Change the Flow in Your Writing
Episode #7 of the course Conversational writing: Engage your readers by Gay Merrill
You learned in the last lesson how to reduce monotony and make your writing flow using transitions and sentence structure variety.
In today’s lesson, you’ll learn to use questions and pauses to change the flow in your writing.
Have you ever been in conversation with someone who blathers on?
That person just keeps talking. And talking.
As interesting as that person might be, you may wonder, “When is it my turn to speak?” Or, “Aren’t you interested in what I have to say?”
Then an opening appears. He asks you a question. Phew. Now you’re engaged. You’re part of the conversation.
You can do the same for your readers.
Ask a Question
A question changes the flow of your writing because the reader has to stop to think about the answer.
Questions keep your reader involved in the conversation.
Here are ways you can use questions:
• Follow the question with an answer.
How many people read the blog? Zip. Nada. Zero.
• Try a series of questions to emphasize a point.
Are you a blogger? Do you want to engage your readers? Do you use conversational writing?
• Ask the reader to confirm a point.
Adding a question to your text helps engage a reader: “Do you agree?” or, “Right?”
• Invite your reader to guess the answer.
How long is the average attention span of a reader?
• Ask the reader to recall an experience.
Remember when you were in elementary school and …?
You can introduce a question or series of questions anywhere within the the body of your text: the opening, middle, or closing. Just don’t overdo it.
Introduce a Pause
The second way you can change the flow in your writing is to introduce a pause.
A pause creates a moment of suspense for your reader or an opportunity to stop and think.
When you speak, you pause with silence.
When you write, you can pause with punctuation.
The em dash and ellipsis are two ways to insert a pause.
Here’s a mini primer on how to use them.
Em dash (—): Use em dashes to indicate a sudden shift in thought or a break in your sentence.
Example: The spaceship made that noise again—loud, rattling, and worrying.
Note: In conversational writing, you don’t need to use a space before or after an em dash.
Ellipsis (…): Ellipses are useful for slowing your reader down.
Example: We heard the noise again … a loud, worrisome rattling.
Use ellipses to indicate:
• A pause: The Jedi whimpered, “… Help.”
• Omitted text: The … flight was late.
• A trailing-off thought: If only I’d taken this course sooner …
You can use ellipses to shorten long text—for example, when quoting a long passage. Use the ellipsis to show missing words or even a few sentences.
1. Take a piece of writing, and introduce a question or series of questions.
2. Write a sentence using an em dash.
3. Refer to the examples for the ellipsis above, and write a sentence of your own for each use: a pause, omitted text, and a trailing-off thought.
Formal writing adheres to grammar rules taught in school. Stay tuned for the next rule breaker lesson.
Have fun writing,
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