“Ultimately the product any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is.” It’s the first notion presented by Zinsser in his classic guide ‘On Writing Well’ and I think he is right. Good writing radiates a humanity and warmth that keeps the reader reading.
Take Mark Manson, one of the bloggers I like. He typically starts his articles with a sentence like this:
“Let’s be honest: our education system is fucked.”
I think this is a great first statement because I feel the writer right behind his words. It’s personal and it gets me engaged. Why?
- I would never use the word “fucked” right at the start of a serious article because I know many people don’t like the word “fucked”. I’m still a diplomat in the end. At the same time, part of me longs to be as independent and witty as Mark and I wonder whether I should include a word like “fuck” in my next article (as you see I did).
- His choice of words makes clear that Mark isn’t afraid to be honest and to provoke. Therefore, I expect him to say something genuine and interesting about the education system too. I might agree or disagree, I might even think the education system to be a boring subject, but I definitely expect some fun.
Now imagine the title of his post would have been this:
“An overview of the United States education system”
No way I would have continued reading on my lazy Wednesday afternoon. The difference is, Mark’s title is personal while the second one lacks any sign of a human touch.
You might have realized by now, but this is yet another example of the central point I’m trying to make at AuthenticArrows: authenticity works. It definitely did for Mark – despite (or thanks to?) all his profanity he has over 2 million monthly readers.
One more thing, next to being interesting, personal stuff is easy to communicate. As soon as you draw from your own memory, whatever you write or tell comes naturally and vividly. Your memory is your personal cheat sheet, your powerpoint or prezi. Try it, whether it’s a scientific presentation, a business pitch or a story – it just has to be about you.