11 Ways to Bore the Boots Off Your Readers

image of bored man

Snore.

Eh? What was that you were saying? Of course you don’t ramble on like that boring old history teacher in high school.

You’re likeable. You tell stories. You keep it short.

But somehow, it’s not working.

Your content doesn’t get the tweets, shares, and comments it deserves. Sometimes you wonder…

Does your content not captivate your readers?

Are they clicking away?

Let’s be honest, it’s difficult to know for sure. You can’t see the doodling, the fidgeting, the yawns.

But there are warning signs.

I’ve collected the 11 most common mistakes bloggers make that bore the hell out of their readers. And of course, if you prefer to engage, entertain, and entice your readers … just turn these around, and make your content really work.

1. You’re breaking the rule of one

To engage your readers you share all kinds of great ideas. Sharing just one concept would be dull.

Wouldn’t it?

Wrong.

You’re talking your readers’ ears off. There’s nothing more boring than a story that goes in twenty different directions. Each article should have only one big idea. Each argument, each story, and each example should support it.

(If you have lots of ideas, that’s great. That means you have plenty of fodder for good content. Just take them one at a time.)

Not sure? Check the popular Copyblogger posts to the right of this post:

  • Each headline focuses on one concept
  • Each post concentrates on one idea
  • Each post encourages you with one call to action

Remember: being a blabbermouth is probably more dull than having nothing interesting to say.

2. You use full stops sparingly

Long sentences are cumbersome, boring, and spiritless — especially if you use long and difficult words. Why not use an extra full stop (what you in the U.S. call a period) halfway? Or two?

Short sentences are easy to read, lively, and entertaining.

Favor short sentences. And use full stops as often as you can.

If you’re unsure about using a colon, semi-colon, or a full stop, always choose a full stop. Among punctuation marks, full stops are your best friend.

3. You’re too big for your boots

Please don’t bore your readers with difficult words.

Scrap jargon, cut scientific words, and replace long words with short words. Plain English helps your reader comprehend your message. And complex language doesn’t make you look more intelligent.

Your readers like to be lazy, don’t exhaust them.

They’re not interested in learning your extensive vocabulary. Just help your readers solve their problems.

4. You stick to high school rules

Formality is tiring. No one wants to read your school essays, so stop trying to please English teachers and start pleasing your readers.

Start a sentence with because, and, or but.

Use contractions to strike a conversational tone.

Throw in some sentence fragments — Copyblogger is full of them. Short sentences keep your readers hooked.

Embrace the power of brevity.

Short words.

Short sentences.

Short paragraphs.

Your content will become exciting, entertaining, and fun. And your readers will love you.

5. You sound cold-hearted

Who likes to connect with indifferent and dispassionate people?

To engage with your reader you need to be charming. And that requires a human touch.

Follow these tips to avoid sounding like a dusty, detached headmaster:

  • Choose a topic you’re passionate about
  • Write as if you’re talking to one friend
  • Show your readers the ways in which you’re like them
  • Add vivid details to your stories
  • Use metaphors
  • Don’t be afraid of strong opinions
  • Avoid the passive tense
  • Occasional profanity is fine … if it fits your brand and your personality

Remember: Be warm. Nobody likes chatting with a cold fish.

6. You are too ploddingly predictable

Do you know about Shakespeare’s copywriting technique for grabbing reader attention?

Shakespeare misused words. He used nouns as verbs: he godded me. And adjectives as verbs: thick my blood. This technique surprises and “wakes up” the brain.

You can also use an unexpected word instead of a familiar word in a common phrase. For instance: Clothes don’t maketh the woman. Using an unexpected word has the same effect as misusing words.

Saying something unexpected jolts the brain into paying attention: a subtle, but neurologically proven trick.

7. You are long-winded

Do you avoid these subtle signs of tiresome wordiness?

  • Redundant adverbs and adjectives. If an adverb or adjective doesn’t add meaning; if it doesn’t help picture your story; and if it doesn’t convey an emotion — then it’s not required. Cut it.
  • Excessive words. If you can scrap a word without changing the meaning of your sentence, go ahead and skip it. Wearisome words that often can be cut include ought, in my opinion, that, just, actually, truly, and very.
  • Abstract nouns. Don’t add unnecessary complexity. Don’t write This blog topic is of a complex nature. Just write This topic is complex.

8. You sound like a despicable salesman

You know what makes a salesman pushy, uninteresting, and tiresome, don’t you?

Avoid these irritating sales mistakes:

  • Don’t ramble on about your products. Show the benefits to your readers.
  • Don’t waffle about irrelevant facts. Understand what keeps your readers awake at 3 a.m.
  • Education is your most effective sales tool. Use it liberally.

Remember: Teaching is the best alternative to sleazy sales.

9. You don’t study copywriting techniques

You write creative content to entertain your readers. You use fresh angles and a unique voice. Why isn’t it working?

Maybe you are too original.

No hard-and-fast rules tell you how to be fascinating. But the right copywriting techniques can make your content interesting and irresistible.

Follow these three tips to hold your readers spellbound:

Trying to grab attention by being “creative” for its own sake can hurt the effectiveness of content marketing.

10. You commit crimes against readability

You’ve carefully crafted your content. You’ve self-edited. Your text is informative, friendly, and commanding attention. But do you know your font choice can destroy the effectiveness of your precious words?

Avoid these stupid typography mistakes:

  • Your font is too fancy. Complex fonts are hard to read.
  • Your font is too small. Tiny fonts strain your eyes. Have you seen the large font Forbes.com uses?
  • Your font doesn’t contrast with its background. Why make it strenuous to read your content?

Use a readable font and don’t let your readers drown in dreary blocks of text. Be generous with white space:

  • Frame your text with white space
  • Reduce your content width
  • Write shorter paragraphs
  • Add extra white space around subheads
  • Interrupt your text with bullet points and numbered lists

And do you know the best way to bore your readers to tears? Characterless, cliched photos make your content drab. Always use compelling images.

11. You don’t self-edit to boost charisma

Don’t worry about captivating your readers when you’re writing. Don’t interrupt your flow. Worry about being delightful, entertaining, and surprising only when editing.

Follow these 6 steps to add life to drab, dull content:

  1. Check your engagement level. Don’t be a boastful ego-tripper. How often have you used the words you and your? Use the WeWe calculator to measure enchantment.
  2. Increase the number of really good bullet points. Can you convert paragraphs into numbered lists or bullet points? Short and to-the-point lists are more exciting than lackluster, solid paragraphs.
  3. Examine your paragraph length. Aim for a maximum of five sentences per paragraph. Endless paragraphs are mind-numbingly tiring.
  4. Calculate the average number of words per sentence. Try to have fewer than ten words per sentence. Cut long sentences in two and scrap redundant words.
  5. Analyze average word length. Too many long words can make your content stuffy, stodgy, and stale. Can you replace long words with shorter ones? Can you swap difficult words for simple words?
  6. Boost your content with trigger words. Can you make your text livelier by including vivid and emotional words?

Do you edit your text only once?

Increase the number of drafts you write. Focus on one step for each draft. You’ll be amazed how quickly this can make boring content more appealing.

Will avoiding these pitfalls really help you build an audience?

The truth:

No strict guidelines will show you how to be engaging. No blueprint will tell you how to be charming. No code exists for keeping your readers glued to your content.

But you can avoid common, silly mistakes. Be disciplined. And edit rigorously.

And the most important lesson? Write with passion. Display your enthusiasm. Entertain. Show your readers you care about them, and they’ll love you to bits. If you break a few rules along the way (including these ones) but you do it with passion, you’ll find that audience.

Your energy is contagious. Let your passion shine through, and you’ll gain a raving audience.

Are you ready?

About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and marketer. She's on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs sparkle. Get her free 16-Part Snackable Writing Course for Busy People and learn how to enchant your readers and win more business.

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Comments

  1. Yup, these are some very true points that can make bu boring any day!

    Be yourself, and use contractions and words that will make them more interested. Stories, short sentences, long sentences, etc… Find a way to make them more engaged with your writing.

    Don’t make your posts way too long. That can make them tired and bored as well. Excellent article!

  2. Hey Henneke,

    This is fantastic.
    My favorite principle was the first, “You break the rule of one.” It was one of those a-ha moments for me when you said to look over at the sidebar at the popular posts. They are painstakingly focused on a single concept.
    This is something I probably don’t do well enough, and sometimes long-winded WordPress 101 posts and things of that nature could be broken into multiple posts.

    I’m going to give that a shot, along with a few of your other suggestions. Great post, thank you Henneke!

    -Brock

  3. All really great points but I would add another. If you begin to think that there is something about a post that you are not happy with after it is published, then edit it. Often you realise there is a chunk that adds little so dump it.

    • I agree — often people think that once we’ve clicked “Publish,” the thing is set in stone. We make little tweaks after posts are published whenever we feel the content would benefit … that’s a great advantage to the web!

  4. There is nothing wrong with using industry jargon, but you have to keep in mind who your audience is. Obviously if you are writing for nuclear physicists you better know what you’re talking about and use the right terminology to do so. However, if you’re writing for someone that isn’t as knowledgeable about your niche as you it’s important to share the most important information in a way that is easy to digest.

  5. Is that you in the picture Henneke?

  6. What a great post for a Monday morning! I loved it.

    I would pay attention to “Point 3. You’re too big for your boots.” Keep your target audience in mind when you write. If you’re audience is filled with CEOs, COOs, CFOs, Astrophysicists, etc., they may appreciate (or expect) ‘jargon’ and scientific words.

  7. We all need these reminders once in a while!

  8. Man that WeWe calculator really let’s you know how it is. Cool find. Now, how tactfully to break it to those friends of mine about their blog scoring 4% :o

  9. Great info. (Full stop.)

  10. words to live by . . . thanks!

  11. An excellent article – fun to read with a few “Uh oh, that’s me” moments. In the past, reading my personal blog entries was more like watching a television miniseries. I had faithful readers who swore they loved reading me but…..

    However, I feel that if multi-syllable words come naturally to a person in their daily speech, then they should be writing in the same way. For those who are often flummoxed by words like…well, flummox, it’s very helpful to add Dictionary.com to the toolbar. If we succumb to dumbing down our language, eventually we’ll devolve to grunts, uggs, ROFL’s and LOL’s.

  12. Wow! I’ve been trying too hard. If a persuasive argument ever needs to be written or verbalized, my family and friends always approach me. For whatever reason, I’ve not found that voice with my blog… I’ve not been able to make the same impact.
    Now I see why. Thanks for this post. I am ready!!!

  13. But I love starting sentences by breaking the rules. And I figure if Stephen King can do it – then so can I! I hate it when I get edited for being creative. Actually, sometimes a really long sentence CAN play in your favor – depending on what message you’re trying to pass off.

    What bores me is an over-use of cute kitten pictures. Bleh.

  14. This is a terrific post — engaging & informative. I checked out the WeWeCalculator and my blog’s score was 84 — so there’s definitely room for improvement. I checked out Forbes, too, and I was surprised at how large the font is. You provided really great advice here. Kudos to you — and thanks!

  15. !

  16. As an English major, I needed to hear $4. Thanks for the reminder that it’s ok to break the rules!

  17. Number 2 is a big one for me. If I pull up your blog page and see huge paragraphs and lengthy sentences that aren’t broken up with images or anything… I’m out.

    Thanks for the great tips. I’ll be sharing this… and printing it for my fridge!

  18. Just a teeny note to say thanks for all the stuff I’ve learned from Copyblogger in the two months I’ve been reading your blogs. I’m extra grateful for the free and extremely valuable information you guys pump out on a daily basis. I recommend you to all my writer friends.

  19. No. 3 is a good one.

    As it was once said “think as wise men do, but speak as the common people do”.

    I think it was Aristotle who said that but I’m not sure.

  20. Carolyn Wilson :

    Great points!
    A great tip I’ve picked up that would assist with most of these points is:
    “Read your copy out loud”
    If you sound boring to yourself, it will definitely bore the readers.

  21. You Wowed! me. Exciting post with exciting possibilities I can’t wait to try.

  22. Great tips but the one that really hits home for me is using the full stop more often. I’m as guilty as anyone for writing sentences that are too long. I will try to put this to use.

  23. Debby Marcy :

    Have just read my most recent blog (unpublished thank goodness) and cringed when I realised how many ‘rules’ I’ve broken. Thanks – I’ll be using this article to audit my content from now on.

  24. Wow, thank you so much. I have this problem with keeping my sentences short. Maybe it is because I usually talk too much. :) You gave me some really great tips here, even better, I think I can implement them easily. Thanks!

  25. It’s great to be reminded of some of the little things that make a big difference!

    And I’ve come across a few people, lately, who’re afraid of big type on their pages. I’ll be referring them here.

  26. Brilliant – I try to do most of these – but it’s good to have a checklist and revisit now and again.

  27. Christie Nichols :

    Wow – what a great article. As a copywriter I know I break some of these rules (and DON’T break some of the rules when it’s necessary TO break them).

    I always go back to this trick I learned in college English for concise writing. Go through your copy and circle every prepositional phrase. Get rid of as many of them as possible.

  28. And please, please don’t start your first paragraph with, “I’m writing this because…” Please hook me in. :o)

  29. Great Advice, Sandra. Thanks for sharing. I think using as many pictures as possible is also helpful. You obviously aren’t boring your readers.

  30. Hello Henneke,

    Thank you for this great post! I loved all the tips.

    One small disagreement I have is the number of sentences per paragraph. I usually recommend a maximum of three, unless you really need to get your point across.

    Thank you for taking the time to write the article!

  31. Hello Henneke,

    Thank you for this great post! I loved all the tips.

    One small disagreement I have is the number of sentences per paragraph. I usually recommend a maximum of three, unless you really need to get your point across.

    Thank you for taking the time to write the article!

  32. Wow Henneke,

    these are great tips – I’m always happy to learn how to be a better writer and it’s a craft that can always be refined and improved. Definitely some wonderful gems here,

    thanks for sharing,
    Alan

  33. So glad you put rule #1 at, well #1.
    This was something I struggled with when I first started blogging. The temptation is still there to share tons of ideas in one post. Most people, though, just want a single, purposeful, concise idea. It seems to be the heartbeat of blogging.
    Thanks for the reminder, and for 10 more good tips, too!

  34. More than the how-to’s and tips on making good on anything, tips on what not to do are always welcome. Thanks for sharing this tips, I know many of us will be nodding in agreement as we go about your list and find out that we have made a few mistakes at one time or another.

  35. Wow!

    What an awesome post!

    One of the challenges I often have is trying to remember all these points without interfering with the flow of my writing.

    I love the WeWe Calculator!

    Will definitely use that more often.

    Thanks Henneke

    • You don’t need to remember everything while writing. Write down a first draft. Don’t interrupt your flow.
      When you’re editing, you can use a check list, because it’s not easy to remember everything while editing either. I edit at least five times.

  36. This is a great post on how to avoid boring your readers. I especially like how you talk about keeping things short.

    That is especially important when it comes to the length of your article or blog post. I find it’s best to keep the length of your article short enough that it only takes a couple minutes to read it.

    I don’t have ADHD or anything, but I find my attention drifts away and I get bored if a news article or blog post is too long. If I’ve been reading an article for five minutes and I look and see that I’m only half way through it, I will generally just close the page and find something better to do.

    Again, great post! There’s some wonderful advice here.

  37. Rule #12: You stopped being human. When your writing becomes more about actions you want your readers to take and less about connecting it becomes stale and uninteresting and readers can sniff that out a mile away.

  38. To me is really adding human touch to a post. Just read an social marketing article, it was boring. It was written by a Professor, that probably explains why. However, I suspected it was being ghost-wrote or PLR wrote. Because there is no soul in the article at all.

    With so many blogs and information out there, how do we get originality in an article. Include the human touch, Readers like to feel the writers essence. Include experiences, personal stories is how I include human touch.

  39. Thank you for the list. I am going to study it and implement some of your ideas!

  40. Totally loved this post Henneke. Great one here.

    I can’t believe i have learned a lot of things on this blog in the past few days. Thanks CopyBlogger.com.

    This post really slaps me in the face. I always forget to write contents as personal as possible on my blog, whereas when building my blog at the first time, i wanted to build a personal blog with me speaking up my own opinion.

    But over the time, i slowly forget about that objective and now i think my contents are becoming to boring to read until i realize it in the past few days, thanks to this CopyBlogger.com blog. Hopefully, i can stick to my first objective again to write personal articles from now on, not some boring news update.