Too often we think about our reader as an abstract entity— someone who clicks behind a screen. But your readers are real people with hopes, dreams, and desires. They live and breathe, they are just like you in fact. So why write to them as if they aren’t?
Writers have strived to connect with their readers for centuries. But perhaps one of the best examples comes from the authors of the 19th century. Victorian novelists often took liberties to address their audience within the text. They did this by assigning them as a character in their work, the part of the reader. In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre we have the famous, “Reader, I married him” and many other texts of the time that give their reader a place in the work.
The reader is given emotion, action, and even instruction. These writers require their reader to do some work.
How can we ask the same of readers today?
What Is Active Reading?
We all have read things that we didn’t like. I’m sure your mind goes back to being forced to trudge through Dickens’s characters in high school. When you ask people why they didn’t enjoy a particular book, article, etc. they often say…
“It Didn’t Keep Me Interested.”
In order to unpack this statement, we have to look at what makes a piece of writing interesting.
- Steady pace and flow of the narrative
- If the piece moves along in a digestible and relaxed way, the audience will be more likely to latch onto the writing.
- Colorful and approachable language
- Throwing in a joke, turn of phrase, or timely reference will keep people interested in the work.
- Breathable tone
- This point goes back to writing as if you are talking to someone sitting across from you.
- Keep them guessing with you
- Using questions to get your reader thinking is a great way to keep them interested in the piece. Questions may also make them more dedicated to figuring out how the piece resolves as well.
Active reading touches all of these points. Active reading is the process of engaging with the text in a critical way. This strategy promotes reading comprehension and retention. Reading in an active way equips people with the tools to take away lessons from the piece of writing and think about the impact it has.
Give Them a Reason
Why did you write that blog, article, e-book, freemium?
For people to read it, to engage with it, and to provide the reader with information they might not otherwise have. But your post needs to do more than simply inform, it needs to excite and transform. It needs to grab and hold onto the reader’s attention the whole length of the piece.
But how can one piece do so much?
One piece can accomplish these goals by giving the reader something to do. Give them a reason to keep reading, to comment on your post, to trust your authority on the subject.
It is your job as the writer to guide your reader through the piece, and you should use the best methods in order to accomplish that. For example, don’t be afraid to integrate different types of media into the work. Use the tools you have to make your piece the best it can be. If a meme will help illustrate a point, use it. If a GIF will enhance your idea, don’t shy away from it. Infusing your piece with other forms of technology can make it relatable to your reader.
Even though you have many digital tools at your disposal, at the end of the day your writing really has to say something to keep your reader active. Each piece you create should be authentic and representative of something you care about.
Translate that passion to the page, allow your reader to see what you care about. People are drawn to authenticity and passion. Never forget these aspects from your writing, because they are the best tools you have to make the piece something only you can do.
Leave It All On The Page
Active reading is all about making connections both within and outside the piece. It allows for contextualizing and thinking through new ways to apply that information.
Writing that promotes activity in its readers is a great skill. It takes training, sincerity, and heart to get right and keep your readers coming back for more.