September 7, 2017 ☼ writing
A lawyer friend sent this photo to me.
We thought the fishing bit was funny. It’s so cheesy! The author clearly loves fly fishing more than winning court cases.
Yes, it’s silly. But it’s also very persuasive writing.
I’ll explain why.
It’s not stupid, it serves a purpose. It’s memorable and easy to understand.
He could have been dry, detailed and verbose, but instead keeps it simple and abstract. Smart. The ‘delicate nibble’, the ‘hook’ and the ‘rainbow’ trout seem irrelevant, but these are important because they are dramatic and visual. They stick in your mind like super glue. See what I did there?
If this information was communicated as a speech instead of on paper, it would be even more persuasive.
For extra effect, the unnecessary words like “no more than the slightest”, “they become more reliable” would be removed, and the physicality would be ramped up. “Set the hook, wear him out, and reel him in” is something you could act out. It might be corny, but the audience would appreciate it.
Then there’s the main point, the thing he wants the reader to do. The action.
“Listen to your instincts.” He starts with it, and repeats it again, almost word for word when he returns from the river.
The action is important. But he’s missing one important thing, the benefit.
When you ask someone to do something, it’s helpful to include a benefit. You can see this played out in sales letters, banner ads, books and political speeches. Voting, buying or “not flushing anything other than toilet paper because it will clog the pipes and ruin your vacation”. Nearly all communication that has the goal of ‘action’ will use this technique.
The benefit caps the paragraph. “The witness, and often the verdict, will be yours.” That’s what the author wants you to think will happen if you follow his advice.
Trump didn’t ask people at his rally to just vote for him. He promised that if you do so, he will Make America Great Again™.
Roll your eyes at the trout, but the writer has pulled off some tricky moves in under 200 words.
• Simplified a complicated topic
• Made a boring topic slightly more entertaining
• Recommended a tactic
• Empowered and motivated the reader to try it
Hook, line, sinker!