Blog Summary from Regan.com By Daphne Gray-Grant |

You probably learned the Pareto Principle the easy way. Maybe you heard about the concept in the business press—“studies show that in most companies 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of clients.” Or perhaps you picked it up during a time management course—“you should spend 80 percent of your time on the 20 percent of activities that are most useful to you.”

The first step is to decide you’re going to beat Pareto. That is, you want more than 20 percent of eyeballs reading your work. And you want more than 20 percent compliance with whatever it is you’re suggesting.

Here are five tricks that will help:

1. Have a great headline. A headline is like a store display window. It catches the eye by sampling the merchandise. It says: “More of this great stuff will be inside.” Similarly, a good headline will draw readers further into your writing.

2. Make frequent use of bold or subheads. Readers are like a bunch of kids at an action movie—easily bored and always waiting for the next explosion or car chase. As a writer, I can’t make things blow up, but I can and do make liberal use of graphic dynamite, a.k.a. boldface.

3. Always use captions for photos. And I do mean always. Eye-track studies (research showing where your eyes look while reading) consistently demonstrate that the human eye is drawn to photographs and, from there, to captions underneath.

4. Put your most interesting material at the beginning. Work hard at engaging the reader from the get-go. You’ll notice in this article, for example, I began by identifying with the reader (by using the word “you”) and then launched into an anecdote about my university life. I’m not suggesting I’m endlessly fascinating (I’m actually rather dull, as my children will eagerly tell you), but I do know that most readers enjoy hearing stories about people’s lives. Think of facts as the medicine and anecdotes as the sugar that makes them palatable.

5. Use transitions. Transitional words such as because, as well, but, in contrast, similarly belong in everything you write. They help “pull” the reader through your writing—much as a rope tow pulls a skier uphill. As well, don’t ignore the power of “conceptual” transitions. These occur when you repeat a word or phrase or otherwise refer to an earlier sentence. The second paragraph of this article (“Not me”), for example, harkens back to the first paragraph (“You probably…”).

Though I give all due power to Pareto, I think his principle can be beaten. It just takes some determination.

A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a free weekly newsletter on her Web site, the Publication Coach.

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