“I was almost persuaded.”
Sad words, aren’t they? Especially if you’re the author who wrote the words that almost persuaded.
What keeps a reader from being persuaded by our writing–by the premise we propose, or the answers we provide, or the story we tell?
Whether we’re writing informational or inspirational books, what might prevent a reader from “buying” it?
Do we understand our audience?
- Want to care about our characters and/or our story
- Hate to be disappointed
- Want to be entertained or inspired or informed or encouraged or all four
- Want to feel they got their money’s worth and their time’s worth from what they read
Addressing those basic expectations to the best of our ability will help us conquer hills to climb on the path from “almost persuaded” to “persuaded.”
Do we understand their filters?
Our writing won’t persuade anyone if we’re unaware that all readers read through a filter. They may slip on their reading glasses to see the print better, but they’re still reading through a filter. Their past, fears, faith or lack of it, preconceived notions, sensitivities, prejudices, desires, phobias, expectations, health, culture, regionality, wounds, and their perceived needs.
What we write may register with others, but only if the filter through which they’re reading allows them to see the words clearly and embrace them as a truth they can swallow and digest.
If we know our target audience well, we will adjust to the filters already in place. If we can’t, we may not have selected the right target audience. For instance, if we’re laying out a detailed linear argument, but our target audience is non-linear thinkers, what hope do we have of our material connecting?
Do we understand their communication methods?
The best teachers among us recognize that each classroom of students represents a variety of learning intelligences or styles. Some learn best through lecture (well, maybe one or two). Others learn best through kinetic, hands-on, tactile methods. Sill others learn best by both seeing and hearing in combination. Some are visual learners, so the same information given in graph, image, or video form will resonate far better than blocks of text. Some want the whole picture, globally, before making a decision. Others want the information in bite-sized pieces they can absorb slowly.
Translating that concept to our communication through writing, once we’ve identified our target audience, we’ll use methods that are most closely aligned with their preferences.
- Consider our language choices/word choices. Are we hitting the mark with words and mental images that connect with our reader?
- Consider our references. Will our target audience feel at home with the cultural and era references we use?
- Consider our length. Both older and younger readers these days shy away from solid blocks of text, long sentences, long paragraphs, and long chapters.
- Consider our style. Formal or informal? Which will connect with our audience?
Does our life match our message?
One major hindrance to persuading our readers is if the life of the author is misaligned with the author’s message. Can an author write about important financial health principles but drown under debt? He or she technically can, but the book isn’t likely to be effective or remain effective if the author is revealed to have ignored his own advice. We’ve seen it happen too often in leadership circles. A leader espouses an honorable path, but veers from that path personally.
At times, we’ll be called upon to write hard truths that will meet resistance. Fewer readers will fall into the “persuaded” category than the “almost persuaded.” But where it’s within our power, we’re wise to inform ourselves about and eliminate all the barriers we can so the words we write hit their target and accomplish their purpose.
What have you learned about modern readers that has changed how you write?