When you’re a writer, you need to know the best strategies to get your reader’s attention and hold onto it.
The goal is to get them hooked on your content, so they’ll want to read more.
Only then can you cultivate a relationship that serves you both.
So, how do you do that (without actually hypnotizing them)?
You learn different writing strategies, applied to advantage by the pros, and work on making them your own.
The first question to answer is, “What is a writing strategy?”
- What Are the Different Types of Writing Strategies?
- List of the Best 15 Writing Strategies with Examples
- 1. Start with a strong hook.
- 2. Give your opening paragraph a strong sense of direction.
- 3. Be authentic in every sentence.
- 4. Create a reader avatar.
- 5. Create an outline.
- 6. Have fun with it.
- 7. Start a dialogue with your reader.
- 8. Get time on your side.
- 9. Prioritize clarity.
- 10. Break it up with visuals.
- 11. Put your reader to the test.
- 12. Dazzle them with surprising facts.
- 13. Add interesting quotes from authorities in the field.
- 14. Ask questions to get your readers thinking?
- 15. Tell your reader a story.
- Which writing strategies will you use?
What Are the Different Types of Writing Strategies?
A strategy is a general plan — or set of plans — you make to achieve a goal.
So, a writing strategy involves tactics you use to ensure your writing meets the goals you’ve set for it.
Your number one goal is to capture and hold onto your reader’s interest. Your related goals will depend on the overall purpose of your writing:
- To sell something (and make money)
- To motivate your reader to do something
- To evoke an emotional response (pathos, anger, levity, etc.)
While the reason for your writing goal can vary, the goal itself does not. And the sooner you learn how to put the following 15 writing strategies into practice, the sooner your audience will grow.
15 Writing Strategies with Examples
No doubt, you’ve already become familiar with some of these time-tested examples of writing strategies. It’s what you don’t (yet) know that can hold you back and limit your influence.
That’s about to change.
1. Start with a strong hook.
Your first sentence should hook your reader and make them curious enough to read the second sentence, which should lead them irresistibly to the third, and so on.
That first sentence should grab hold of their interest and get them thinking, “I need to know what will come next.” Your entire opening hook doesn’t have to consist of one sentence, but a few sentences at most should suffice to get under your reader’s skin.
Strong hooks can include any of the following:
- Probing or rhetorical questions
- Bold claims
“Did you know every year the amount of garbage we toss into the ocean is three times the weight of fish caught?” (statistic)
2. Give your opening paragraph a strong sense of direction.
Your first paragraph should clearly communicate the direction of your piece. And it should give the reader a reason to care about it. They should want to know more and feel compelled to see what you’ll reveal. Give them a reason to feel invested.
Otherwise, they might bookmark your page to “save it for later,” but we all know what that usually means. It’s the internet version of walking away.
“As a lifelong crabber (that is, one who catches crabs, not a chronic complainer), I can tell you that anyone who has patience and a great love for the river is qualified to join the ranks of crabbers. However, if you want your first crabbing experience to be a successful one, you must come prepared.”
– (Mary Zeigler, “How to Catch River Crabs”)
3. Be authentic in every sentence.
Come as you are. This is not a place to show off or pretend to be someone else. Try to trick your reader, and they’ll most likely leave and never return. So, ix-nay on the bait and switch. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and give them what you know they would want.
Be genuine, and show that you care as much about their time as you do about yours.
“I haven’t wanted to call myself a functional alcoholic. For just a second, the word “functional” makes it easier to accept the word that comes after it.
“Then the reality hits: I’m not as functional as I’d like to think. And being an alcoholic means having to give up alcohol….”
4. Create a reader avatar.
Design an ideal reader based on what you know — including demographic info (married/single, age range, interests, culture, politics, geographical area). Then write as if addressing a respected friend.
Don’t assume your reader can’t figure stuff out, but don’t use ten-dollar words when one-dollar words will do. Write the way you would talk in a friendly conversation.
Ideal reader Alexis is a health-conscious socialite in her mid-twenties. Her interests include public relations, fashion, and social media (mainly Instagram). She reads to stay well-informed about things that matter to her. She’s visually oriented. Her dream is to work in New York as a successful public relations professional.
5. Create an outline.
The easiest way to make sure you make all your points in a logical, easy-to-follow manner is to start with an outline, breaking down your work into smaller, more focused sections. Use your outline to plan your subheadings and brainstorm content ideas.
As you add content, you can connect each thought, making every sentence earn its place and respect its neighbors to ensure each thought flows effortlessly to the next.
I. Why soy candles are healthier than paraffin.
- All natural (no toxic chemicals)
- Supports U.S. soy farmers
- Cleaner, cooler burn with less soot
II. 5 Best Sources of Ethically-Made Soy Candles
III. 3 Candle-Making Charities That Support Women
6. Have fun with it.
If you’re not all that interested in what you’re writing, your reader will pick up on that. Boredom is contagious. The good news? The opposite is even more so. Find something to love about what you’re writing, and your reader will feel your excitement and lean in.
The more fun you have with the writing, the more your audience will enjoy reading it.
- Include a fun, illustrative bit of dialogue.
- Paint a (word) picture your reader will want to be a part of.
- Lead with the thing that excites you (an interesting bit of news, etc.)
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7. Start a dialogue with your reader.
Remember that bit about seeing your reader as a respected friend? The more you see your article or blog post as a friendly conversation with your reader, the easier (and more fun) it will be to write, and the more invested you’ll feel in being as helpful as possible.
Imagine a friendly, animated dialogue with your ideal reader and write as you hear the words in your head.
“I’m glad you’re here. I have so many questions! First, I have to ask, how do you feel about zombie fiction? I have a theory, and you can tell me if I’m wrong.
“For starters, I’ll make the bold guess that if you’re reading this blog, you’re not into the gory, graphic zombie violence some shows glory in. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’re more of an I Zombie fan. Because you’re not an all-or-nothing thinker.
“Here’s where I’m going with this…”
8. Get time on your side.
It can only benefit you to address timely issues that matter to your reader. If you’re writing about a subject that’s dominating the headlines, put your own creative spin on it to make it stand out. What can you bring to the subject that few or no one else can?
Make the subject more personal to your reader, and your content will be timeless.
“It’s happened! The results of the 2020 election are finally in, and people around the world (not to mention over half the U.S. population) are celebrating, crying tears of relief, and dancing in the streets for joy.
“So, what comes next? Specifically, what comes next for you?”
9. Prioritize clarity.
Know your message and express it with clarity, simplicity, and elegance. Every thought should be organic, and every sentence’s meaning should be unmistakable. Confuse your reader, and they’re far more likely to stop reading and move on.
Don’t make them work to decipher what you’re trying to say. It’s not their job.
Examples of strategies for writing with clarity:
- Know your message, and write with intention.
- Know your audience and speak their language.
- Define your (unfamiliar) terms.
- Use your punctuation wisely (especially commas).
- Use strong, active, and carefully-chosen verbs.
10. Break it up with visuals.
If all you’re giving your reader is a long succession of paragraphs with some subheads thrown in, consider adding some relevant visuals — images, graphs, infographics, tables, diagrams, etc. Give their brain a brief but meaningful eye-candy break.
By varying the delivery of helpful information, you hit “refresh” on their attention and keep them curious.
Examples of effective visuals:
- Infographics or diagrams to visually illustrate your points
- Images that set the mood and make your content more relatable
- Graphs and tables to show organized and relevant data.
11. Put your reader to the test.
Include an interesting quiz/test for your reader to take, with a result they can share. Give them a chance to test their knowledge while they learn something new. Quizzes that give them a result they can feel good about and make your content more memorable.
Challenge your reader with questions that make them think, and they’re more likely to respect and remember you.
Examples of quiz ideas:
“How compatible are you and your partner?”
“How much do you know about climate change?”
“What crystals are best for your personality?”
12. Dazzle them with surprising facts.
Throw in some juicy facts to make your readers think, “Wow! I didn’t know that.” Keep them short and easy to remember and make sure they add value to your whole piece. It should feel organic — not like it came out of nowhere.
Your reader shouldn’t have to wonder if they accidentally clicked on a different link.
- Surprising statistics about bullying to reconsider “zero-tolerance” policies.
- The truth about “German” chocolate cake in a post on a beloved family recipe.
- Daniel Radcliffe’s allergy to his Harry Potter glasses in a post on unusual allergies.
13. Add interesting quotes from authorities in the field.
Quotes from well-known authorities can add credibility to your piece if it bolsters one of the points you’re making. Depending on your quote choice, It can also add a touch of humor or pathos to draw your reader in and encourage a stronger connection.
A short, powerful quote can make your work more memorable by association.
- Shocking or funny quotes from famous authors in a post on the creative process.
- Quotes from famous fictional sleuths in a post about cozy mysteries.
- Quotes from disgruntled politicians in a post about running for office.
14. Ask questions to get your readers thinking?
Another way to make your reader feel more invested in what they’re reading is to ask them questions about something that matters to them.
Get them thinking about the answer, and they’ll be more likely to feel a need to answer it or find the answer in what you’ve written. And if your answer satisfies them, or if their own answer leads to other meaningful discoveries, they’re likely to come back for more.
- Questions about your reader’s writing process in a post on the same.
- Questions on your reader’s biggest fears in a post about anxiety
- Questions on favorite scents and related memories in a post about candles.
15. Tell your reader a story.
Everyone loves a good story. Introduce a compelling story early on in your post (or chapter), and your reader is much more likely to keep reading. Your story should closely relate to the rest of your content, so it can communicate useful information while it entertains your audience. Keep it short, relevant, and memorable.
- A brief fable that teaches a moral lesson
- A brief story from your past that illustrates a point you’re trying to make
- A short, funny story that leads to a surprising revelation
Which writing strategies will you use?
Now that you’re more familiar with the 15 best writing strategies, how will this change the way you write from now on? What strategies will you implement in your next project?
The best part about using these strategies is their potential for making the writing itself more enjoyable and fulfilling for you — as well as more engaging for your reader.
May your skill and influence grow as you put these strategies to work.