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HomeRants > Talk like a human being. > Develop an attitude. > Cut through anonymity.


 

Getting rid of Mr. Anon

Your style reflects your attitude toward your readers, implying a relationship.

If you intend to provoke a conversation, reveal yourself.

Tone shows how you react to your readers.

If you want to amuse people

If you want to teach

If you want to help people become more aware

If you just want to be helpful--a good scout

Cut through anonymity.

On paper, corporations, universities, and governments have always favored an impersonal style

  • Talking in a consensus-seeking committee speak
  • Avoiding taking any stand that might offend anyone anywhere
  • Squeezing out resolutely anonymous prose.

In the rush to fill up Web sites, a lot of this faceless prose got posted. So now some sites are like Wall Street at midnight in winter--cold as granite under ice.

Your style reflects your attitude toward your readers, implying a relationship.

The old approach was authoritative: "We know what we are doing, and you are lucky to be listening to us."

But the Internet works best as a series of two-way conversations.

  • Interact with your visitors.
  • Ask their opinion.
  • Start a conversation.

If you intend to provoke a conversation, reveal yourself.

At the least, tell your readers as much about your own life as they reveal in registering, answering your questions, or stating their preferences.

  • Instead of being all-knowing, admit when you feel confused.
  • Include a byline.
  • Be daring: put your picture in your article.

When people sense that you are a real person, they respond.

And if you take a definite position, clearly distinguishing your ideas from the herd, refusing to take a corporate snoot at them, people get the sense that you might listen to their own opinions.

I find that the more I express my own individuality, the more I cut through the plastic, silicon, wire, and glass of the computer and the Internet.

Tone shows how you react to your readers.

Contemplate the relationship with Emma, if you have developed a persona to represent an important niche audience.

Figure out what your stance is.

What are you doing, in this conversation?

What is your aim, in this relationship?

If you want to amuse people

On a site like a webzine, be outrageous. Go beyond the norms. Get into the intimate details of your emotional sturm und drang, your paranoid fantasies, if you think they will be entertaining on a particular site. Recognize what people normally think, and come up with something different. Your job at a webzine is to provoke discussion, and the hotter your prose, the more they talk.

If you want to teach

Be considerate. Be willing to start with the familiar, and move step-by-step into the unfamiliar. Teaching requires enormous sympathy, an intuitive awareness of each moment when the student may be puzzled, upset, drawn off course. The more you pay attention to the student's internal experience, the more you can articulate your subject matter for them. (Too many academics write Web pages to impress their colleagues, leaving students far behind).

If you want to help people become more aware

Open yourself up to sense their inner life, each moment. Tune in to their fears, desires, dreams, and as you write, imagine how the readers react. Shifting your attention from your made-up self to your listeners lets the meaning flow through. Your text loses some of its personal flavor, but takes on a deeper significance. Oddly, at that moment, some people will start to praise you for your "original style."

If you just want to be helpful--a good scout

Then be plain. Give up all those tricks you learned in school, when you were struggling to be persuasive, attractive, plausible, and convincing. When you are mentally trying to demonstrate how unusual, special, fascinating, mysterious, or complicated you are, your writing draws attention to itself, away from the subject- it's okay if you are deliberately showing off, but not particularly helpful.

Resource

Who am I writing for, and, incidentally, who am I? (Full chapter from Hot Text, in PDF, 566K, or about 10 minutes at 56k)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wear this big cowboy hat because I live in New Mexico,
where the sun is very strong. I put a Lego truck on
my hat brim because I like playing with Legos. Any questions?

 

 

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