Four Characteristics Needed for Resonant Writing

Tuning Fork ResonanceEver wonder why most writing has no effect on people? For writing to be effective, it must resonate with readers. If there’s no resonance, readers either ignore the message completely or lose interest and stop reading.

Unfortunately it’s getting harder to create that resonance. Technology makes it increasingly easy to send more messages through more channels. The consequence is that each message sent faces increased competition to gain and keep attention.

What can you do to improve your writing’s chances to get and keep your reader’s attention? Make your writing resonate.

Resonant Writing’s Four Characteristics

The more you ensure your writing has the characteristics listed below, they better it will attract and keep your intended audience’s attention. Your writing will convey its messages in a “frequency” your target audience understands and enjoys.

  1. Catches reader’s interest
  2. Satisfies reader’s needs
  3. Doesn’t confuse reader
  4. Keeps reader’s interest

Let’s look more closely at each one.

1. Catches Reader’s Interest

No matter how good your writing is, if it doesn’t catch your reader’s interest, it won’t resonate with that reader. Thankfully there are many techniques you can use to catch a reader’s interest.

If your writing can be paired with graphics, the first techniques to use are in the area of graphic design. Layout of images and text (aka “copy” in the marketing world) make the first subconscious impression. Composition, colors, size, and shape of graphics and copy draw a reader’s attention and make the critical initial impression.

If that first impression is good, the reader will read the headline. If not, another message takes your reader’s interest.

If your writing is presented in the form of emails, capturing reader’s interest depends on your reader’s reaction to whom sent the email and the words used in the subject line. For emails the subject line is the headline. Some common writing techniques to capture interest in headlines are to ask a question, use a number, or give a command. For example,

  • Want to Improve Your Writing?
  • Four Characteristics Needed for Resonant Writing
  • Improve Your Writing Now

Don’t underestimate the need to catch your reader’s attention. David Ogilvy, one of the fathers of modern copywriting, said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Invest the time to think about what kind of information in the headline would interest your intended reader. If the headline doesn’t catch your reader’s attention, all the effort invested in creating the rest of the content is wasted.

2. Satisfies Reader’s Needs

Once a reader begins reading your writing, he or she will soon stop unless you’re satisfying one or more of his or her needs. Understanding what your reader wants from your writing is critical.

Is it information? If so, what kind of information? Does your reader need to learn how to do something, make a decision, something else?

Is it entertainment? If so, does your reader want comedy or drama? Where and when should the story be set?

Since this article’s intended audience is non-professional writers who must write for business purposes, I won’t talk about entertainment needs. I will say, however, that even business readers don’t want to be bored.

If your reader needs information, provide just the information your reader needs and wants. Don’t overwhelm your reader with too much information in the body of your writing.

If you’re writing to an audience with varying levels of needs, structure your writing so the most needed information is presented first and the least needed information is presented last or in appendices, sidebars, or references and links to supporting information.

3. Doesn’t Confuse Reader

Once you’ve gotten your readers’ attention and are satisfying their needs, make sure your writing is clear and easy to follow. Most readers won’t spend time rereading the material they’re looking at. If your writing starts to confuse them, they’ll soon look elsewhere for writing that makes sense to them. This is especially true in the online world where new information is often just a click away.

If you’re writing to a business audience, tend toward shorter sentences and simpler words. The purpose of most business writing is to convey information quickly and accurately, not impress your reader with multi-syllabic words that sound impressive but whose meanings are unclear.

An often overlooked element of writing is the need to keep your reader’s assumptions and background in mind. This is especially true if you’re writing to someone with a very different cultural background.

4. Keeps Reader’s Interest

Even if your writing is easily understood, if it’s dry, boring, or physically hard to read (for example, too small a font or black characters on white backgrounds) your reader will soon tire and look elsewhere for relief. Creating fatigue lowers resonance.

Have a conversation with your reader by providing answers and information in the order you expect your reader to want. So long as you keep satisfying your reader’s needs and don’t confuse him or her, you’ll keep your reader’s interest.

Want more tips on writing with Resonance?

This article just scratched the surface on how to write in a way that creates resonance with readers. If you want to learn more about how to use writing — especially business writing — to better communicate with your target audience, subscribe to this blog. You will gain valuable tips to help improve the chances your target market will read, understand, and follow your written messages.

As Writing Jim, Jim Driggers provides freelance copywriting and business process writing to SMB owners and managers. His clients gain sales through marketing text that better resonates with their customers, and they save money when their employees follow guides rather than impulses. His clients give themselves the time to focus on what they do well when they leave their writing to Writing Jim.

For help creating your print or online content, systematizing your business processes, or editing content you’ve written, contact Writing Jim at [email protected] or 925-231-5825. Visit for more information.

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