Better writing

3 Easy Tips To Keep Readers In Your Game

If the ancient Sumerians could do it, you can, too

Stop boring your readrers
Stop boring your readrers
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Did you know about the snazzy token system our ancient ancestors created to keep track of sales and debts? They made tokens out of clay and used them as a unit of measure. A sphere represented grain, an egg was used for oil, and so on.

The accountants of the time carried their tokens around in clay baskets and after a few thousand years of lugging around heavy baskets, someone had the bright idea to press a token against the outside of the container. It made an impression that allowed a count of pictures rather than manually counting the tokens inside.

Those pictures represented the first forms of writing, and they changed how humans communicate with one another. The only way they can work is if both the sender and the receiver of the communication understand the symbol.

“Reading” a pictogram isn’t something that’s instinctual in humans; we must learn it and agree with each other on the pictogram’s meaning.

Ancient tokens
Ancient tokens
Photo courtesy of Maria-Lan Nguyen via Wikimedia Commons, licensed to share by creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/deed.enc

A few thousand years later, the Sumerians in southern Mesopotamia expanded on that idea when they created an alphabet. They moved humans from prehistory to history, and they changed the world!

How do we know all this? Because they wrote about it!

Writing, for our ancestors, was cumbersome and a major time suck, so you know they valued what they wrote.

Which proves that words matter. They always have.

While it’s an interesting bit of history to know why and how writing evolved, we should note that in the beginning, it was a clumsy process, from creating the system and then training others to read and write, and convincing others to agree to use the system.

Writers were the scholars of their time, and not everyday schmoes like us.

The task of writing was first given to those from wealthy families but did you know the first writer known to history was female?

Because of the written word, we can connect with our ancient ancestors and know how they lived. They wrote about impressive feats, but they also wrote about their daily lives, giving us a glimpse of what the world was like many thousands of years ago.

The invention of the modern printing press allowed the world to easily share information, and the world quickly become even more connected. Fast forward from Livy’s History of Rome to the men who wrote the Old and New Testaments to the Bible to Muhammad and the Qur’an to Thomas Hobbs’ Leviathan to the history of World War II and every other major event in modern human history, we know these histories because someone wrote it all down.

We also learned the words of Dante, Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, Austin, Anderson, Dickens, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Orwell, Hemingway, and so many others who paved the way to the authors we know and love today.

Then someone invented the internet and all this writing from humankind is at our fingertips.

The internet expanded our knowledge even more, allowing professionals, amateurs, freelancers, educators, everyone to share their ideas, plans, thoughts, hopes, everything with their readers.

So as a modern writer swimming in a sea of internet noise, how do you stand out from mediocrity?

Check this out from Pro Writing Aid:

  • Over 3.7 billion people in the world use the internet
  • Google processes over 40,000 searches every second
  • People se search over 5 billion requests over all search engines each day

That’s a lot of competition!

How do you make your mark as a writer?

You should first understand that readers don’t read with anticipation of engaging. The majority of them aren’t meandering into your article with hopes of commenting, liking, or sharing your words.

They’re looking for information, be it a topic, a “how-to,” or an opinion, they want to learn more and you could be the writer they need at the moment of their search.

But only if you don’t put them to sleep!

She fell asleep from boredom!
She fell asleep from boredom!
Image by ivxintong from Pixabay
  1. Write What You Want To Read. If you’re not interested, I promise you your readers aren’t interested, either. Readers see right through your disinterest, so you better think of ways to stay alert so your readers will, too. Remember, your job is to compel your reader to stay engaged until the end of your piece. Don’t worry, even the most boring of topics can be enlivened. There’s almost always a way to paint a bland subject with color by introducing humor or telling a little backstory.

Check out Copyblogger’s simple secrets to keeping readers interested:

Enthusiasm is contagious, so write your interest and passion into your story when and then share it with your readers!

2. Get Emotional. Your writing really shines when you tap into your reader’s feelings. Whether you piss them off or make them fall in love, using loaded language gives your reader no choice but to react emotionally to your prose. That applies to fiction and non-fiction. Summon your reader’s feelings, good or bad, and they’ll remember your story, and you, too.

3. Tell A Story. Have you ever heard of “show, don’t tell” in your writing? Somewhat related to emotional writing, it’s a simple concept that applies to any writing style. Rather than tell your readers that a character is cold, you describe how he mentally kicks himself for not dressing in long underwear and a heavy coat this morning as he shivers in his boots in the frigid wind. The idea is to paint a picture in your reader’s mind. Instead of saying the customer was mad, explain how red-faced she was when you told her the doctor was behind schedule.

Bonus Tip: Voraciously read anything you can get your hands on. Don’t be a snob. Read it all. Like a sponge, you’ll absorb the words you read. All those words and the way they’re arranged will make you a better writer. You’ll appreciate what works and cringe at what doesn’t and not only will all that reading inspire you, you’ll gain new knowledge and a wider vocabulary.

Words can and have changed the minds and hearts of men and women since we invented them.

Writing matters. The way you tell your story is like no one else. Your ideas and the way you describe concepts, feeling, knowledge, etc. is like no other. Your string of consciousness will influence and educate, so seize that power and you will wow your readers.

Your words are yours: If you enlighten your audience, your audience will reward you with their avid attention and participation!

Write what you know — even if you don’t know it yet.

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