Using pattern interrupts in your writing to get the attention of your reader. What is a ‘Pattern Interrupt’?
People expect what they read, hear and observe to follow a pattern; to be congruent and in context. The problem with this is they also tend not to pay attention when they think they know what’s coming next.
You are hardwired to think of survival first. When you see something, your limbic system (The paleomammalian brain, or limbic system, consists of the septum, amygdalae, hypothalamus, hippocampal complex, and cingulate cortex) processes the information in this order:
- Is it familiar? Anything different?
- Is it safe?
- Do I need to act? (investigate, run, fight, etc.)
If your limbic system decides all is well, you will tend to ‘scan’ information and not read everything, unless something (visual, such as photos or imagined in your brain) happens to interrupt your complacency.
Studies in ‘eyetracking’ have shown that your audience is predictable in the way they will scan a webpage for information. Here is more information about how people read websites http://blog.crazyegg.com/2012/11/08/lessons-eye-tracking-studies/
Wake them up. Throw in a pattern interrupt to make them stop. Use a question or statement that is intentionally incongruent with the rest of your paragraph.
Dynamic speakers do this all the time. They will show up in unmatched shoes or intentionally drop something during their presentation. It keeps the audience at the edge of their seat – which means they are more likely to remember what you say.
Which lines make you think more? Following are examples of headlines or sub-headings. Which one would you be more likely to skim over? Which might you stop to think about?
1. Attention-getting headlines are one of the best ways to interrupt your readers’ assumptions and expectations with something that piques their curiosity.
Get your audience to read what you write
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2. Sub-headings can be humorous or seemingly incongruous and yet, when your audience actually thinks about it, gets the point across.
Why our bandages work better
How do you get pantyhose on a giraffe?
3. Use metaphor or descriptions that paint a picture – one that doesn’t quite fit.
Use your time wisely
The thief of productivity is lurking behind your chair
Take your time to plan and move slowly and deliberately, not fast.
Think like the three-toed sloth, not the pronghorn antelope
If you want your readers to really digest and absorb what you write, you can’t make their brain so comfortable it goes on autopilot. Engage them, have a conversation, give them what they want to know, entertain them. Shake up their brain a bit! You will become memorable!