Show, Don’t Tell! How Blog Writers Attract Readers With Word Picturing

How to write a good blog by showing, not tellingHave you ever wondered why some bloggers are so darned good at getting into your head?

Reading their posts, they don’t seem to be extraordinary writers. In fact, many of them seem to be, well… kind of simple. Plain spoken and folksy.

Yet they draw us into their stories like a mystical Svengali, mesmerizing us with descriptions of our problems and needs. As though some hidden ego cam is recording our every thought.

Impressive, isn't it? And maybe a bit scary, a gift bestowed only to the blogging demigods. Leaving us mere mortals to sigh with admiration, pining for a fraction of their glorious talents.

Well, take heart, because they’re not actually more favored by the Fates. They’ve simply learned how to tap into our emotions by using words to create vivid mental pictures. They know how to grab our attention, and keep it all the way through the post by applying a few simple tactics.

Tactics that you’re going to learn in this post. So keep reading to learn how to use the descriptive power of words, and take your place among the blogging elite.

Get Them Interested

The first step in getting your audience to read your posts is to capture their attention. And the most effective way to do this is with compelling headlines. A well-crafted headline is like a good song lyric – it’s succinct, engaging and creates an emotional impact. Headlines that are rambling, vague or overly bombastic have the opposite effect, they’re repelling rather than attractive.

To create absorbing headlines they need to contain powerful, persuasive words that convey a sense of immediacy and create curiosity. In his book Confessions of An Advertising Man, marketing mastermind David Ogilvy gave us a list of 20 of the most persuasive words that create the impression of instantaneous effectiveness. Words such as: suddenly, now, remarkable, revolutionary, amazing, startling, miracle… you’re getting the picture here, right?

These words convey the idea that the article is going to contain the solution we’re looking for – it’s going to provide a quick fix solution to my problem now.

And this strategy is being used with enormous success by today’s big name bloggers, some of whom have expanded the theme with their own lists of influential words. For more on using power words to create headlines that work, pick up a free copy of Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks or Copyblogger’s How To Write Magnetic Headlines.

The Magic of Persuasive Words

Bloggers write primarily for two reasons – to share information and to persuade readers to take action. It doesn’t matter if the action is to try out a recipe, buy a product or change a bad habit. The bottom line is we first need to capture their attention, then motivate them to behave in a desired way. Such as clicking on a link, the call to action or leaving a comment.

So, once we've grabbed our audience’s attention with a great headline, the job is to keep it and build on their curiosity.Click To Tweet

To do this, we need to engage their imagination by provoking emotions. As with headlines, we want to use power verbs and colorful adjectives to spark sensory images, so they can picture themselves happily enjoying the outcome we provide.

To achieve such visualization, we need to use words that tap into emotions and evoke powerful responses. Words that will lead “the reader to feel a certain way about that information”. That is, the information you’re presenting. Words that generate feelings of fear, enthusiasm, lust, anger, greed, safety and curiosity all have tremendous impact on our decision-making; and can be used to draw readers along, capturing their attention. For a comprehensive list of these power words, please visit Jon Morrow’s post 317 Power Words That Will Immediately Make You A Better Writer.

Also, the post 80 Power Words To Entice New Readers To Your Blog by Adrian Leighton has some good examples on exciting and positive words as well as phrases denoting cause and effect.

And of course, a good thesaurus is a treasure trove for finding descriptive, entertaining adjectives.

Some Other Tricks

Now, the use of power words isn't the only way to get readers engaged with your posts. A few other highly effective methods for evoking curiosity and arousing emotions are:

  • Keep your readers engaged by staying on topic and using short, strong sentences. Long-winded passages and segues into unrelated topics will quickly have your readers yawning and hitting the delete button.
  • Write for one person. If you’re writing for mass appeal, you’re going to lose fans. Why? Because every one of us wants to feel special. To really involve a reader and keep their interest, write directly to one person – a profile of your ideal customer. Talk to your customers like they are the only one that matters. Because they are.

Ask questions. Few people can resist trying to see if they know the answer to a question. And if they don’t know the answer, they want to. To find that answer, pique their curiosity – which you, of course, will fulfill with your superb solutions.

Deliver the Goods

Now, none of the above techniques are worth the pixels they’re printed on if you don’t provide the top-quality information, education or entertainment your audience is looking for.

You simply must be exemplary in consistently generating outstanding information, and generous in sharing it. Hard sell tactics, fluffy filler material and teasers won’t generate the type of reader loyalty that leads to prominence in your niche.

So give your readers a treat and use the descriptive power of words to create exciting visuals. You’ll keep their attention, and with your outstanding content, they’ll reward you with a generous following.

Cari Bennette is a freelance blogger and professional writer at Jet Writers. Her area of expertise includes content writing and academic papers proofreading, she also wants to try herself in creating fiction. Feel free to follow here on Twitter.


    • says

      Hi, Renard,

      This is something I need to do more of also!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  1. says

    Hi Cari,

    So, can we say: “Sue Anne is so darned good at getting into our head because she’s a blogging demigod who mesmerizes us with descriptions of our problems and needs.”

    I started practicing headlines when I directly heard this from Jon Morrow, how he used to write 100 a day. I started with 10 a day and still doing it. When I can do 100 a day for more than a few months, I’ll become like Jon Morrow too, I guess.

    I have the 317 power words’ post by Jon, saved in my Evernote and made my own mini list out of that list too.

    I also have Magnetic Headlines’ PDF as well as 3 others, all printed and spiral bound, kept on my desk.

    Will check the 80 power words post too, and probably save it into Evernote.

    Just read somewhere, “People will forget what we say, they will forget what we do, but they never forget how we made them feel.” That’s what you mean by using words that lead the readers to feel a certain way about that information”, right?

    Can you clarify what you mean by writing for one person and not for mass appeal, with an example?

    I also noticed, BBT’s post images work, creating emotions too. Most make me laugh, and I’m sure no one would miss clicking those images if they’re seen on social networks, and go read the post, or even scan through it.
    Raspal Seni recently posted…Your Domain Registrar Sucks — and What can You do About ThemMy Profile

    • Cari says

      Hi Raspal,

      Thank you for reading! You’re doing a great job: 10 headlines a day is good pace, and regularity matters. Keep practicing every day and build momentum.

      You got just right what I wanted to say about making readers feel in a certain way. I love the quote you mentioned (it belongs to Maya Angelou) – it perfectly reflects my point.

      When I say about writing for one person and not for a mass appeal, I mean targeting strictly at your customer. You should clearly understand how your customers look like, what they are interested in and what they like. This way you can craft an eye-catching and descriptive headline for your target audience.

      For example, you know that your readers are mainly women who love cooking and keep track of family budget. So, the title “How to spend only $5 on making yummy pesto” would be just fine for them but not so appealing for masses.

      Thanks again for your comment!

  2. says

    Hi Sue
    Its very enjoyful article and good also
    Thanks for sharing
    Have nice day

  3. says

    I enjoyed your post Cari (Thank you Sue). Words have such power. One thing I’d like to add is “voice” – as in fine tuning our blogging voice to speak to our audience one-on-one (or at least make them feel like we are). Trying to sound like someone else often sounds unnatural and stilted. I totally agree with you that while some bloggers aren’t going to win writing prizes, they definitely win hearts! 🙂

    Great reference links within the post! Thanks. What a good start to my week!
    Vidya Sury recently posted…Of Mist And MagicMy Profile

    • says

      Hi, Vidya,

      I love your point about “winning hearts” – so true!

      Thanks for the comment,

    • Cari says

      Hi Vidiya,

      Thank you for your feedback – I higly appreciate it!

  4. says

    Hi Cari,

    Smart points!

    I visualize each of my travel stories before writing my post. If I can see the image easily I can better convey the image to my readers. It’s easy to get descriptive and to paint a vivid, inspired picture if you calmly imagine yourself in these experience. Works like a charm for me. I simply calm myself, let the image pop up on the screen of my mind and go from there.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan Biddulph recently posted…17 Blogging Lessons I Learned on a 22 Hour Flight to BaliMy Profile

    • says

      That’s a great lesson for beginning bloggers, Ryan! Visualizing the story.


    • Cari says

      Hi Ryan,

      Imagining yourself in certain experience is a nice way for creating mental pictures. Thank you!

    • says

      That’s the best thing – these tips work for every blog.

      Thanks for commenting, Jorge!

  5. Shane Hall says

    Agreed 100 percent, Cari, and thanks, Sue, for having her post this. Beginning writers are often very timid and neutral. To me, that’s one of the big revelations: writing with confidence and conviction. There’s enough blandly informational writing out there, but there’s nowhere near enough truly engaging writing.

    • says

      So true, Shane. Lots of neutrality out there in the blogosphere.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Cari says

      Shane, totally agree. Widespread neutral writing is one of the reasons why I decided to write this post.

  6. says

    Hi Sue!

    Great article and thanks for sharing. Saw this post and I knew I got to visit it!

    I’m a huge fan of story telling and great titles. You can’t go wrong with both and if you focus hard in creating the great first impression, you will be absolutely fine!

    Good stuffs dear friend!

    • says

      Cari did a great job on this one!

      First impressions are so key, just like you said.

      Thanks for commenting,

  7. says

    Hi Cari,
    Kudos on writing a superb post. Wording is all that counts. You might be providing a ton of resources but if you sound boring or unimpressive, game over.
    I loved your idea of using persuasive words. The links to external posts are really helpful Thanks a lot for providing those resources,

    Have a great week. 🙂
    Swadhin Agrawal recently posted…41 ways to rekindle your blogging mojoMy Profile

  8. says

    Sue, thanks for bringing this piece from Cari. Great links to a a selection of words for almost any circumstance however, like Cari states you still need outstanding content to hold your readers. Fran
    Fran recently posted…Accentuate the Positive 2014 GeneamemeMy Profile

  9. says

    Hi Cari and Sue,

    I really enjoyed this post, because I’m a writer and I’ve learned how to tap into the emotions of people, not only since I’ve studied “persuasive writing,” but even as an actress, many years ago. All together I’ve studied how to tap into emotions for over a decade.

    Once you know how to touch that sensible cord. When you know what makes people tick, what is pleasing to the brain and so forth, you’ve got a winner.

    For example, the simple magic of active words versus passive ones are tremendously more powerful.

    The use of metaphors, the use of YOU, and story telling. All those are powerful writing tools, yet simple.

    Really enjoyed your post and nice meeting you, Cari 🙂

    Thanks, Sue.

    • says

      I never realized that but you are so right – acting and writing are similar in that emotions are so involved. Thanks for pointing that out, Sylviane!


    • Cari says

      Nice to meet you, Sylviane. So true about tapping into emotions. Thanks for your comment!

  10. says

    Hi Sue and Cari

    Loved the opening paragraphs of this post. It’s a great working example of what you said latter lown the post. Kept me hooked the whole post. Thank you reminding these basic principles, sometimes I tend to write way too robotic.

    And to Cari, congrats on being featured on SB.

    Neil recently posted…7 solid reasons to stop using FeedburnerMy Profile

    • says

      Hi, Neil,

      Jon Morrow told me, once, that my writing was ‘dry’. I got over that (with time and practice). But talk about being disappointed (when he told me that) but it made me a better writer.

      Thanks for commenting.

  11. says

    Hey Cari – great post. I just wrote a blog about the power of headlines–they can’t be discounted. Many of your other tips are “spot-on” as well.

    I think the thing that REALLY sets bloggers apart, and keeps people reading, is the idea of authenticity. We must be REAL in our words, thoughts, and writing. More than ever, people are wanting the REAL deal–that means we tell stories about the good, the bad, and the beautiful on our blogs. Time and time again, people tell me they read my blog and my newsletters because the writing is real and relatable.

    Shannon 🙂
    Shannon recently posted…How Writing a First Draft (of anything) is Like A Trip to the GynecologistMy Profile

  12. Zarayna says

    Happy New Year to everyone!

    “Never in the field of human blogging was so much owed by so many to Cari and to Sue.”

    Thank you for an eye-opening, jaw-dropping wondrous triumph of an instruction / aide memoire to enliven our writing.

    I collect all this excellent information and advice but then continue to drone on in 50 shades of beige so I sincerely thank you for the wake up call.

    Perhaps the year of the goat /ram will give me the kick up the dictionary I need.

    Thank you and kindest regards.

    • says

      Hi, Zara,

      “50 Shades of Beige”! You made me laugh

      You already have the power words down as I can see by this great comment.


  13. says

    Hey guys
    This is a great reminder for me (and perhaps many others). I don’t spend enough time practicing this stuff and feel I am getting stale with my headlines and writing.
    Time to sit down with Jon Ms list of great words, I actually have it somewhere.
    After all, no point getting those readers to the page only to lose them to our mediocre prose, right?
    Ashley Faulkes recently posted…Guest Blogging Is Not Dead – And Why It Still RocksMy Profile

    • says

      Hi, Ashley,

      So right! Once you have the readers’ eyeballs, you want them to read your content.

      Thanks for the comment,

  14. says

    Great advice! When I first started blogging I put my series name on each post of my Aussie travel blog which made the titles a bit long & ungainly. Now I seek out a catchy title – although my traffic is better when I include a location in the title. Thanx for the tips & links – looking forward to getting some more inspiration from those too 😀
    Red Nomad OZ recently posted…Cruising with Crocodiles on Australia’s WILDEST RiverMy Profile

    • says

      Hi, Red,

      People are curious – I’m sure that’s why they like to see where you are when they read your post!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment,

  15. says

    Great advice!

    I’ve got so much I want to work on and this has given me some valuable insights so I can make those changes.

    I’m currently working on engagement and reaching my audience. It’s so much more difficult than it sounds, just writing to one person but I appreciate that it can be done and successful bloggers do it all the time. 🙂

    I’ll get there.

    • says

      Hi, Stacey,

      You will get there! We all start at the very beginning and don’t know exactly what to do. Just follow 2-3 bloggers that you trust and do what they say and you will be good to go.

      Thanks for commenting,

  16. says

    Hi Sue and Cari, I love this post. Thank you! I’ve been doing a short story writing course over this last year and I’ve come to realize that much of what I’ve learnt there is useful for writing nonfiction too. It’s all about painting a picture with words, as you say. It’s been a revelation to me to realize that the gap between fiction and nonfiction is not so big after all. I appreciated the reminder to “show don’t tell” We’re always having that drummed into us for fiction writing but now I’ll remember it for blog posts too.
    Rachel recently posted…A Winter GiftMy Profile

    • says

      You are so lucky you took that course – it is definitively applicable.

      Glad you liked Cari’s post!

  17. says

    Attraction always work. Writing attractive and cheesy headlines definately attract visitors to open the page and see what is there. Writing in story telling way is good method to keep readers interested. I always recommend and prefer to use I insted of we and You instead of others, to keep article in a conversational way.

    After all it is good to try every single method which keep readers interested in site and add value to them.
    Gaurav Kumar recently posted…How to Start Domain and Webhosting CompanyMy Profile

    • says

      Hi, Gaurav,

      I agree, good writing is key to getting readers to stay on your article and explore other articles.

      Thanks for commenting!

  18. says

    Hi Sue
    Great article and thanks for sharing. Saw this post and I knew I got to visit it!
    Thanks again………..
    Keep It up

  19. says

    Hello Sue & Cari,

    Thank you for a provocative post! 🙂

    There’s hardly anything more powerful than thoughts and ideas recorded on a medium. Add to that photos and images, now you have the potential for becoming a hard-to-dismiss bug to some reader…in a good sense of course.

    Imagine wielding that kind of influence over a steady stream of visitors. “Plain spoken and folksy” is a great way to come across to be sure.

    The magnetic appeal of certain words placed in a sea of ideas all competing for your attention cannot be discounted. Take the following headline for example, “Closely Guarded Guru Secrets Revealed!” I love the power of words when they move me to stay and read on.

    Photographs and images, and in some cases, animated graphics can bring life to an otherwise lifeless blog post or article. Getting your reader to visualize your subject is more easily said than done. However, for some it seems relatively simple. Go figure, I wish that I could do just that with each sentence, thought and idea I commit to a post.

    So, yes…I have wondered how some bloggers and content writers can draw and then captivate a reader. Keeping it simple so that even a 5th-grader can grasp a writer’s thoughts and ideas is a compelling and worthwhile goal…wouldn’t you agree?

    • says

      Hi, Dan,

      You are an excellent writer – I can tell by your comment! Graphic, powerful words and great ideas. I’m sure you captivate your readers regularly.

      Thanks for commenting,

  20. says

    Hi Cari,

    Really good post here on Sue’s blog.

    I think that’s my next step in my progression as a blogger/writer. Word picturing. I want to be able to paint pictures and tell stories with my words.

    Right now, I just write in a conversational tone, but I can definitely implement some power words every once in a while to liven up the writing.

    I’ll check out Adrian’s post — I already have Jon’s power words and I refer to them whenever I’m trying to come up with a headline. So it’s a great resource for me.

    Great points and tips here.

    – Andrew
    Andrew M. Warner recently posted…The Fifty Shades Of Grey Guide To Wooing Readers and Dominating The Blogging WorldMy Profile

    • says

      Hi, Andrew,

      We all keep working on our writing skills all the time as bloggers, right?

      Thanks for your comment today!

  21. says

    Thanks Cari for your excellent article (and Sue for knowing it would be popular),

    I’m a huge fan of both word pictures, and of the powerful synergy of using words and images together, over words or images alone.

    And as for Maya Angelou’s words (in the comments above) they’re always front of mind when I sit down to write. Actually, they’re front of mind in most interactions I have, whether in person or in the blogosphere. They’re just beautiful.

    Thanks again

    • says

      Thanks so much for your comment, Helen! Cari also reminded me to use word pictures and how powerful they are.


  22. says

    Its very true that we must plan the story of the blog. we must be clear in our mind what exactly are we planning to write, else we will deviate from the topic and the real message will not get conveyed. Make a proper short notes of the topic that should be included in the blog story.

  23. says

    I have a lot to learn to create blog posts. Hopefully, the tips on this page will help me to create something I’m proud to post online. I have many posts I’ve started but never feel they are ready. I best dust them off (update them) and get them posted. ?

    Thanks Cari and Sue
    Kanti Kashyap recently posted…10 Best Free Plagiarism Checker Tools 2017My Profile

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