How to Engage the Reader: Writing Techniques That Work

, Staff Writer
Updated September 5, 2016
engage the reader
    engage the reader
    ridvan_celik / E+ / Getty Images

Writers want readers to be excited by their work. That is why so many authors are looking for writing advice and tips on how to engage the reader. It can be tricky to engage your audience these days, with so much written material out there and so many other entertainment options. Why should a reader pay attention to you? Rise up and answer the question by taking control of what you write. You can command the attention of your readers with these techniques writers use to engage the reader.

Hook Your Readers

When something grabs your attention from the very beginning, it is hard to divert your attention elsewhere. That’s the purpose of a hook in writing. Sometimes the hook is a fact or statistics that shocks readers. Other times it’s a theme or story that hits home with readers in a very personal way. More often than not, grabbing someone's attention has nothing to do with what you write — it is related to how you write it.

  • Start with an alarming statistic. Many people become shocked by the facts and are interested to keep reading to learn more.
  • Describe a difficult or moving situation from an emotional perspective to create feelings of empathy or sympathy that will draw in readers.
  • Tell someone's important story in an action-oriented way that focuses on a significant outcome. This can get readers excited to learn more about this individual’s story.

Learn how to write a great hook and you’ll be on the way to finding out how to make anything sound exciting and thrilling. Review some examples of compelling hooks for inspiration, then consider the kinds of phrasings that will capture and hold the attention of your target audience.


Convey Your Own Enthusiasm

Of course, the greatest hook in the world isn’t going to keep your readers engaged if the text after the hook is boring. No matter what kind of writing you do, readers will be able to tell if you are enthusiastic about your work. Choose subject matter, or a specific angle to an assigned topic, that you’re really interested in sharing with readers. This will make easier for you to captivate readers by letting your enthusiasm shine through in your work.

Use the Power of Storytelling

Applying the principles of effective storytelling is a key technique writers use to engage the reader. Focus on creating prose that readers can lose themselves in while reading. As a result, they’ll be so engaged that they simply can’t put down what you’ve written until they have finished it.

  • Put a lot of effort into character development before you even start writing. Crafting characters with whom people can relate and identify is critical to reader engagement.
  • Use a conversational tone to really build a connection between readers and the characters or narrator of your story. Include a lot of action words for an engaging pace.
  • Tell someone's important story by describing their experience and expressing sympathy. A sentence like, "She grew up learning how to speak English by watching movies that were smuggled into her country." draws the reader in and gets them excited to learn more about this individual’s experience.

Make an Emotional Connection

Making an emotional connection through your writing is another technique writers use to engage readers. Whether your writing makes people angry, scares them or tugs on their heartstrings, connecting at an emotional level is an important key to reader engagement.

  • Use loaded language rather than less visceral terms as a way of encouraging readers to react strongly to your writing in a way that will make them want to keep reading.
  • Incorporate figurative language into your writing to create unique and vivid imagery to captivate readers.
  • Use descriptive language to craft an immersive setting that readers can lose themselves in and will want to visit time and time again.

Build a Platform/Community of Followers

In the modern world, writers who want to engage meaningfully with readers need to think beyond the pages of books or magazines to the digital realm. The most successful writers know how important it is to have a strong presence online, whether via their own website or social media, and regularly interact with a strong base of followers or fans.

  • Consider blogging, podcasting or producing a YouTube channel to connect with readers and potential readers.
  • Establish a professional presence focused on your writing on social media sites frequented by your target audience, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Traditional publishers aren’t likely to sign new writers who don’t already have a following, and those who self-publish aren’t likely to be successful without one.


Be Vulnerable

Making yourself vulnerable as a writer can be an important key to being a successful writer. Add a personal touch — in your work or via social media — by daring to expose why you are personally invested in a topic and how it has affected you.

  • Share your story — nobody else can tell it. Be flexible about sharing some details. You do not have to tell your life story in order to get people to listen, just share some information that is interesting and revolves around a certain topic.
  • For example, if you were writing about ice cream, make it personalized. Writing like a robot can make even ice cream sound unappetizing. Nobody really wants to read an article that begins with, "Ice cream tastes great. Many people like it."

    Try something more personal: "The first time I took a delicious, creamy morsel of frozen, chocolatey ice cream into my mouth, I smiled, and proceeded to eat the whole bowl."

Be Accurate

Technical skill is also important to reader engagement. The most emotional story isn’t likely to engage readers if it’s riddled with errors. Make sure that your first paragraphs are error-free to draw people in initially, as this will encourage people to keep reading what you write. You can lose reader engagement and credibility as a writer if there are errors in your published work.

  • Proofread and edit carefully prior to publishing any written work. Follow these tips for proofreading your own writing.
  • If you aren’t working with a publisher that provides editing services, consider hiring a professional editor to review your work before making it available to readers.

Seek Feedback

The best writing advice is to keep writing, keep revising and keep asking for comments on what you write. By getting feedback from readers you will learn how to engage your reader and get them to pay attention to your words. Using your social media platform as a resource for seeking and responding to feedback is a great way to exhibit vulnerability while connecting with your audience on a personal level.


Never Stop Growing as a Writer

If you get to a point where you think your writing is so good that you have no room to improve, there’s a good chance that you’ll start to come across as a bit disengaged and may lose reader engagement. Instead, always focus on growing and improving. Strive to perfect your writing style, but be aware that growth is always possible. This will help keep your love of the craft alive, and keep you focused on creating quality content that engages readers while meeting their needs.


Expanding Your Audience

Now that you have some ideas you can use to engage your readers, it’s time to turn your attention to expanding your audience. Start by learning how to write the perfect press release. Whether you have a new book or short story coming out or if you’re launching a podcast or YouTube channel focused on your writing, publishing a press release is a great way to spread the word so you can start expanding the audience for your writing.