Ask your reader’s questions, says Donald Murray

When you write, ask the questions your readers want answered, as journalist Donald M. Murray suggests in Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at Work.Writing to Deadline by Donald Murray

Murray found that the most important questions

…were not the questions I wanted to ask or even the questions my editor told me to ask. They were the questions that the reader would ask and if I did not answer them the reader would be unsatisfied.

For example, let’s assume you’re writing about education savings accounts. As a financial professional, you may be fascinated by the gritty details of each account time, the exceptions to the account rules, or how the accounts can help you with a specific client in an unusual situation.

Your questions will differ from those of your readers. They may ask the following questions:

  • What are the “big picture” differences between account types?
  • Which account is right for me and my family?
  • Are there any pitfalls I should understand?
  • How do I open an account?

Murray suggests that writers should seek to identify five key questions from the reader’s perspective. Sometimes, he admits, you’ll end up with fewer or provide the information that your that your reader seeks. The main thing is to provide information that your reader seeks.

Murray also says that “When I come to write the story, I order the questions in the sequence I think the reader will ask them.” This is a good tip for you, too.

As I emphasize in Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, it’s important to understand the perspective of your target audience. When you address their concerns, you’ll deepen your connection with them.

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