Guest Blogger: Chad R. Allen (Editorial Director, Baker Books) @chadrallen
We’ve all been there. You start reading a non-fiction book or a blog, and all is right with the world. But then as you get into it, something changes. It’s not holding your attention. In fact, the word “boring” comes to mind.
One way to reduce boredom among your readers is to write with a sense of urgency. After all, if what you’re saying is not important, why write it?
As I read your blog post or non-fiction book, I want to know that you want my attention. I want your writing to be like hands on my shoulders as you look me in the eyes and speak. It’s about taking my time seriously. It’s about believing what you say matters.
Following are 13 ways to produce a sense of urgency in your non-fiction or blog writing:
1. “Omit needless words.” Nuff said? This one comes from The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
2. Trim the first part. Often as we begin writing we need a few sentences or a few paragraphs (sometimes whole chapters!) to build up to what we really want to say. Nothing wrong with that, but then go back and trim the first part off. If we can read the rest without being lost, the first part should go.
3. Tell a story. If what you’re saying is important, there’s no better way for me to remember it than if you wrap a story around it.
4. “If you see an adjective, kill it.” –Mark Twain. (Okay, you don’t have to kill ALL of them. But reconsider each one.)
5. Move quickly. Don’t stay with any one idea for too long.
6. Use short sentences and short paragraphs. This gives readers a sense of progress as they read.
7. Get someone else to read it. Then ask, “Did it hold your attention?”
8. Give yourself a limited amount of time to write. This will force you to get to the point quickly, even if you have to go back later and fill in a few gaps.
9. Use word pictures, metaphors, and illustrations. The right one can do a lot of work for you.
10. Break it up with sub-headings. They are to readers what handholds are to climbers. They keep the reader moving forward while anchored in your topic.
11. Get practical. Turn the corner and tell readers how to apply the principles you’ve just given them.
12. Trust that you have enough content. Sometimes writers make the mistake of dwelling on one topic because they are afraid they will have nowhere to go afterwards. This just isn’t true! Say it. Then see what comes. I promise something will.
13. Read great writing. The more you do, the more you’ll learn, consciously and subconsciously, the tricks of the trade.
I’ll bet you have a few other ways to write with urgency. What other ways come to mind?
Chad Allen is editorial director for Baker Books (www.bakerbooks.com), whose honor and animating passion is serving the church—from the pulpit to the pew. He, his wife, Alyssa, and two children are all redheads, which looks freakish at first glance but then you warm up to it . . . eventually. They make their home in the Fulton Heights neighborhood of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Connect with him at www.chadrallen.com and via Twitter @chadrallen.[ Next Post → ] [ ← Previous Post ]