When I began teaching international business culture in Osaka, Japanese students laughed at Americans‘ quaint belief that if they hadn’t told you something, you couldn’t know it. Sound familiar?
Such smugness is a cardinal sin for writers. Nothing says “amateur” like self-important fluff. To attract an ideal audience, write as if every reader is smarter, busier and more sophisticated than you.
Here are a few ways to show respect for your audience, and for their gift of precious time.
- Assuming you already “show, don’t tell” whenever possible, also remember to be clear, concise and compelling (we’ve mentioned the muscular power of short words, sentences and paragraphs).
- If you refer to an interesting incident or bit of news, don’t belabor us with a chronological recap, or a detailed analysis of the situation. Stick to what’s of immediate interest and importance.
- And speaking of chronological, don’t be. The best fiction and expository writers begin the narrative in the heat of the action. So should you. This grabs our attention and establishes suspense, pulling us into the story (remember, try to make everything a story).
If you feel the need to promote yourself, start a diary and lock it. “Gonzo journalism” was diverting for a while, but busy people today have little patience for that conceit.
[Tomorrow: Inspiring more action with value-driven content]