Monday, December 22, 2014

Don’t undermine yourself (2)

Writers sometimes undermine themselves in their titles and introductions. Let me give you a quick example:

While surfing for information on measuring the value of public relations, I saw an article with this title:
“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys… err… PR Measurement Pros.”
I thought:
He sounds foolish, but I’ll give him one paragraph before I decide whether to quit.
His introductory paragraph:
“Not too long ago, PR News Online published a fun piece about PR superheroes. I loved this story because I’ve always wanted to be a superhero. It made me believe that one day, if I try hard enough and excel in my career, I might be able to gain PR superhero recognition and be invited to join the Justice League… OK, OK, never mind; my kids have me grounded enough to know this is highly unlikely. Though I may never gain superhero status, I have devoted some time to searching for a few real life PR superheroes.” (Links in original omitted here.)
I thought:
His use of fun as an adjective makes him sound childish.
In “I’ve always wanted be a superhero,” he uses present perfect tense, which implies that he, a putative adult, still wants to be a superhero.
He incongruously inserts contrived dialog (“OK, OK, never mind”). Apparently he is unaware how blasted annoying this device is, or how fatuous it makes him sound.
His statement “my kids have me grounded enough” sounds like he’s trying to abase himself. How embarrassing.
I turned to another article, by another writer, on the same topic.

The Takeaway: Remember, intelligent readers judge you by your diction and composition. They do it to avoid wasting time. If they notice that your title or introduction makes you sound immature, ill-educated or neurotic, they (correctly or incorrectly) conclude that the rest of your piece will be silly, incoherent, long-winded, tangential and confusing. Therefore they conclude that you are not a credible source of information and they stop reading right there. So give yourself a chance; build your credibility by using good diction and composition, especially in your title and introduction.

See disclaimer.

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