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Writing for the Eye vs. Writing for the Ear

Posted by on 6th May 2010 | 2 comments

Being a good writer is more than just following the rules of grammar and punctuation, it’s about understanding how and why the audience reads your work. This allows you to create a work that is engaging to your readers and encourages them to finish every article you’ve written or at least read as much as can be done.

However, doing this is not simple and it requires keeping several different factors in mind as you write a post or other work. First, you need to understand who your audience is and what they hope to gain. Second, you need to know how to write for the eye and, finally, you need to understand how to write for the ear.

If you can connect with your audience and give them something that is both visually appealing and easy to read, an otherwise impatient reader will spend a great deal of time on your site and, more importantly, will come back for more later.

So how do you make this connection? Here’s three (relatively) simple steps to help you make it happen.

Step 1: Understand Your Audience

Before you put word one into your blog post, you need to understand either who your audience is or who you want your audience to be. Specifically, you are looking for the following variables:

  1. Education/Reading Level: Determine the education level of your audience is crucial as talking above them can cause them to get lost and confused and talking beneath them is an insult. You want to provide an article that is challenging enough to be interesting while still being very easy to read.
  2. Desires: What does the audience want from you? Do they want to be educated, entertained or both? What information do they expect to walk away with and what do they not need? Do they expect in-depth analysis or just quick summaries? If you can understand this, you’ll know what to write about and how to structure it.
  3. What “New” Can You Give Them: Finally, you need to understand how you relate to your audience and what you can give them that they haven’t had before. This is the hardest part, but this newness is what drives traffic and repeat visitors.

If you understand your audience and what you need to reach them with, you’ve already won about half of the battle to writing engaging content, next though, you need to make your work as visually appealing to them as possible so they won’t hesitate to jump right in.

Step 2: Writing for the Eye

Last year, I wrote a full post on how to make posts easier to read than they are, this is the key to writing for the eye, making a work, even a long one, look unthreatening.

For example, if your post is just a swath of gray text with few breaks, most people will hesitate before reading it, assuming it’s going to be difficult and take a long time, even if the word count is relatively short.

However, by adding subheads with longer posts, ensuring your paragraphs are only a few sentences long, adding lists/blockquotes and using images well, you can make even the longest of posts feel like it could be read on a short coffee break.

The easiest way to check this is to preview the post and see if it looks good and looks like it could be a relatively light read. Though you can afford some visual “weight” if your audience is expecting in-depth coverage, usually the lighter the better.

When a post “feels” shorter and easier, readers feel more rewarded for what they gained and they are more likely to start reading. In short, if your post looks good, you’ll grow your audience almost instantly and encourage others to dive in.

Writing for the Ear

However, in addition to writing for the eye, a post must also be written for the ear. The reason for this is that most people, subconsciously, read the post “aloud” in their own mind as they are going through it. Though this process is faster than actually reading the post verbally, it sounds much the same in the mind of the reader.

The only way to test this is to move your lips as you put words down. Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself while writing, though you may want to do it quietly as so not to bother/scare those around you.

If something doesn’t sound good when you say it out loud, it probably won’t sound good to your reader either.

Though you can’t guarantee that everything you think sounds good will translate well to your readers, you can rest assured anything you think is bad won’t. After all, what’s good is a matter of personal taste, but what’s bad rarely is.

Take a moment, as you’re editing, and read your posts aloud to yourself, the mistakes you’ll catch will be plentiful and, eventually, you’ll get good enough at it you won’t have to talk to yourself as much.

Bottom Line

If you know your audience, invite them to read with a visually appealing post and then make it flow well once they dig in, you may be surprised how many of your readers reach the bottom.

Sure, many will still bail at some point, but a visually appealing post is also easily skimmed so the crux of the article will still come through.

Though you can’t force everyone to read everything you write, you can maximize the number who start and who finish. With a few simple tweaks and a bit of understanding, almost anyone can write an article readers are eager to finish.


2 comments - Leave a reply
  • Posted by Samantha Milner on 9th May 2010

    Hi guys,

    When I first read the title I was wondering how can somebody write for the ear. LOL!!! Thanks for doing an awesome job in clariying that for me. Great Blog.

    Kind regards,

    Sam

    X

  • Posted by Hesham on 20th May 2010

    Very interstitial read indeed, knowing your audience is very important, but I doubt that it's easy thing to do in this busy life, everyone want to do the work faster without studding!

    Thank you so much for this good article, it's inspiring, especially the title ;)