What Did You Learn?

April 15, 2010

General Writing: Do Not Insult Your Reader

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 11:42 pm

In the same way that the submission you make to an agent should not be rude and off-putting, beware of insulting your reader. This could mean a number of things, such as talking down to them or having a general superior tone.

It’s important to remember that your audience is both smarter and stupider than you give them credit for. Everyone comes with a different base of knowledge so you want to make sure that you’ve explained enough information that someone new to the subject would understand but you don’t want to simplify it so much that the audience feels like you’re treating them like children. No one appreciates being treated like they’re dumb, even if it’s true that your IQ is fifty points higher than them. Drawing on things that the average person may know from real life, you can use relatable examples to make sure they get what you have to say.

A word of note, throwing a bunch of big words into your story does not necessarily make it a smarter, more intelligent book. Often it can come off as snobby “look at me I can use big words.” The words have to sound natural and they shouldn’t be so constant that it feels like you have to use a dictionary to get through each line.

Another thing to be aware of is things that you know are controversial or that people have very strong feelings towards. For example, comparing the US Food and Drug Administration encouraging the drinking of milk to the justice department promoting, may be a little overkill. Even if you think drinking milk is bad for you. (You may say, who thinks that? But I can tell you that not only do I know that people believe that but that actual comparison has been made.) There’s something that I find insulting about that, just as I find the use of 9/11 in a story just for the sake of it and not because it is important to be insulting. That’s not to say you should never be controversial, but make sure that the things you are saying are things you WANT to be controversial, otherwise your real point will get lost in the upset of the reader.

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