What We Don't Say Can Be As Effective As What We Say

As writers we often labor over what we should say and how to say it. Each word an intricate piece of the overall puzzle of our message.

But good communication and writing, whether a story, news piece, ad or interview, can be effective not only because of what you say, but also because of what you don't say.

For example, a few years ago, a certain well-known Christian celeb was releasing his memoir after twenty years in the public eye. He had grown up in front of us as the teenage star on a sitcom and then in later years he had worked on a variety of Christian movies and productions. I remember watching one of his interviews on a popular television program coordinating with the release of his new book---his memoirs.

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The problem, in the interview was that he told us everything we would ever want to know about his story in the short interview. It was sort of like a Cliff Note version of his book. It was a good interview in one sense, but horrible in the next. The interview, rather than prompting me to buy the book,  left me with the sense that I didn't need the book. The author had revealed too much.

Writing can be the same way, whether non-fiction or fiction, it's important that we don't lead the reader.It's not our job as the writer to tell the reader what we want them to think. It's our job to supply them with nuggets of information, but not everything! It's important to let them draw their own conclusions. Sort of like Hansel and Gretel and the trail of bread crumbs. We lead the reader down the trail with pieces of information to get them to a certain conclusion. But a good writer will let them discover that conclusion on their own and then let them relish in the victory of the journey.

The motto in this case is: "Show me, don't tell me."Don't tell me what you want me to think, show me and let me figure it out on my own.

Remember readers are smart. Give them the respect they deserve. They can get where you want them to go if you effectively leave the trail of bread crumbs.

Roy Williams, known as The Wizard of Ads, is a guru in ad writing. In a recent blog he shared how effective this method can be. A few years ago, Roy was contacted by an individual to write an ad for a company the man had recently purchased. The company was in trouble and needed an effective turn around. Roy shared the following story:  

"The first ad I wrote shares a bittersweet, true story from the childhood of the man who hired me. It's about something that happened to him when he was ten years old and it's why he bought the troubled company. Upon receiving the ad, the man called six different people and read it to them. Each of them got tears in their eyes.

"Not because the story was about him, but because it was about them, too. The story in the ad is about a certain kind of magic that each of us guards deep in our heart like buried treasure. Even you.

"I have every confidence that the ad campaign will recover those lost customers and lift this once-troubled company into a sunlit sky."

Roy went on to share three important components in ad writing:

1.            How to end.
2.            Where to begin.
3.            What to leave out.

This formula is really the same whether it is an article, a story, a news piece or an interview. Sometimes it's what we leave out that can make our writing even more effective.

Truly in this case, less is more. As writers, we need to learn when to shut up and what to leave out of our writing as much as what we put in.