10 Tips to Seize Reader Attention

Write with abandon, but don’t forget the very last step in authorship, and it involves being kind to your audience: Edit. Grammar has always been boring for most of us, yet when applied correctly (a lot like applying make-up), it disappears. And what’s left? Engagement with your phenomenal ideas. After all, isn’t that what you want?

These are my top 10 Tips to seize your readers’ attention:

  1. Write like a pro and make sure the last quotation mark goes outside when using a period or comma. She is a “diva.†(not She is a “divaâ€.)
  2. Use exclamation points sparingly—even when you’re excited. The RIGHT word delivers raiser-sharp understanding of your message. Exclaiming too much gives the impression you’re a teenager talking to her friend. Like, he’s so cool!!!!!!
  3. Use an ellipsis (…) only to omit words in a quote, rather than to indicate a pause, or just because you want to be creative. It’s boring, I know, but the rules of punctuation are there for the reader, not for the writer.
  4. Keep it classy and don’t use any swear words. (ie. the F word, shit, sucks, damn). No need to offend the reader—unless that’s your intention.
  5. Unless it supports the purpose of your writing, avoid comments about your favorite (or least favorite) political figure or religious belief. Stay focused on your topic, and avoid reader distraction.
  6. Verbs grab attention so use them to avoid passive speech. Example: “She blasts through her tests,†is strong than: “She is a good test taker.â€
  7. Use a single space between each sentence. I know, that’s not what you might have been taught.
  8. Book titles are italicized, not underlined (as you were once taught).
  9. Get a proofreader to clean up the mistakes you miss. I recently read a book that had six places where the author said, “More about this on page (***).†A quick proofing would have notified the author to fill those spaces in with real page numbers.
  10. Be consistent. Google gives us instant access to the latest rules, yet, some rules have relaxed, just be consistent. For example, in the title of my latest book, You are the Perfect Age, the words “are the†are never written with capital letters.

Cherish your creativity, yet don’t underestimate those important rules of writing. During a grammarian report in a Toastmasters International meeting, the biggest compliment you might receive is:  “I got so interested in what you were saying, I forgot to notice any mistakes.” The same philosophy applies to your writing.  An engaged reader connects with what you have said, without being distracted by how you’ve said it.

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