Respect is sexy.
When it comes to effective writing, your respect engages, entices, and enraptures. The readers of your work sense whether you respect them. The least you can do is honor the attention consumers have given to your creations.
Don’t commit the sin of taking readers for granted. Their involvement with your work is valuable, and you should appreciate it. In some formats, such as a how-to book, you might even acknowledge that and say thank you (see My Story).
Focus more on what your audience wants to hear rather than what you want to say (Pro Tip 24). Do research to know those you hope to reach (Pro Tip 23) and have true respect and caring for your readers.
Consider this: Readers are giving you their attention. In writing and in life, no one owes you that, no matter how hard you demand it. Engagement is earned.
We spend hours consuming writing—whether online or as print books, magazines, and newspapers (remember those?). Creating YouTube or TikTok videos is writing, as is producing an effective podcast or website. The old expression for the magic of theater and movies applies: “It all starts on the page.”
Nowhere is respect more important than your audience’s time.
Between work, school, home life, and leisure, most of us don’t have a lot of free hours. The reader’s decision to engage with your writing means rejecting all the other activities available at the moment—a more massive amount every day. Give the reader a reason to devote time to your work over other options.
Be creative, yet concise, understanding that time is a limited resource. Just as you should respect others’ time by being punctual for a business meeting or family occasion, you need to respect how limited your audience’s time and attention may be.
Don’t think of a reader’s time as something you are due, but as a gifta present of presence.
NBC and MSNBC anchor José Díaz-Balart signs off his broadcasts by saying, “Thank you for the privilege of your time.” That shows true respect.
In a blog for The Write Practice, Birgitte Rasine talks about the paramount importance of respecting readers:
Respect, honor, integrity. Regardless of your profession, regardless of your background, these values are still our bedrock. And for us writers, even more so—because we hold in our hands and our minds the power of the word. It is a power that has toppled governments, built and destroyed civilizations, upended religions and moved nations. It’s the power that decides who gets to rule and who gets to be oppressed.
… [R]espect yourself as a writer, and respect your readers. Do not ever fail in this regard, for everything—everything—that you’ll need to be a successful author, will follow.