Friday, July 17, 2009

No I'm not and no I don't!

You're reading an article on the Internet, and you suddenly find yourself starring in a hypothetical situation you could never imagine thinking to yourself. You think, "What in the name of Pete?" And then you think, "Wait a minute. I'd never do that, and I never say 'What in the name of Pete!'"

Somewhere along the way, many of us were taught a completely useless and annoying literary device: putting the reader into a hypothetical situation in a clumsy attempt to "draw them in." I see an exhausting number of articles online that start this way, particularly when I'm rating Helium articles.

"You're sitting in a restaurant, and you see..."

Uh, no I'm not, and no I don't. This sort of thing doesn't pull me in and engage me; it just annoys me and puts me on the defensive. In fact, if anything, I'm less likely to want to keep reading to see what the article has to say. Even if it's prefaced with "Picture it..." it's still hackneyed and a little insulting. I don't like being given directives before I've even read the story.

Don't do it. Don't try to force your reader into being the star of a hypothetical situation. It's not clever, and it's not engaging. Find another way to open your article.

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