Thursday, May 30, 2013

Straight talk: an example (16) – Tracy McMillan

For educational purposes, we writers should occasionally read, listen to, or view an example of straight talk. It doesn’t matter whether we agree or disagree with the statements – what matters is the way the statements are expressed. This exercise can make us more aware of the evasive diction that besets us every day, so we won’t unconsciously imitate it.

An example of straight talk

In 2011, Tracy McMillan (pictured), a relationship author, television writer (Mad Men), and matchmaker (Ready for Love), wrote a now-famous hard-hitting article to women in their 30s. The article appeared in The Huffington Post under the title, “Why You’re Not Married.” It is as straight as straight talk can be.

For example, Ms. McMillan cites six possible reasons why the reader is still not married:

You’re a Bitch.

You’re Shallow.

You’re a Slut.

You’re a Liar.

You’re Selfish.

You’re Not Good Enough.

She explains how each of these traits impedes marriage. For example, in the “You’re a Bitch” section, she writes:

“...most men just want to marry someone who is nice to them. I am the mother of a 13-year-old boy, which is like living with the single-cell protozoa version of a husband. Here’s what my son wants out of life: macaroni and cheese, a video game, and Kim Kardashian. Have you ever seen Kim Kardashian angry? I didn’t think so. You’ve seen Kim Kardashian smile, wiggle, and make a sex tape. Female anger terrifies men. I know it seems unfair that you have to work around a man’s fear and insecurity in order to get married – but actually, it’s perfect, since working around a man’s fear and insecurity is big part of what you’ll be doing as a wife.” (Link added) (Flesch Reading Ease score 70.3)


Some readers will agree with Ms. McMillan’s opinions; some will disagree. But no sane, literate adult reader could possibly misunderstand those opinions as stated. And that’s the whole point of straight talk: Make it so clear that no one could possibly misunderstand you.

The Takeaway: We are often startled by straight talk. We react this way because we have become habituated to euphemistical, effete, evasive diction (sample here). I advise you to occasionally read, listen to, or view some straight talk. It will help you become less likely to passively absorb and unconsciously imitate evasive diction. Start by reading Ms. McMillan’s article in full. It is a masterpiece of straight talk; if we all wrote like this, we would be a lot closer to world peace.

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