Publish Insights 18 December 2021
By Kevin RR Williams
Value The Reader’s Time
Hours of preparation can go into 4 minutes of pleasure. When someone reads your writing, it is an investment of their time. The feeling upon completion should be that it was time well spent. A popular statement of dissatisfaction from The Simpsons populates internet comment boards: “You took 4 minutes of my life and I want them back!”
Readers are not paying you by the word (even if an editor does). Unless you are writing a novella, make each point in an interesting manner and then get out of the way. Needless details do not pull readers in. They pull eyelids down. Readers are more generous with three minutes than nine. Site visitors make few exceptions for lengthy articles. Most visitors have become proficient skimmers.
Exceptions For Long Web Articles
- Comprehensive product review
- Describes important procedure
- Clinical research study results
- Legal ramifications for omissions
- Monetary benefit to reader
- Details improve reader’s health
- Very important topic for audience
- Chapters of novella or novel
Even with valid reasons for lengthy articles, explanations should be clear. Avoid complex sentences as much as possible. Someone is not going to waste minutes re-reading a complex sentence three or four times to comprehend it.
Effective repetition is a memory aid. Needless repetition is an irritant. Repeat keywords, but not in successive sentences unless you use synonyms. Create a rhythm with short and longer sentences. Vary methods of constructing them. Where possible, write a story with a theme.
How To Tell a Story
Each publication has it’s own audience and editor. So one style of writing may not work for everyone. As an editor, many guest submissions arrive in my inbox. Even ones that are grammatically correct can fail to deliver an engaging story. Storytelling is not easy to fake. There is an art to it.
You must think in word pictures. Build scenarios in the minds of readers. To do this, go beyond the facts and speak to a specific audience. On a variety of topics, here’s an example of what I see too often:
People can like sharp knives. Knives can come in different lengths. Some knives can be short. Some knives can be long. Short knives can be shorter than long knives. My knife is sharp. You can have a sharp knife.
Sharpen Your Writing Skills
Such redundant monotony can go on through hundreds of words. Let’s dissect this script. Is it factual? Yes. Is it grammatically correct? Yes. Is it informative? Not so much. Does it speak to a specific audience? No. Does it draw you in with any purpose? No.
With six cans there is almost a separate one to hold each knife. You might be wondering if this writer has a knife fetish or plans to cut you up. The reading is monotonous, repetitious, and boring. Let’s try again:
I want to tell you about a knife that I bought three years ago. It is still the sharpest one in the drawer. This non-serated blade cuts paper-thin tomato slices without any effort. When you learn how easy it is to maintain, you will want to buy at least two lengths for your kitchen.
Every manufacturer sells knives that are sharp when you first use them. But they often dull within a few weeks. How many dull knives are in your kitchen drawer right now?
With perfect balance, hefty German knives can maintain an edge. They are great for chopping fibrous veggies or cutting through sinews. Razor thin Japanese knives are ideal for thin-slice sushi. The knife I have been enjoying for three years combines the best of both worlds.
Two of these knives cost less than one of the high-end competitors. To maintain sharpness, the pair comes with a simple-to-use device. Within 20 seconds, each edge is as good as new. And I have only had to use the device twice a year!
This introduction is longer. So good writing involves more than brevity. Meaningful sentences increase reader interest. The purpose of the sample article is clear from the beginning. A personal testimony supports the narrative.
The description draws in an individual who is unhappy with kitchen knives. Your mind is now wondering: What is the accompanying device and how much does a set cost? (If you sell such a knife set, this is an excellent page for a banner ad.) How is so much possible? By telling a story. When doing so, aim to instill the reader with confidence.
Reading good literature helps you to become a great storyteller. This marinates your mind with greater vocabulary and a variety of ways to make points stand out. The Proverbs of Solomon is the literary work of a genius who uses metaphors along with parallel and contrasting thought poetry. Its 31st chapter is an acrostic contribution. For a memory aid, you may garnish your evocative literary masterpiece with alliteration—like this article title.
Cut Unnecessary Words
Don’t pat yourself on your back for reaching a pre-established word count if half the words are meaningless. Readers may feel like slitting their eyeballs when reading fluff sentences like this: “It is imperative that I stress the importance of what you must continue seeking to do in order to achieve your objective.” If what you have to say is so imperative, skip all 22 useless words and make the point.
Imagine your article is on a sinking ship. Only the most essential sentences make it into a life raft. The value of words affects whether other survivors will toss them off the raft to stay afloat. Knowing what and how to cut determines whether your article makes it to shore. Meditating on the points above, was this article worth your time? If so, you may survive as a worthwhile writer.
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Main photo by Nikolay Osmachko from Pexels.