This Professional Writing Tips series really should be renamed. After all, as admitted in last week’s “How to Be a Dishonest Writer: An Introduction,” anyone can produce deceitful information.
It takes no automatic amount of skill or talent, or even much effort, to do so.
But being a convincing dishonest writer is a whole other ball game. If you’re going to enter that extreme sports arena, you need to know your adjectives and adverbs – and how to sling them with both brutal grace and unabashed athleticism.
You also have to be practiced in throwing out perfectly timed irrelevant facts.
Technically, this could be right at the beginning. To demonstrate, let’s say you’re writing about the interview you did with Political Candidate A. Since you vehemently disagree with him, you start the piece out this way:
The morning I met Political Candidate A was nice enough, with limited clouds in a decently blue sky. Though you couldn’t see any of it in his windowless first-floor office. The décor was minimal and the walls a dull, flat grey that made the room seem smaller than perhaps it should have been.
Unless you’re writing for Better Homes & Gardens, of course, the details about his office are irrelevant facts. For that matter, unless you’re writing for Temperatures ‘R’ Us (not an actual publication as far as I know), the details about the weather are irrelevant facts as well.
They might be true or they might be your honest opinion. But, more than likely, they have nothing to do with Political Candidate A’s electoral qualities.
With that said, establishing irrelevant facts at the beginning of your write-up can be counterintuitive. While you’ll no doubt please many people who already agree with you, on-the-fencers or flat-out opposing parties probably aren’t going to read past your first paragraph if you come out swinging too hard.
Oftentimes, you’re better off establishing such immaterial information toward the top-middle segment of your write-up. It should be far enough down that you’ve established an honest rapport with your readers but close enough to the top that most readers are still reading.
Because, let’s face it, very few people read an entire article anymore. So don’t wait more than five or six brief paragraphs before you go in for the dishonest dig.
Say you’re covering a rally by Political Candidate B this time, a person you ardently agree with. In that case, your to-be published piece can look like this…
The mood was electric as supporters waited for Political Candidate B to take the stage.
Incidentally, this is not an irrelevant fact concerning the topic. While it doesn’t have to be mentioned or even mentioned right away, it’s still describing the event in question.
When he did, they hardly seemed disappointed. Chanting, “Political Candidate B! Political Candidate B!” they only quieted down after his fifth laughing appeal for order.
B began by thanking them for coming, of course, but he quickly turned to the issues they cared about, pointing out the superiority of his economic plan for a group so hard hit by the past four years.
It was just last month when B – who has previously been seen keeping company with Celebrity Readers Love 1, 2 and 3 – came out with his strategy to do XYZ.
That in-dashes tangent is politically motivated psychological manipulation. Plain and simple. One’s celebrity status or celebrity connections shouldn’t matter one bit in the grand scheme of voting.
But, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
To some people – maybe even a lot of them – that star quality is a big deal, making it a great way to nudge voters to a more favorable opinion of your guy.
It’s not right. But hey, when you’re a dishonest writer, “right” is subjective to your personal whims. So who cares just as long as you and your opinions get ahead, irrelevant facts or not.