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[Day 2: Write Well Challenge]: Personalize

[Day 2: Write Well Challenge]: Personalize

This is the second part of the free course, Write Well Challenge. If you’ve not joined, do so here for FREE so you don’t miss any of it.

[Day 2: Write Well Challenge]: Personalize

Personalize | Write Well Challenge

Photo Credit: Camdiluv ♥ via Compfight cc

Do you want your writing to be interesting?

Then you must learn to tell stories. When you relate your subject of discourse to your experiences, your writing attains uniqueness. Your readers get to know you better, and relate more with your message.

One good thing about experiences is that everyone has them. And when you relate them aptly and clearly, they make your message sink.

They help you demonstrate that you actually understand what you’re talking about, and are not just rehashing general statements other folks have made.

Your story is more compelling than you think

I’ve come to know this to be true recently: you don’t know how powerful your story is … until you tell it.

For many years after I started writing, I never realized the potency of personalizing. I just wrote in general terms and drew blanket conclusions.

The outcome? My pieces invariably lacked appeal. They didn’t win contests. My blogs didn’t get readers.

Then, I learnt to tell my story whenever I write. In 2011, I wrote an opinion piece for the Qatar-based IslamOnline English (now rested) on the BH insurgency and shared my relevant experiences. The piece was super interesting their editor came persuading me to become a freelance writer for them.

We struck a deal and I freelanced for them for 8 months, writing 2-3 articles every month and getting $100 on each.

I’ve told my story many times in essay contest entries and gone ahead to bag cool prizes. My two books, Vertical Writing and Your Right To Write are popular with readers because they relate relevant personal stories of frustrations, failures and breakthroughs that enliven the lessons. So are tutorials on this blog, too.

Tell your story … aptly

So when you write for essay contests, your blog or other purposes, don’t just generalize. Relate the topic to your own experiences.

But that’s not a license to start self-promotion or share your story for its own sake. The experience you share must be:

  • Relevant: will it show that you understand or have tested what you’re discussing?
  • Interesting: will it be memorable?
  • Concise: is it straight to the point?

For instance, Abdulkabeer Ishola in his essay, Harnessing Our Diversity and Strength for National Development,” which won the first prize in the 2012 Yakubu Gowon Foundation Essay Competition had the endearing experience below to share:

…It is a must to apply equality of status to everyone. A Hausa is not special than the Yoruba, nor the latter superior to the Igbo. It is as well important to create personal familiarity with other tribes and religions. This led me to naming my first son Ubaydullah, Danjuma, ChukwuNonso, Ayomide a month ago. And while I was asked by my father the ‘raison d’être’ for such decision, I politely told him: Cultural Integration; that is what the NYSC has taught me.

How memorable that is! The writer revealed to me in an interview that “everyone who read that piece always admired that brief pithy utterance.” That’s the power of storytelling.

Also, Temitayo Olofinlua in her essay, “Arise o Nigerians!” which won the first prize in the 2010 CIPE Essay Competition buttressed her discussion on bad governance with a memorable personal experience:

As I type this, there is no electricity on the university campus. I tap power from a cybercafé that generates its electricity. The noise from the generator is deafening. I slap off mosquitoes from my body. I am not the only one here. We are about ten. This is not different from the experience out there: every house is a local government unto itself. We provide the ‘basic’ amenities that should be benefits of good governance. We provide ourselves electricity with generators that pollute the air and cheat us on sleep. Each house has its own borehole for portable water. There is however a teeming mass that cannot afford the luxury of running this ‘subsistence’ government.

Your challenges today

Take these challenges today and give your write-ups a spark:

  • Dig out any piece you’ve written before and read it. Think of relevant experiences on the issues in it and incorporate your story into the piece. Notice how the piece improves.
  • Write a short piece in 10 minutes on “The pains and gains of social media”. (I’m sure you have ample personal experiences to share on this)
  • Post either or both of the pieces on your blog, on Facebook or elsewhere. See how readers relate with your story.

Question: Do you personalize your write-ups? Does it make your writing better? Please leave a comment below.

If you need practical, step-by-step help with your writing, get my new book, Vertical Writingwhich inspired this free course.

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-- Dr. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji | Fulbright scholar | Senior Lecturer, Unilorin | newspaper columnist

About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.


  1. Ayeyemi Taofeek Aswagaawy says:

    It would be a grave lie to say I personalize all ♍γ̲̣̣̥ write-ups, not all but the few. But these few raises the thumbs of its readers upper and higher than those without personal experience or stories. Even I personally smiles at it.
    Today, I’ve learnt more on H̶̲̥̅̊ό̲̣̣̣̥w to logically tell ♍γ̲̣̣̥ stories.
    Infact, A̶̲̥̅♏ learning……………………… Thanks to ♍γ̲̣̣̥ coach, Abdullahi, ours sincerely.

  2. Yes I personalize my posts infact that’s how my readers grew. They could relate to whatever it is I’m writing about.
    Well done.

  3. Ayeyemi Taofeek Aswagaawy says:

    A̶̲̥̅♏ learning……………………..

  4. Kemsy Efy says:

    My brother, I must commend you for this great job you are doing here. Kudos!

  5. Kelvin Ugwuoke says:

    Thanks for this l

  6. When you personalize your write-ups it makes you write from the heart, you are able to pour in some much emotion into it that makes your write-ups downright appealing. And it flows even easier. Am starting to learn this also.
    Great job Coach.

  7. Abdulrahman T says:

    Truely you inspired me and I confess, your write up is a conglomeration of bread, butter and tea believe you me, is a delicious meal.


    To be sincere with you Tosin, you have inspired me to go back to my pen and book. I love writing. For your question on; if write ups should be personal or not? No. To get your story meaningful and interesting, you must make it general. It’s what affects everybody that people like to discuss and listen to.

    • Daniel, thanks!

      I do not agree that only a generalized message will resonate with your audience. In fact, I think such will be less effective. It’s possible for anyone to milk out generalized articles from Google without understanding it or having applied the points in it himself.

      But a personalized message is original and unique. The real impact is created when you personalize and your audience can relate with your fears, failures and breakthroughs.

  9. salam alaykum, i must commend your efforts for this priceless lecture. but my question to ask is dat can one think of an unrealistic story and shear it as am experience while writing an essay?

  10. where do i send my day's challenge for you to see the kind of writing i do. so you can make logical and constructive criticism if need be

  11. Michael Egbujua says:

    To be sincere, i do personalized writing but it has not been deliberate, and most times i also don’t do write that way, so its a two way thing

  12. Maria Ocheja says:

    I love your writing style Abdul and I thank God you are coaching me to write eligibly in every step of my reading to become a better writer. I do not personalize some of my writings especially when I was not present at the scene of events or my topic did not happen to me. Please how do I go about this?

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