my finished product.
When you’re writing informative content – no matter what your intended platform – your purpose is to enrich people’s lives with knowledge they didn’t previously have. You’ve scrawled the world’s resources for up-to-the-minute information so your readers don’t have to; so leave your ego at the door and remember the value of summary. People are time-precious and fact-hungry. The way to draw them in is to lead with your biggest revelation.
You’ll need to provide justification, of course. Try to make your evidence compelling. Where possible, draw on everyday scenarios or case studies your readers can relate to. You can’t simply expect your reader to understand why your content is important – instead, show them just how applicable it is to their lives. Think about your audience with every word you write.
Top tips for writing to stimulate
Once you exceed three or four paragraphs, consider using subheadings to break up copy and focus your reader’s attention. Thinking about feature writing in terms of sub-sections is also a valuable way of adhering to the purpose you set out to achieve. How does each section relate to your objective? Does every new paragraph build on your point?
It can also be helpful to think about the way your copy looks. If you have several long paragraphs, you may overwhelm your audience from the outset. Pictures, lists, charts or box-outs highlighting top tips or key facts can be an effective way of summarising your best ideas while giving your reader a break from more monotonous formats.
Even within conventional paragraphs you can add variety by writing sentences of different lengths and incorporating new punctuation. Become familiar with the semicolon; it is a great way of adding supplementary detail or creating rhythm when writing out lists that contain commas. Don’t shy away from hyphens, either. They’re most effective for inserting interesting but unnecessary information – like a bizarre example or interesting fact you found during your research – or adding emphasis to a particular point.
Come to an inspiring close
Once you’ve successfully held your reader’s attention for a sustained period, it is crucial you end with a bang. Your closing sentence should make your reader feel something: happiness, desire, anger, intrigue, anything. That’s the beauty of words – they are like long-reaching fingers that can poke, tickle and punch readers the world over. Now that power is in your hands, what will you do with it?
“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” – Aldous Huxley 
Stratton Craig writers are linguistic radiologists. Tell us your message and we’ll beam it out in highly effective lasers (sentences). Find out more about our copywriting services.

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