You’re turning off 25% of your readers

turning off your readers

Your readers don’t all learn in the same way, so you need to find a way to speak to all of them and not leave some behind inadvertently.

Did you know that every one of your readers has his or her own preferred way of learning a new thing? If you don’t account for these disparate learning methods within your blog post or business book, you’ll be turning a chunk of readers off without even realizing it. Each of us has our own personal bias when it comes to learning, which can lead you astray when it comes to writing for a broad audience.

You might feel it’s a tall order to have to cater to everyone’s needs individually, and you’re right. But there’s a way to address many of the various learning styles at once, and that’s to use the “Why, What, How, What if?” technique when you’re structuring your writing.


Some people need to know WHY they should be doing something new before they are willing to commit to it. If there’s no insight into what the purpose of an activity or idea is, these folks will find it hard to motivate themselves to put the effort into whatever it is you are asking them to do or consider.


Others aren’t so bothered by “why,” but have to know WHAT to do. If they’re learning a new thing, and it’s not clear what steps are involved in doing it, they’ll feel discouraged. This is the “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll be happy!” contingent.


Then there’s the group that really values being told HOW to do something. For them, it’s not enough to know why or what; if there’s no guidance on how to actually go about doing this new thing, they switch off.

What if?

And finally, there are those who ask “WHAT IF?” whenever they come across a new concept. They want to know how it will work in the real world; what could go right and what could go wrong. Theory isn’t enough for them, they need real life examples.


Which club do you belong to? Of course, we all fall into each to a certain extent, but I’ll bet there are a couple which are more important to you than the others.

Equally, you’ll have one or two which don’t bother you too much. For instance, I’m very much a “why” and “what if” person; I don’t care too much about “how.” Once I realized this, it became clear to me my writing was light on advising my readers how to do things. Now I make sure to take this into account, because that’s what will happen if you don’t get clear with yourself on your own personal biases; the readers who do care about that aspect of learning won’t get full value from your writing – you’re unconsciously leaving them out. They’ll be turned off to what you have to say, and they might not even realize why (nor will you!).

What to do next

Next time you’re outlining a chapter of your book or your next blog post, write the four elements as mock sub titles. Arrange your points under each heading, ensuring that you cover each element fully. You’ll find you need to force yourself to do one or two of them more than the others, as those are the ones that don’t come so easily to you (they’re the ones you don’t care about yourself).

This goes for your entire book as well as each chapter. Readers need to know why they’re reading the book, what they need to do in order to achieve the changes you offer, how they should do the tasks, and what could happen in the real world once they’ve done them.

How to take your readers through it

The methods you use will depend on what you’re asking your readers to do and nature of the transformation you’re guiding them through. It could encompass exercises, a step by step series of actions, examples of how other people have done it, and so on. Your “how” will be very much linked to your personality and style.

It also means being prepared to go into some detail for your readers, as “how” can be a more descriptive way of writing than “what.”

Bring it into the real world

Your “what if?” section can be a great place to include case studies and examples. What problems might your readers have when they put into practice what you’re teaching them? How can you anticipate these issues, and advise them on how to overcome them? What good results might your readers get? Are there any knock-off benefits, and what could they do to capitalize on them?

When you’re thinking this through, you might find my post “How to win over your readers when they don’t believe you” helpful. Once you’ve incorporated the “what if?” into your writing, your work will have more credibility, as your ideas and advice will be rooted in actual life rather than just theory.

I have to give thanks to the Extraordinary Coaching Company, which taught me this lesson in one of its training courses. So what’s your bias? Were you aware of it before now? Let us know in the comments below!

This post originally appeared on Ginny Carter’s blog, MarketingTwentyOne. Reposted with permission.

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  1. you cant save every puppy in the pound

    trying to write a book taht pleases everybody
    will ensure that even more people wont like it

    write two books or just write one for the biggest audience
    trying to satisfy all types of learners will fail

  2. When my boss was a first-time parent, he told me about this parenting book that was helping him out with his daughter. He liked that the chapters started out with and example and then examined the rationale behind what was going on. (That’s sort of a “what if?” style). A “why” style would have started out with the theory and then given an example. Mutually exclusive.

    And “how”? Some would see that as “what” (what steeps to take). Are you talking to “blind followers” or “theorists”? “How” to a theorist is no explanation to a blind follower, “how” to a blind follower is a turn-off to the theorist who only needs to know how this process differs from similar processes they’ve done before. Again, mutually exclusive.

    The biggest difference between the learning styles is in the ORDER you introduce information, and a book can only be written in one order.

    • That structure in the parenting book sounds great. ‘Why’ doesn’t have to be theory though – it can be contained within the example, for instance the scenario can show why the problem has arisen. And it’s true that everyone has their own preferences which is why it’s important to cater for all.

  3. Excellent advice, well cooked. My compliments to the chef.

    Haply, I am more interested in communicating with my kind of people than serving all kinds. I think other kinds of people are better served by other kinds of writers, of which I see no shortage. I shall, however, take some care to notify my potential readers of the kind I am writing for. And I shall withhold judgement on writers who do not speak to my kind.

  4. Great article! I especially like the idea of using the four elements a subtitles. That’s a great way to establish different viewpoints, or, as another reader suggested, create different books.


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