Words have power. Not in a mushy Instagram quote-of-the-day way, but in a literal sense. Something tangible. Like a glass of water that can quench a thirst. Or a hammer that can break a window. Or like the Infinity Gauntlet in Avengers, that can manipulate space and time, or annihilate half of all living things. Kidding aside, the key here is the ability to get into people’s minds. Like flipping a switch somewhere in there. Change someone’s mind and you can literally change his or her thoughts and beliefs. Change people’s beliefs and you can change their actions. Change their actions and you can change the world. That is the real power of words. But first, words have to be effective.
An effective writing is a writing which achieves its goal. There are three ways to do that:
1. Define your goal
Boring! You already know this. But it is a common pitfall, so there is no harm in still mentioning it. Before typing the first word, know what your piece wants to achieve. Are you writing a poem? A love letter? A family saga? An essay about orca whales? Are you trying to entertain, inform or persuade? Or, are you trying to convince teenagers to stop eating Tide pods?
2. Know your audience
If you are, indeed, trying to convince teenagers to stop eating Tide pods, then you can skip this topic. Why? Because you already know your audience. If you are still having a hard time using this concept in practice, one technique is to think of just one person you know, and imagine you are writing for that person. A common misconception is that you have to please everyone. If you are writing for teenagers, use their language. Use emotions they usually feel: confusion, sadness or the feeling that they don’t belong in a group. If you are writing a serious piece about global warming and your goal is to convince politicians to take drastic measures in combatting global warming, then you have to use well-researched data that is believable for them. More so if you are asking them to invest billions of money into whatever project you want them to implement. Or the complete opposite, depending on what type of information the politicians in your country usually listen to.
3. Create a hook
No matter how beautiful a piece of writing is, it would have already failed if it is not read at all. There has to be a hook. A shiny packaging. Like a candy’s colorful wrapper. And a piece of writing’s package is its first sentence. Or a book or novel’s first page. A really effective first sentence or line has to make the audience want to read up to the last paragraph. It is a process of seduction. A question that sparks curiosity or intrigue. A jolting idea that challenges the readers’ worldview. The point is to keep the readers’ attention. To sustain that attention. To make the reader actually finish reading what you have written.
To summarize things, words have power if they are effective. They are effective if they: (1)have a goal, (2)a clearly defined audience and (3)a powerful hook.
Photo courtesy: Marvel Studios, cine3.com