Vagueness makes your content come across as cheap, rushed and shallow. It creates the impression that you either don’t know much about the topic it covers, or you didn’t do enough research about it.
While the readers might not exactly pick it out as the problem, they can subconsciously tell that you are being vague. And when that happens, they never hesitate to click away.
Fixing the problem isn’t complicated, though. Starting with the following five simple steps can re-engage your readers and keep them hooked to your content:
1. Do your research
As a writer, research is one task you can’t afford to mess with. How you do it will determine whether your content becomes online trash or a fountain to which thirsty readers will keep going back.
You need to back every point, idea or message with authoritative sources. You need to do research before, during and even after writing the text.
Any hesitation on even simple things like the most appropriate synonym to use in a context is an invitation of a research moment. The rule of thumb is that there shouldn’t be a room in your text for ‘I think’ but only for ‘I know.’
2. Go for specifics terms
After putting an idea down ask yourself if there are more specific terms you can use to describe it. For instance, instead of writing “Sometime last year’ why not write “On the 5th of August last year”?
Write “Eric, John and Mary were present” instead of “Three people were present.” Instead of writing “the car was driving fast,” say ‘The car was driving at about 50 miles per hour.’
3. Show don’t tell
The ‘Show Don’t Tell’ principle is about giving information and letting your readers decide for themselves what characters, ideas and concepts are. It demands that you never decide for the readers. Ok, maybe examples will help here.
Describing an individual as rich, for instance, is both arbitrary and subjective. What are the standards for richness? It should be clear that what you consider to be rich isn’t necessarily what your reader will qualify as rich.
Other vague words, in this regard, would include beautiful, ugly and kind. They mean different things to different people.
For instance, instead of writing ‘She was very kind,’ show the character doing kind acts like giving out food to the homeless, complimenting or even hugging other people.
I repeat: the idea is to let the readers decide whether your character is kind, beautiful or ugly rather than you deciding that for them.
4. Use examples
Have you ever read a text on a complicated concept? Weren’t you desperate for an example that would make things clearer for you or show the idea in action?
As humans, we understand ideas better when examples are used to impart them in our minds. So, while writing know that an example is always more than welcome. Be generous with examples and your readers will thank you for it.
5. Apply metaphors and similes
Closely related to examples is the use of metaphors and similes. This is using mental images of what the reader already knows to explain a new idea. For example, instead of saying the grass outside was soft, say the grass outside was as soft as wool (maybe that is an exaggeration, but you get the idea).
The difference between a metaphor and a simile is that while the latter uses ‘as’ or ‘like’ in comparing concepts, the former doesn’t. Thus, ‘The boxer is a giant’ is a metaphor and ‘The boxer looks like a giant’ is a simile.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.