A Note About Perspective

I regularly edit pieces by writers who stretch to make their subjects seem more important or popular than they actually are. The result is trends that are “the hottest yet,” parts of organizations that are “the most crucial” and bands that are “revolutionizing the sound.” (The same is obviously true with pejorative characterizations.) It often ends up reading like marketing copy.

It’s easy to write at the high and low ends of the importance spectrum. In just a few words, an uninspired or uninformed writer can render a subject the best or worst. It’s more difficult—but often more accurate and a better service to the reader—to properly frame a subject that may be worth writing about, but isn’t above or below everything it can be compared to. Shades of gray are hard to characterize.

But it’s not impossible. If you are assigned to write a roundup of the shoes coming out for the summer season, you aren’t required to breathlessly pronounce them as the sexiest, sleekest, most comfortable yet (!). Instead of filling your piece with empty superlatives, offer a more informative description based on, say, color, material, price, availability, and function. Give your readers a full idea of what to expect from the shoes, and then let them decide whether they’re the best or worst.

Another example: You’re writing a blog post about the importance of establishing a Facebook page to promote a business. Just because this is the subject of your post doesn’t mean that you have to present this as the most essential element to business promotion. Instead, tell readers why and how they should create a Facebook page for their businesses. Depending on your audience, it might also be equally important to discuss reasons why certain readers wouldn’t want to create a Facebook page. This takes more effort than slapping together a post telling the reader Facebook is the hottest thing ever, describing how to create a page, and then hitting “Publish.” But it will be of far greater service to your audience.

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