Can you catch this?

I’m still reading Can I Change Your Mind? by Lindsay Camp (in case you’re wondering; my only chance to read books is when I commute, which doesn’t give me much time at all!).

I found another interesting idea in Lindsay’s very entertaining book, which I think all writers can benefit from. Lindsay suggests that the most direct and clear writing is not always the most effective way to get people to understand something.

To quote from the book (Lindsay is in turn quoting his friend David Stuart’s “famous ball-throwing analogy”):

“If you and I stand a metre apart and I throw a ball to you very gently, you will almost certainly catch it. If, on the other hand, you stand 30 metres away, and I chuck the ball as high in the air as I can, catching it will be a lot harder. But which catch will be a more rewarding experience? Which will you be more likely to remember?”

The connection to writing is explained:

“Writing that expresses meaning ‘indirectly’ is like the ball thrown high into the air. There’s a risk you may drop it. Good writing is about judging how difficult to make the catch.”

I really like the idea of throwing words to people, and judging their ability to catch them. A well judged throw gives the catcher a memorable experience. A badly judged throw is something you’ll both want to forget.


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