While editing a promotional piece for a friend’s new book, I was reminded of how hard it is to get attention. The copy had a liberal sprinkling of words like “secrets,” “inspirational” and “profound” and phrases like “life-changing” and “don’t miss.” It also used many exclamation points.
I empathize with the difficulty of writing things that get read. Unfortunately having something worthwhile to say isn’t enough if you can’t cut through the clutter and get the reader’s or listener’s attention.
Here’s the problem: we add to the clutter trying to cut through the clutter.
When you emphasize everything you emphasize nothing. Exclamation points lose their impact!
We live in the age of hyperbole. As someone once said, everything squared equals nothing squared.
We are deluged with so much information that we tend to pay attention only to the perceived exception. Another sales book? Ho hum. Secret Persuaders: How to Morally Use the Immoral Techniques of Bernie Madoff to Get What You Want. Wow–I’ve got to check that out!
Or consider endorsements. “This is a truly thought provoking book and beautifully written.” So? “This book contains information previously hidden from mankind. Reading it will change your life, raise your IQ, improve your health, help you lose weight and make you infinitely desirable to members of the opposite sex.” Now that might be worth reading…
Regrettably only the exceptions get noted. That means that marketers, advertisers, writers, et al are attempting to make everything an exception, whether or not it truly is.
I have a new guideline I use. I offer it for your consideration: take exception to the exceptions.
While I think most of us are increasingly skeptical of over-the-top claims, we might forget that the hot copy or enticing wording is often nothing more than repackaged sameness. We have to work harder than ever before to do our due diligence. When something seems hyperobolic, it probably is. Let the exclamation points direct you to more closely scrutinize the claims being made.
I just read (or more acurately skimmed) a bestselling business book that was purported to be truly ground breaking. Sorry. The ground had been plowed many times before by many others and plowed better, but this author had the advantage of a huge social media network and a few hyperbolic endorsers. (I’m getting fewer requests to endorse since I actually want to see the book in question and am unwilling to say anything about a book I couldn’t defend to a purchaser.)
Taking exception to the exception challenges me not only as a consumer but as a creator. How do I balance intellectual honesty against marketplace demands? Writing a book, staging an event, giving a speech or rallying a cause are relatively easy compared to getting noticed. What claims are we willing to make in the pursuit of getting attention?
I don’t know. I’m asking more questions than I’m providing answers.
Hyperbole has always been a communication pitfall, but our networked world and interconnected social networks have leveraged the amount and audacity of hyperbole exponentially.
Everything is exclamations! Really! It’s true!