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Picture of a slide and monkey bars at a playground

When you write, are you putting your readers on the slide or the monkey bars? (It should be the slide.)

If you want to craft engaging written content, you’ve got to write it in a way that flows and makes it easy for your readers to consume and digest it.

Think about a playground. Think about the slide. Now, think about the monkey bars. 

When you go down the slide, what happens? The slide keeps you moving without any effort on your part except for getting up it. There’s nothing you have to do. Your natural weight and momentum takes you all the way down to the end. 

What about the monkey bars? 

They’re a different story. Unlike the slide, you need to make a significant effort to get across them. You are reaching and grabbing and trying to swing your body from one bar to the other. 

And, let’s be honest, there’s a good chance most of us are not going to make it across. 

Which activity was easier? Which one required less effort? Which one was more enjoyable? Obviously, the slide. 

The playground rule for engaging writing

The slide vs. monkey bars comparison provides an important lesson about writing in a way that engages readers. You need to write in a way that makes it easy for your readers to move through the piece of content you’ve just drafted.

No matter what kind of content you’re drafting—a blog post, a letter to opposing counsel, an article, a brief, etc.—you should always be thinking, “How can I put my readers on the slide and not the monkey bars?” 

Remember, the burden’s on you, the writer, to craft content for your readers in a way that is easy for them to follow along, understand, and digest. Don’t make them work to comprehend what you are saying. You want them to start reading and then move as effortlessly through your writing as they would if they were to go down a slide.

That means when you’re crafting content, the substance needs to flow. Your thoughts should be laid out in a way that makes sense and allows a reader to understand the points you are trying to make.

A sentence should naturally flow to the next sentence. A paragraph should naturally flow to the next paragraph. A section should naturally flow to the next section.

To do so, you’ll have to order your thoughts in a logical way. The point you are currently making should always lay the groundwork for your next point. And, that point should have naturally flowed from the point you just made.

Additionally, you can create flow in a document by using smooth transitions and segues. These can help guide your readers as you progress through the points you’re making, summarizing what you just said and teeing up what you are about to say.

Put ’em on the slide, not the monkey bars

With a logical ordering of your points and liberal use of transitions and segues, a reader should never get tripped up reading something you wrote and think to themselves, “This doesn’t make sense,” or “Wait, how’d we get from there to here?” When this happens, you’ve put your readers on the monkey bars. And we all know how hard it is to make it across the monkey bars.

Instead, you should strive to put your readers on the slide. Write your content and order the points you make in it in a way that makes it easy for readers to consume it. The easier of a time they have consuming your content, the more likely they will be to understand what you are saying. When readers feel they can easily understand what you are saying, they will naturally view you as a good writer and will likely want to consume more of your content (assuming you are writing about topics of interest to them).

Yes, it takes a bit of practice to refine your ability to make your writing flow logically and to use transitions and segues in ways that allow your readers to glide from one point to another to another. But mastering how to do so is a must if you want to be an engaging writer.

Much of the work-related writing your readers will consume will make them feel like they’re on the monkey bars—it won’t be easy for them to progress through the writing, and they might get so discouraged by how unappealing the writing is that they stop midway and don’t revisit it.

Aim to do better. Aim to craft content that makes your readers feel like they’re on a playground slide because it is written in a way that allows them to effortlessly move through it while understanding exactly what you’re saying and the points you’re making.

Contemplating getting outside help to ensure your content consistently puts its readers on the slide and not the monkey bars? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside strategist and writer is the right move for your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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