By: Marilyn L. Davis
Comments: The Reader’s Opinion
“The net has provided a level playing field for criticism and comment – anyone and everyone is entitled to their opinion – and that is one of its greatest strengths.”―
Comments Start the Conversation
“To cement a new friendship, especially between foreigners or persons of a different social world, a spark with which both were secretly charged must fly from person to person and cut across the accidents of place and time.” George Santayana
George Santayana, a Spanish poet, philosopher, and Harvard professor, knew much about making and keeping friends and relationships. Whether an essay or poem, we relate because there is a spark that meanders through his writing.
Granted, not all who see a particular title will cross that metaphorical bridge and read, but many do. And what will the reader find waiting for them on the other side?
Hopefully, something they want or need.
Entice the Reader to Cross the Bridge
The Bridge to Nowhere, a feature of a particular California hike, is the last place we want to aim for in our writing, let alone take the readers there. Readers want to arrive at a logical, exciting, educational location and feel positive, entertained, or enthused.
How can we write in ways that span the distance between our thoughts, feelings, opinions, and readers?
Understanding that we are building a bridge to a potential reader each time we publish and fill the gap between our words and the readers’ minds. There are some practical ways that we construct our bridge while writing.
1. Invite the Readers to Meet You Half-way
When I write, I don’t consciously think about my readers, but they seem to hover in the recesses of my mind. I’m not sure if my muse is a potential reader, but I’ll often back up and think, “Will this resonate with the readers”? If not, then I know I’m not invitational.
Inviting Writing is my term for giving the reader enough words that make them want to continue reading. It's an invitation from me to learn along, take a break, ponder, or spend some time wondering. Click To Tweet
If the writing engages the reader, I’m sure they’ll stay until the end.
So, how can you encourage a reader to follow the post until your last killer sentence?
2. Make the Readers Comfortable
Have you ever gone to a party and not felt comfortable? Or, sitting as one of several interviewing for a position and uncertain what to do? We all have, and frankly, I’ll leave or not engage in a conversation rather than be uncomfortable. One thing that makes readers uncomfortable is when the writer lectures them.
I’m not talking about an informative post where an expert relays their knowledge. It’s the kind of post where the writer acts as if I don’t have a single brain cell. Nope, I’ll leave if it’s condescending, a put-down, or I think the writer made an effort to dumb it down for the illiterate.
There is a way to educate without being preachy, pedantic or sounding like this year’s online writing guru.
3. Make The Readers Think
However, I do not think we should challenge our readers with obscure words and phrases. When I’m writing about addiction and recovery, I use imagery or life examples that make people cry, get angry, or feel ashamed of their similar behaviors. It’s how it’s written that lets my readers know I’m referencing my actions in my addiction, so no lecturing from the lofty place.
When I write from experience, my readers are comfortable sharing their difficulties, feel secure in responding, and soon, we have a relationship via the comments.
4. Encourage the Readers to Reply
Whether I'm writing about addiction or writing, making the post engaging encourages people to comment, and in doing so, starts the conversation. Click To Tweet
We also have to realize that readers do not always share our opinions, and for the reader who disagrees, you must keep your feelings off your shoulders. I get it; there’s a lot of effort that we each put into writing, revising, editing, and publishing a blog. We work hard, and then, to have someone disagree with our findings?
- Just realize that you disagree with many things, too.
- Don’t take it personally, and move on.
5. Ask the Readers Questions
Conversations involve more than one person, and although our writing is more like a monologue, when we actively engage a reader with questions, they are more likely to respond.
One of the most effective questions you can ask your readers: What other examples can you give about _____, and then name your topic. You'll usually get comments. Click To Tweet
It demonstrates your understanding that there are multiple perspectives on any subject and that you are open to hearing more about your topic. When a reader adds to the post’s intent, or gives additional insights, be gracious and thank them for adding value to the post.
6. Be an Authority, Not a Know-It-All
There’s a fine line between an authority and a know-it-all. An authority has broad-based knowledge about their subjects. A know-it-all is merely arrogant about their knowledge, and some writers come across as condescending and arrogant.
They write as if they are doing us a favor. Who wants to have a conversation with someone like that? Again, not me.
While you may be an authority on your topic, if a reader poses a problem, another way to answer is to invite other readers to comment. You may have their solution, but keeping the dialogue going is facilitated better when there are multiple answers. I’ve learned another perspective from readers who provide additional answers through comments on my addiction blog.
7. When You Are Wrong, Admit It
I got a private message from another writer in a Facebook group who informed me that a link was not working. An error like this can happen when a post is pulled down for various reasons. However, the entire emphasis of this particular post was updating your obsolete information, and guess what? I missed one. Was I embarrassed? Yes.
But I was also grateful that she didn’t point out the oversight in a comment for all to read. So, I graciously thanked her and fixed it quickly.
After I responded to her, she told me that she was initially hesitant to point out my mistake as she’s a new writer and thought I might be offended.
Again, I told her that I was wrong when I didn’t check my update. I also thanked her for the private heads-up rather than posting it all over the feed.
8. Read the Comments
I know that you’re thinking that this one goes without saying, but I’ve written comments on other people’s posts, and the response indicated that the writer didn’t read my comment. At one site, I asked a question to get further clarification, and the responding comment was, “Thank you for the kind words, Marylin.”
- The writer didn’t answer my question.
- Nothing but that comment and my name misspelled.
I haven’t been back. I looked up the information myself. Then I found another writer who specializes in treatment for families in crisis stemming from addiction. They responded quickly to my questions, plus they spelled my name correctly. I’ll visit that writer again.
9. Connect with the Repeat Readers
All of us would like loyal fans and followers, and when we get them, we should take the time to let them know that we appreciate them stopping by again. Review your subscriber’s list, take the time to click on their Avatar, and then send them an email to let them know you value them.
I’ve done this and found out that a long-time reader had started a blog. Reading a post, commenting, and following them was an easy choice. Since that time, we’ve exchanged guest posts and strengthened our professional relationship.
Number 10? Now It’s Your Turn to Comment about Comments
I know you’ve got ideas about building and cementing relationships with readers.
- How do you process comments?
- How do you cement relationships with your readers?
- What practices do you use to keep comments going on your posts?
I’d love it if you wrote them in a comment, and maybe, we’ll end up with a compilation post in the future of the “Best “X” Number of Ways to Relate to Readers.” If you don’t want to co-author a post but want to write one for Two Drops of Ink, it’s easy. Here are the submission guidelines, and look for me to comment.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and others.