Writing Tip: Engage Your Audience

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By Aaron Earls

Your writing has to be engaging to your intended audience.

Think about your favorite childhood story. The book that kept you up late at night with a flashlight under the covers because you couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. The one you read so much the pages were falling out of the binding. What made you fall in love with it so much?

Was it the impeccable grammar and sentence structure? Probably not. How about the creative narrative and rich characters? Maybe.

All of those features are important for good writing and may have played a role in you loving that particular book, but simply put, you loved the story because it engaged you. Something about that story resonated and connected with you.

Even as an adult, you can read something so captivating you lose track of time and forget to eat lunch or miss sleep because what you are reading is so compelling.

At Facts & Trends, we publish articles centered on practical ministry helps and relevant research for pastors and church leaders. That can be a dry field filled with statistics and tips, which actually elevates the need for engagement even more.

The pieces that do the best at our site manage to water that potentially arid landscape with stories, anecdotes and imagery that blossom in the minds of our audience. That principle extends to every form of writing in any context.

You have to be engaging for your intended audience. But don’t miss the two components here—engaging and for your intended audience.

Writers can often construct what they believe is engaging content. The piece says just what they want it to say. When the writer reads her piece, she feels a deep, emotional connection with it. Yet when the piece is published, it falls flat.

Oftentimes we writers assume too much of a preexisting connection with the audience. We think because we care and are passionate about this topic and this article, they will be too. But it doesn’t always work like that.

And this is often the point of separation between good writers and extraordinary writers. Good writers write engaging content. Extraordinary writers write engaging content for the intended audience.

Good writers write engaging content. Extraordinary writers write engaging content for the intended audience.

Many writers have a natural gift for engaging writing. It takes little effort for them. Most people who enjoy the craft of writing start out in this place.

From an early age, they found they could best express themselves with written words. Pens scrolled across paper. Fingers flew on keyboards. They felt an excitement in turning words into phrases, phrases into paragraphs and paragraphs into a story. A parent or teacher noticed and encouraged the gift. From that moment on, writing would be an inescapable part of their life.

Unfortunately, too many writers stop there. They may continue to hone their skills as a writer, but they never go beyond themselves. They treat writing as an individual performance without giving much thought to the reader.

But the best writers understand their intended audience and use that knowledge to craft something that engages with those readers. Writing for an audience beyond yourself takes work and potentially some trial and error.

You can begin that process, however, by considering your audience at the outset of your writing. As you begin your piece, ask questions about the audience. What would they like to read? Why does your argument matter to them? How are you helping them with this piece? What can you do to welcome them into your writing?

Hopefully, I modeled my advice in this very article. If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in writing and reading. Virtually every writer has a book or books that sparked in them a love of story and writing. I tried to tap into that shared experience to draw you into the piece.

The best writers have put in the time and work, so they do it almost instinctively. Audience-engaging writing flows naturally for them. Most of us aren’t there yet, but we can move in that direction if we continue to think in those terms. How can I make my writing engaging for the intended audience?

If you regularly answer that question as you write, you are well on your way to crafting something that may just make someone stay up late or miss lunch.

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Aaron Earls

Aaron Earls is senior writer/editor of LifewayResearch.com and a freelance writer living outside Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and four kids. He earned his M.Div. in Apologetics from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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