Writing Tips

4 Poetic Tricks To Grab Online Readers’ Attention

Techniques successful poets use to compel readers

Mariko O. Gordon, CFA
2 min readJun 19, 2021
Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

I picked stocks for 30+ years. Today I sift through words.

For months now, I’ve attended oodles of poetry workshops, classes, and readings. I’ve also studied how to write online with @nicolascole77 and @dickiebush’s Write the Ship and Ship 30 for 30. Poetry and online writing have a lot more in common than you’d think.

Poetry is the real OG of holding readers’ attention.

We turn to poetry when we need to express what we feel deeply, and when our own words fail us. Poetry has filled a need for thousands of years. Still, if you’re not a poetry nerd, it’s not an everyday read.

By contrast, we are constantly scrolling online. We use social media for lots of reasons — when we want to be entertained, educated, or even do business. Lots compete for our attention on the internet, from cat videos to breaking news.

The use cases may be different between poetry and online writing, but both have similar needs:

  1. Catch the reader’s attention or die
  2. Give the reader a reward
  3. Create an interesting visual form
  4. Control word count for effect

Here are a few techniques online writing should steal from poetry:

  1. Listen! Address the reader head on — everyone loves to be the center of attention. Use specific, colorful nouns and strong verbs. Juxtapose words. Sprinkle unusual words. These all grab and hold attention.
  2. Do something unexpected at the end. The reader must leave satisfied, with a feeling, a message, or a surprise.
  3. Lay out your text to support your message. The page, rather than the eyes, move when reading online, so make it easy for eyes to “hook” onto the text. Use white space to draw attention.
  4. Slash every word that doesn’t whisk your reader to the scene, unfold the story, blow their mind, or leave ’em in tears. Every word must earn its keep.

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Mariko O. Gordon, CFA

Built $2.5B money mgmt biz from scratch. Coaching badass women to build & love their businesses, manage their finances, and make sure the thrill is never gone.