Resonating with your reader

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Some writers seem to think their job is to put their ideas into someone else’s head. But that’s not how it works. Unless you’re a brain surgeon, it’s pretty difficult to get inside someone else’s head neatly.

Only in science fiction can you actually transport your meanings into another person. How easy it would be if I could perform a “Vulcan mind meld” on my readers to make them instantly understand everything I’m trying to say. But I am not Spock, and neither are you. You can’t pack your message into a freight box and be confident that it will “absolutely, positively” reach your reader’s heart. What you can do is to use words that you think might evoke the same feelings and thoughts in your reader.

In school, I realized that communicating is less like two freight terminals and more like two tuning forks. Strike one fork and the other fork will resonate, if it has the same pitch. You can look at a tuning fork and read the pitch (C# or E or A flat) engraved in the handle. The problem is that, since we can’t read other peoples’ minds, we don’t always know what will resonate with them. I’m actually terrible at interpersonal communication, so I usually state my ideas in several different ways, hoping I will hit upon something that will help my listener to understand me, before he or she gets impatient with me.

But the tuning fork analogy breaks down in real life, with real people. The human mind is not a small set of tuning forks, each set to a precise pitch. Every person has a different life experience. We’ve all read different books, which means that different words have different connotations. To one person, “the will of the people” reminds them of a reality TV show. To another person, it reminds them of their youth in Stalinist Russia. If I have tuning forks in my mind, I have millions of them, and most of them are set to pitches you never heard at the symphony.

As a copywriter, you learn what arguments and appeals tend to convince your target market to buy your product. Each target market may respond to a different set of appeals. Some people drink a certain soft drink because they believe that everybody else does. Some people drink it because they believe that nobody else do. As a writer, the best you can do is to try to understand your readers well enough to know what effect certain words will have on them. If you pick the right illustration or analogy, their hearts will ring with yours.

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2 thoughts on “Resonating with your reader”

  1. “Some people drink it because they believe that nobody else do.” This sounds awkward to me. Should it not be “does?”

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