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10 Rules of Getting and Keeping Readers’ Attention


Recently, I ran across a volume that I had read years ago, and I paused long enough to flip through its pages, scanning parts that I had underlined and reading the notes I had written in the margins. The book had been written by famed British preacher and writer Charles Spurgeon and was titled Lectures to My Students. One particular chapter especially (and appropriately!) caught my attention: “How to Obtain and Retain the Attention of Our Hearers.” I remembered having read it because much of his advice is applicable to not only ministers but also writers. Perhaps the ten points I summarize below (with supporting quotations from Spurgeon) will prove helpful to your own writing. They’re worth considering.

10 RULES FOR GETTING AND KEEPING READERS’ ATTENTION

  1. HAVE A MESSAGE.  “To get attention, the first golden rule is, always say something worth [reading].”

  2. ORGANIZE YOUR MATERIAL. “Let the good matter . . . be very clearly arranged.”

  3. ENSURE APPROPRIATENESS. “[Write] plainly.”

  4. PRACTICE SUCCINCTNESS. “Do not make the introduction [lead] too long.”

  5. AVOID REDUNDANCY. “Do not repeat yourself.”

  6. STRIVE FOR BREVITY. “Avoid being too long.”

  7. EXHIBIT PASSION. “Be interested [in your topic] yourself.”

  8. USE SUPPORTING TECHNIQUES. “There should be a goodly number of illustrations.”

  9. DEMONSTRATE FRESHNESS. “Cultivate the surprise power. Keep your sentences out of ruts.” Avoid cliches.

  10. BE SINCERE AND GENUINE. “Be yourself clothed with the Spirit of God. . . . Remember, ‘it is not by might, nor by power,’ that men are [blessed], but ‘by my Spirit, saith the Lord’. . . . If you do not touch the heart, you will soon weary the ear.”

Why not join me in running each piece of writing through this checklist. If we apply these rules consistently, we might be surprised by how much more interest our writing will earn.

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