An effective article is an article that achieves its goal. Now, that goal can be anything: To entertain, inform, or persuade someone to act.
The reason every piece of writing needs a purpose is that it’s difficult to get someone’s attention. If a reader clicks your article (which is already rare), you have barely 15 seconds to hold their attention.
You can say the same thing about emails or text messages. Just look at how you respond to any written form of communication.
When an email doesn’t instantly grab your attention, you probably won’t even open it, right? Same thing with everything else on the internet. When you write effective texts, you’re always aware of the fact that most people will probably never even start reading your stuff.
But that doesn’t mean effective writing is only about grabbing people’s attention. If that were the case, you could only write outrageous headlines. That’s not the hard part. The hard part is to grab someone’s attention and hold it.
If an article doesn’t deliver, readers will simply move on. To decrease the odds of that happening, you need to be very intentional with your writing. In this article, I’ll share 3 rules for making sure your writing is more effective so people actually finish reading your work.
While I’m focusing on writing articles, you can apply the same thing to emails, books, reports, or any other piece of text that competes against millions of other people for the attention of your reader.
Rule #1: Know who you write for and why
It’s easy to get stuck with writing. My first try at a writing career was in 2011 when I got out of grad school. I really liked the idea of becoming a writer, so I thought, “Let’s try it.”
It didn’t go well.
I would just stare at a blank screen and had no clue what to write about. When we’re unsure about our writing, it’s usually because we haven’t yet figured out our audience and goal.
It’s best to know who you’re writing for and what your article aims to do before you start writing. So always ask yourself:
- Who am I writing this piece for?
- And why am I writing this? In other words: What will this piece do for my reader?
We want everyone to consume our work and buy our products. I’d be happy if millions of people took my online courses every year. But that’s just not possible. My writing course, for example, is only meant for people who want to write in a more clear, credible, and persuasive way. It’s not for every single writer in the world.
And it takes time to learn who we’re writing for and what our goals are. On my second try at writing in 2015, I finally figured out who I wanted to write for: People who are committed to improving their lives and careers. So I did the following to serve my audience:
- I wrote about different topics but tied everything back to self-improvement. I talked about procrastination, mindfulness, productivity, entrepreneurship, investing, and so forth. You can still write about a wide range of topics, as long as you have a consistent angle.
- Listening to readers has always been important to me. I observed what they said and how they interacted with my content.
- Every piece needs actionable advice. And if a paragraph or word doesn’t add to my goals or message, I cut it out.
- A focus on the reader’s journey: What will the reader get at the end of the article that they didn’t have at the start? It could be new information. Or even a feeling or experience.
Rule #2: Eradicate fear
A fearful writer can never be an effective writer. When people are driven by fear, they don’t say what they mean. They use soft language and don’t write with conviction.
If you believe in something, write about it like it’s absolute truth. But too many writers think, “What if people don’t agree with me?” That’s other people’s right.
But if you water down your writing, no one cares.
Writers face the prospect of failure every day: Our message might not be clear, our idea might not resonate with our audience, and so forth. And writing becomes even harder when we feel like we don’t know what to say.
The only way to overcome your failure is to take full ownership of what you write. When I make a mistake in an article, and someone makes me aware of this, I say, “You’re right. Thanks for letting me know. I’ve updated the piece.”
It’s not the end of the world. Admitting your mistakes makes you more credible. But it shouldn’t be on your mind as you write. When you write, eradicate all fear and adopt a mindset of, “This is my truth.”
If people don’t like it, fine. But I guarantee that there will be enough people who value your words as long as they are genuine.
Finally, never call yourself an “aspiring writer.” If you write things like a pitch email, an article, a business proposal, or even a text every day, you’re a writer. And that has nothing to do with how good or bad you are.
No one is born an expert writer. We all learn.
Rule #3: Always pay attention to details
As an effective writer, you pay attention to every single detail:
- Visual editing (the white space between paragraphs)
- Calls to action
- Sources you refer to
- Using bulleted or numbered lists if that makes sense (like I’m doing now)
And none of the above is related to the actual content. As you can see, there goes a lot into writing.
Sometimes I tend to write on autopilot. Like an amateur, I think writing is simple. I “just” write. And it always results in sloppy writing.
One must always pay attention to every single detail, from what you say, to how you say it, and to what it looks like. You can train yourself to have an eye for detail.
I used to rush everything. Now, I take the time to look at all details. You just have to become aware of all the things that go into effective writing. If you’re interested in going deep into this stuff, check out my course, Effective Writing.
Continue the practice
Writing is thinking. As we go through life, experience more things, and read more stuff, we become better thinkers and better writers. It’s truly a never-ending practice.
The moment you call yourself a writer, you automatically live differently. You see everything as material.
Writing impacts our lives more than we think. This skill helps us become better at what we do, regardless of industry. That’s why most successful people journal. Writing improves our thinking process. That’s why it’s worth it to keep writing.