05 Language & Writing

Writing by Formula May Ruin the Pleasure Of Something Unique

Incessant devices are too much of a good thing.

As a writer, I let myself be bombarded every day, often multiple times in a day, with ‘How To’s and Listicles teaching me new tricks to grab eyeballs, retain reader attention and inveigle SEO engines.

Sure, I want my article to be successful. And I certainly don’t want to allow typos and grammar errors to get out there. But the price I am paying in dressing things up is increasing steadily. I am trying to settle it down, but there’s a lot of it. And one can easily get tipnoramusphobia – the fear of missing out on a tip – one on writing in this case. At a rough count, there would be about 30 things to take care of, to make an article tick all the boxes that will make the curators, readers and analytics engines take the bait. It has become about 30% of my writing time, and I sure am champing at the bit.

I also worry I am taking advantage of the mind of the reader. Although I believe I have worthwhile things to say, it doesn’t stop me from feeling like a bit of a bounder.

As a reader, I can now spot from half a mile away when writing has gone through this pre and post-production work to create a slick package. I simultaneously empathise with the writer, feel a fraternal kinship and a sinking sense of being exploited.

The simile of cynical advertising came to my mind for this situation. But do you aver it is not so bad? Do you say I should, on the contrary, think that dressing our writing is like taking a savant to a party, making sure he won’t look like a slouch? Do you posit it is aimed at creating an excellent first impression and civil interaction? That if our writing has the depth of character, we will be seen for who we truly are, and our unique voice will be heard?

Perhaps you are right. But if everyone is well dressed, it takes more and more effort to be best-dressed and stand out. And a new sort of tedium creeps in.

More worrying is the clear and growing danger of do-gooders suggesting ways to generate new story and blog ideas! Where will inspiration go! And what about good old serendipity?

Maybe we need to go back to Aristotle’s Golden Mean and not overdo it.

You know what I’ll do? I’ll distil out the essential parts of the dressing-up versus the optional, and post them in an article. It may be useful for you if you feel like I do.

Meanwhile, let’s keep it dapper and attractive, with a helpful heart and original thoughts under the fashionable attire.


Shashi on LinkedIn

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