Visionary

Posts meant to teach writing skills. Started for the Earthwaking University Visionary group.

How to Reach More Readers

Image Courtesy Fine Art America

Visionary Writing Techniques #002

by John Onorato

Out on the Net today, there are a lot of words.

Sadly, many of these words are inaccessible to readers.

Why is that?

Much of the wisdom offered on the Internet is completely out-of-reach because it’s buried under a wall of text.

I don’t know about you, but I find big blocks of words difficult to get through.

Sure, you can read the first few lines just fine.  But then you might sneeze!  Someone might interrupt you!  The laundry might finish before you’re done reading!  When that happens, odds are you’ll lose your place.  Just because you blinked your eyes.  

If I lose my place while reading, and I can’t easily get back to where I was — it’s Pretty Damn Likely I’ll give up on that piece.

There’s a solution, though, and it’s super easy.  

Paragraphs!  Paragraphs make anything better.  Well, nearly anything.

So what’s a paragraph?  

A paragraph is a unit of writing.  We start with words, and we make sentences out of them.  Then we make paragraphs out of sentences.  And we make stories out of a collection of paragraphs:  Stories, articles, essays, press releases, novels, whatever … they’re all made up of paragraphs.

Paragraphs provide structure.  A little bit of structure enables your reader to identify and follow your thoughts as they develop.  

Each of your paragraphs should address one idea.  This main idea for the paragraph is expressed in the “topic sentence,” and is usually (but not always) the first sentence of the paragraph.  You know you’re using paragraphs effectively when you can get a basic overview of your material by reading each of your first sentences.

It’s important to be clear on what the main idea for each paragraph is.  Then deal with that idea as much as you need to suit your purpose.  At the same time, be alert to irrelevancies and digression.

There’s one basic rule to using paragraphs:  Limit each one to a single idea.  Include that idea in your topic sentence, and provide bits of evidence to support that topic sentence.  

Can you have several ideas in one paragraph?  Sure you can.  Just be sure they each relate to the topic sentence.  When you transition to a different idea, that’s a good sign to start a new section.  

Sometimes you’ll have an idea that’s too big for one paragraph.  Simply use a new paragraph for each sub-point within that larger idea.

You can also use paragraphs to give your readers a small pause.  As discussed above, paragraphs make your writing more readable.  And more readable means more accessible to a larger audience.  

Paragraphs can also be used to provide emphasis.  This is a good technique to use when you want certain words to have special impact.  Professional copywriters are well aware of this, and tend to overuse the single-sentence section

All.
The.
Time.

Finally, use a separate segment for your introduction and your conclusion.  Of course, depending on the length of your material, these sections may well contain several of their own paragraphs.

And if all else fails, just use line breaks.  Just hit <ENTER> every so often (or <CTRL> + <ENTER> if you’re composing in a Facebook text entry box), and it’s all good.

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Start By Shattering the Earth

Image Courtesy Printwand

Visionary Writing Techniques #001

by John Onorato

I’m going to start by sharing a tidbit about writing that positively rocked my world.  I learned this at the beginning of my freelance writing career, in 2013.
  
I’d been writing for years before that, but my words weren’t that effective.  Sure, I had a certain facility, but wasn’t everyone taught how to write in school?  Was I really that different than everyone else?

Turns out, I was.  

It would be fairly accurate to say that “Writing is my life.”  And if you were to say that to my face, I’d follow it up with “And my life is writing.”  

But when I learned this one thing, my writing changed forever.  It became immeasurably better.

What is that wisdom, you ask?

It’s super simple.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  

That’s it.  Just know your audience.

Are you writing for yourself?  Great!  Let it all hang out.  Do what you’re gonna do and don’t think too much about it.  You can always re-read your work later and pull it into a piece meant for public consumption.

Are you writing for clients?  Then use their language.  Use the same words you hear them using.  So doing gets you inside their heads.

Are you writing to share knowledge or wisdom?  Then make your best guess as to what language will be most effective.  Use words and phrases that will be accessible to the largest segment of your intended audience.  

Avoid using “jargon,” or language that’s used by smaller segments of the population.  If you feel that’s the best way of getting your message across, then explain your use of the terms.

Here’s another tip, closely related to that one:  Know your subject matter (as much as you can, anyway).  Do your research.  

Writing about anything positions you as an “expert” on that thing.  But you don’t have to actually possess expertise in that subject — you have to know just a little more than your audience.

In other words, don’t “wing it.”  If you do that, your reader will figure it out.  It might be super subtle, but it’s easily seen by a person who knows about the subject.  

It’s the same as when my daughter was 14, and I tried to “be cool.”  I would use terms I didn’t fully know the meaning of, and I looked a fool to her friends.  

So that’s about it for today.  Just to let you know, I’m planning on releasing these short pieces about writing periodically.  I’m envisioning 2-3 times a week.  I’ll keep the pieces short, for easy digestion.  

But I want to front-load this process with the tip that moved the needle the most for me.

Know your audience.

That’s all.  Just know your audience.

As you write here, in the Visionary Group, your audience is a lot like you.  But when you start messaging for clients, when you start writing for others with the intent to be read … that’s when you really have to know your audience.

Stay tuned to this bat-channel for more tips and tricks!

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