Get your free copy of The Simple Writing Writers Guide

Beware the faulty premise

Subtitle: Avoid everyone, everybody, nobody, and no one unless you’re 100% sure of your facts or you’re in marketing. Why? Because there’s almost always an exception.

Case in point: Seth Godin’s blog post Talker’s Block. In the first paragraph, he establishes his argument by asserting that “no one ever gets talker’s block.” “No one” immediately raised a suspicious eyebrow.

Someone had shared it on Google+, and just that first line made me wonder whether it was worth reading. My crap detector goes off when I see statements like that because what follows may or may not be a valid conclusion or something worth reading.

I’ve never followed Seth Godin, but I’ve read a few of his pieces here or there, and I’m well aware of his shroud of blogospheric deification.

Curious, I checked the post out later, and although he offers some solid advice about writing, I mulled over how many quiet, mindful souls looked askance at this statement as I did:

The reason we don’t get talker’s block is that we’re in the habit of talking without a lot of concern for whether or not our inane blather will come back to haunt us.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had talker’s block many times.

Have you ever attended one of those big, local networking luncheons all by yourself? I have, but it’s not often you’ll find me at events like those because I usually get talker’s block. Striking up a conversation with total strangers I know nothing about isn’t easy for me.

I usually get to the point of introducing myself, shaking hands, and hoping the person will be the chatty type, but I rarely have any inane blather of my own to offer. I usually hang out with the talker’s blocked folks standing self-consciously along the walls, smiles frozen on their faces, because it’s much more comfortable for me to socialize with other similarly stricken people at events like these.

At least the quiet folks won’t offer up inane blather, and sometimes really interesting conversations develop albeit at a slower pace than those in the rest of the crowd.

If you’re in marketing—and Seth Godin is—then by all means make liberal use of such words as everyone and everybody, nobody and no one.

Everyone wants a new BMW! Everybody is talking about Main Street BMW! Nobody wants to drive that old car! No one but you will know it’s pre-owned!

Um, I don’t, I’m not, I don’t mind, and of course they will if they know anything about BMWs.

Surely Mr. Godin won’t suffer from his post being used to illustrate a practice most of us would do well to avoid (to cause offense, directly or indirectly, is not my intention). It’s even possible he used a false premise knowingly rather than belabor the reader with less definitive word choices such as “few” or “not many” rather than “no one.” And surely no one who lacks experience with talker’s block will notice.

Comments are welcome.

Comments on this entry are closed.