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Frank Formatting: How to Determine Audience Perception

When a writer is given clear instructions he or she can craft something intended to help the client by subconsciously forming the opinions of the readers. For those writers who are determined in earnest to serve their clients, there are ways to format content that will penetrate the psyches of readers and guide them towards positive client interactions.

While few people put an emphasis on formatting in an article (as opposed to style or tone) it truly does change the perception of the audience. Here is a sample article re-written in several different ways to demonstrate the different emphases and readings.

mpes3.25IMPACT: Because it’s easy to skim, readers quickly absorb the basics. The writing is informative and authoritative, so readers will tend not to question it and will just imbibe the essentials.

This straightforward mommy blog-style works great when you want a reader to perceive an idea as helpful and un-salesy. However, it can be reformatted to read as less professional and more organic. Here is an example of the same article written as a community post.

2mpes3.25IMPACT: Because it’s written from a peer perspective, readers will question its authority more, but not question its authenticity. If the writer seeded a previous post where “Janice” casually mentioned Sudsy Bubbles without a link, then readers will question it much less.

Taking the peer stance in writing can be difficult for professional writers that are out-of-touch with message board slang. Before attempting this ‘plain speech’ dialectic, try to peruse the message board for group jargon and common misspellings to use.

If your client wants the article to be placed on a very professional site, the content can be reformatted to gain the respective to PhD-level readers. Here is an example:

3mpes3.22IMPACT: The reader will thoughtfully consider the article and write off the client as an unnecessary sidebar, but will have subconsciously noted the brand.

Note that no fewer than three sources should ever be used in a faux-scholarly piece. Pretentious readers rate an article on its 25-cent graduate school words as much as they do upon its credentials (or supposed ones). While writers may have to use a playful edge to work a client link into this sort of article, they must avoid any sarcasm related to the brand (if not the activity).

General Tips for Writers

  • When formatting articles to create a desired effect, always remember the audience’s trust level for the placement site. Using a reader’s distrust is as easy as using their open-armed, enthusiastic trust—as long as it’s anticipated.
  • Stay away from tried-and-true formats such as the listicles if the client is despised (such as a foreclosure specialist). Seed these links in unrelated articles as often as possible and stick to less formulaic outlines. Expected formats free the reader’s mind to think more clearly about the topic and links.
  • A misspelled word or two might make content seem more befitting of its message board, but it also demerits the writer as an authority. Try to keep it suggestive rather than flagrant (for example, using “real” instead of “really” or adding a few filler words such as ‘like’ to the writing). If you use flagrant misspelling people will wonder why your spell check is off.
  • Allow the site’s overriding format to influence the writing more than anything else. Seeming out-of-place will immediately discount efforts to persuade the audience.


Formatting a piece of content often requires a solid outline. This kind of pre-planning can help writers to become more successful, and clearer deliverymen of your client’s message. However, if all else fails a writer can always go out and read How to Win Friends and Influence People for inspiration.

About the author

Michael Purdy