Sometimes you see an article or blog post that grabs you and holds you by the throat. Other times you pass them by with very little interest at all. What’s the difference between a hit and a flop?
It doesn’t matter how brilliant or thoughtful your work is if your readers aren’t interested in sticking around to see what you have to say.
Hooking your readers from the very first line isn’t difficult if you consider the following factors:
Start with a great headline
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest […] Remember, every element of compelling copy has just one purpose — to get the next sentence read.
The same principle goes for blog posts, magazine articles, and non-fiction books. If the title doesn’t grab readers right off the bat, they’re gone.
Consider the difference between these two titles:
- The Readability of Articles
- How to Get Your Readers to Keep Reading
Which headline piques your interest?
Promise your readers something important
Some examples of recent headlines that have caught my attention are:
- Can You Write A Publishable First Novel? 8 Dos and Don’ts to Increase Your Chances. I loved this headline because (a) yes, I’d love to write a publishable first novel, and (b) I want to know what to do and what not to do in order to make that happen.
- 5 Ways to Make Your Novel Helplessly Addictive. If you can teach me how to make my novel helplessly addictive, I’m definitely going to be sticking around to find out more.
Headlines won’t capture readers’ attention if they don’t tell you what the content is about, or if they don’t promise the reader something they need/want to know.
Make your article scannable
List posts attract readers because they can be scanned for major points, and readers can then choose to read more about points they’re interested in. Use a different font for subtitles or list items to help make your articles scannable.
White space is also really important. No one likes to read huge blocks of text, especially on the internet. It’s hard on the eyes and makes you look wordy. Instead, break up paragraphs into smaller chunks.
No one’s perfect. We all write pieces that don’t quite hit the mark, but we’re more likely to hold our readers’ attention if we keep these guidelines in mind.
How do you get your readers to keep reading?
Today’s Challenge: After you choose a topic for your next piece of writing, ask yourself what you’re promising your reader. Then, before you begin writing, list ways you plan to deliver on that promise.
About the Author: Suzannah Windsor Freeman is the founder of Write It Sideways, a blog where writers learn new skills, define their goals, and increase their productivity. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits challenge.