You’ll Be A Better Writer When You Learn To Do This One Thing

Be A Better Writer

The Internet is full of terrific advice on how to be a better writer.

Almost everything I read is true. Yes, improving your grammar knowledge and writing skills is vital.

But here’s a big tip for you. Most articles I read on improving your writing miss the most critical piece of advice.

When you know about it, it will change everything about your approach to writing.

Great, everyone loves my writing

My first foray into writing and publishing was last century.

I’m showing my age a bit, but that’s okay.

I was in the printing industry at the time, and my boss let me print my book at night in lieu of my overtime wages.

It was, now with the benefit of hindsight, an exercise in printing an awful book of poetry.

But guess what? Everyone I gave a copy to loved it. My family and friends all told me it was wonderful, fantastic, and a great achievement.

Did they read it? I doubt it because most of my family and friends at the time loved football and cricket and had absolutely zero interest in poetry.

They might have thumbed through the pages, but that was probably about it.

My late mother said she was so proud of me, but I doubt even she read more than a few lines.

It was a total failure, yes. However, it was also an extremely valuable lesson early in my writing career.

Know who you are writing for because it’s impossible to write for everyone.

 

Who am I writing for?

how to be a better writer - Who am I writing for

It took me an extremely long time as a writer to get around to asking myself this question.

In retrospect, it was the biggest writing mistake I ever made.

For years, I was writing blog posts, articles, poetry, and novels.

But I wrote what I wanted to write and gave little regard to who was reading it.

Quite by chance, though, and with a measure of good luck, I managed a couple of books that sold reasonably well.

My personal blog seemed to have a bunch of loyal readers.

But in 2016, I decided to get serious about blogging because it became my favorite form of writing, and I wanted to be a much better writer in the process.

After a few months, or maybe a little more, I stumbled upon a discovery that changed my writing forever.

Because I’m no spring chicken, I assumed that my readers were probably the same age as me and perhaps a little grumpy as I am too.

But guess what. I was 1000% wrong.

My readers were much, much younger than I had thought.

It was a long time coming, but that’s when I learned about the most important factor in writing.

Understand who you are writing for.

 

Discovering your readers

If you want to be a better writer, the best thing you can do is find out who is attracted to your writing.

When you can visualize your readers and understand their motivation for reading your writing, you stand a much better chance of writing for them.

When I started this blog, I had some preconceived notions. It wasn’t until I started taking notice of my readers that I discovered I was wrong.

 

1. The majority of my readers are men.

Wrong.

Readers by gender graph

How I adapted my writing.

Because my readership is 50-50, I avoid using gender-specific areas of interest, and I modify my grammar a little.

It only takes a slight adjustment to my grammar to use less of he and she where possible.

I read his book but wasn’t impressed with his long narrative passages.

I read the book but wasn’t impressed with the long narrative passages.

My doctor is always running late, but he always apologizes.

Doctors are always running late, but mine always apologizes.

 

2. Most of my readers are of a mature age.

Wrong.

Readers by age

How I adapted my writing.

I was totally surprised when I saw this graph for the first time and became aware of how young my readers are.

It prompted me to rethink how I presented my advice articles, and I started focusing more on trying to help younger writers.

But it’s a balancing act to write advice articles that cover the basics for a new writer yet are still informative for more experienced writers.

 

3. Most of my readers live in the United States.

Not quite wrong.

Readers by country

Yes, the US makes up 45% of my readers. But that leaves the majority of 55% who are not.

How I adapted my writing.

Appealing to an international readership is not always easy.

But I began concentrating on themes, topics, advice, and solutions that can work for writers and authors in any country.

 

4. Most of my readers are English speaking.

Correct.

Readers by language

Yes, around 85% of my readers are English speaking. But that leaves 15% who use English as a second language.

How I adapted my writing.

I certainly didn’t start to dumb down my writing based on this information.

But where possible, I try to simplify some parts of a text to make it easier to read for all my readers.

As a rule of thumb, I usually aim for a Flesch reading ease score of around 75 for my articles.

 

5. Most of my Facebook followers are in the US.

Wrong.

Facebook countries

This was a complete surprise.

How I adapted my writing.

I only made one small change due to this data.

When referring to English-speaking countries in some of my articles, I sometimes include South Africa along with the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

 

6. My Facebook followers are of a mature age.

Wrong.

Facebook demographics

I honestly thought that Facebook had become much less popular with younger people. I presumed that they used Instagram.

The slight adjustment I made because of this was to be a little more selective in what I share on Facebook.

 

 

How to use the information

Okay, you can’t know your readers individually. But the data above can help you focus when you write.

In my case, I try to imagine I am talking to a man and a woman between 25 and 45, looking for answers to questions.

They are keen to know how to self-publish their first book or how to write better articles to engage more readers.

Because my readers are younger than I had thought, they are also more tech-savvy and easily adapt to new tools and technology.

So I don’t write long, complicated instructions on how to use a new online tool because it would be boring for them.

I honestly believe that learning as much as possible about your readers can help you write so much better.

 

How can you access your readers’ demographics?

Google Analytics is the best free tool you can use to discover more about your readers.

But you probably think that it’s only for WordPress blogs.

It’s not. You can use Google Analytics with any free blogging platform or site builder you use for your writing blog.

All you need to do is a Google search for:

How to set up google analytics for (insert your platform)

Searching for Tumblr will lead you to instructions to add Google Analytics to your Tumblr account.

It doesn’t matter if you use Blogger, Wix, Free WordPress, or Weebly to promote your writing or books. You can use Analytics to discover more about your visitors.

It’s a great tool to have because you can find out so much and adapt your writing to cater to or attract the right type of readers.

If you are an author publishing teen romance, you want to attract young female readers.

For an author of military history, perhaps you want to see that your audience is mostly older males.

Contemporary romance appeals to a broader age range, but it is most likely to be a majority of women.

The more you know, the more you can make subtle changes to your writing to engage more with the right readers.

 

Other ways to learn about your readers

Whenever I get a comment or a contact message from my blog, I try to imagine the person.

One easy way is to look at the avatar or gravatar in the comments because people often use a photo on their profiles.

The other is to take a moment to analyze the comment or question and try to get a mental picture.

Where are they from, what are they interested in, or what problem do they want to solve?

It doesn’t matter if you are a blogger, content marketer, author, or poet.

For authors, take note of your book reviews, and see if there are any hints about the profile of each reviewer.

Discovering as much as possible about your readers will always help you become a much better writer.

 

Does it work?

I have to say that for me, yes, it does.

In 2016, I averaged around 300 visitor sessions per day.

Daily visitor session traffic 2016

Today, the average is about 4,000 visitors per day, and that’s about a fifteenfold increase in 6 years.

Daily visitor session traffic 2022

I honestly believe that paying careful attention to my readers is one of the primary reasons for the steady increase.

 

Summary

Yes, as a writer, you collect lots of tips and advice along the way.

And you should use them all.

But for me, learning about, understanding, and discovering who my readers are is still top of the list.

Knowing who is interested and who wants to read your writing will help improve your writing in more ways than you can imagine.

So that’s my one big tip from this long article.

Take the time to get to know your readers, and you’ll become a much better writer.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

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