Posts

Stilettos in the gym

Something that seems out of place can command your attention. This works in writing as well as in real life.

Surprise at the gym

The other day, a woman walked into the mirrored stretching room at my gym wearing a body-hugging t-shirt, tights, and sneakers. She sat down and strapped on shoes with skinny heels that must have been at least four inches tall. I’ve never worn such high heels—not even for a minute—and I’ve never seen anyone wearing heels in my gym. In fact, one of the trainers lectured me about wearing flat, rubber-soled, tightly strapped sandals in the gym, so now I’m scared to wear anything other than sneakers in the workout areas.

The woman stood up, stripped off her t-shirt to reveal a sports bra, and then started sidestepping the length of the room. She displayed what I decided was a come-hither smile directed at the mirror.

I couldn’t stop looking. It wasn’t very nice of me, but I was trying to figure out what was going on. Finally, I decided that she must be rehearsing for a dance performance.

Given the height of her heels, I can understand why she needed to practice in the actual shoes she’d wear in her performance. She probably couldn’t practice as effectively at home, because how many people have 30-foot-long mirrored rooms at home to help them critique their performance?

Lesson for writers

Did you look at this post because you couldn’t figure out what stilettos were doing at the gym? Or what stilettos were doing on an investment writing blog?

What are “stilettos” that you can use in your writing?

Unusual metaphors can attract readers to your writing. As Joe Moran says in First You Write a Sentence, “A fresh metaphor briefly excites the brain. It is odd enough for readers to notice but plausible enough for them to accept its slight recalibration of the world.”

By the way, here’s an explanation of metaphor vs. analogy vs. simile. I get these confused all the time.

I hope you find some good stilettos soon.

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I provide links to books only when I believe they have value for my readers.

How to add personality and warmth to your financial writing–Part two

Personality and warmth help your readers connect with you. In part one of this post, we discussed using personal stories. In this post, I add four more techniques:

    1. Self-deprecating humor
    2. Analogies
    3. Distinctive language
    4. Quotations

 

1. Self-deprecating humor

Humor can be tricky because it can veer into the offensive. But gently poking fun at yourself is usually in good taste. It can also be disarming, as in the example below.

I like the following line written by Helen Lambiase, a student in my blogging class: “Keeping up consistently with a portfolio of individual stocks for the average individual investor is about as easy as sticking to a Weight Watchers diet (believe me, I can tell you about both.) ” Everyone in our class remarked on how friendly and approachable Helen sounded.

In another example, Bob Rall of Rall Capital Management titled his post “Are You Single?” and then wrote, “Before my wife reads that headline and thinks that I’m up to something that I shouldn’t be, I need to explain. If you are single, you have a different set of financial planning issues to deal with.”

A comedy-writing friend suggests that you use humor in moderation, or your shtick may become your identifying characteristic. If you recognize the name of Rodney Dangerfield, you know his most famous line is “I don’t get no respect.”

2. Analogies

Like flashlights, analogies illuminate murky areas. The analogies that you choose reflect your identity. For example, I’m unlikely to use sports, military, or science images. Gardening, travel, and books are more my speed.

3. Distinctive language

Write the way you speak, especially when you write blog posts. Everyday language makes you more approachable. (By the way, I originally wrote “colloquial language.”)

I’d love to see my client in Texas write blog posts that sound like his conversations. His colorful phrases, such as “drinking from a fire hose,” delight me.

I also like the following translation from a Chinese newspaper article, which I found in a Wall Street Journal article: “When the weasel pays a New Year’s visit to the chickens, nothing good will come of it.”

4. Quotations

If techniques 1-4 fail you, then find an evocative quotation to give a spark to an otherwise dry piece. The kind of person whom you quote can also reveal something about your personality. You’ll find plenty of quotation sources online, including the following:

As you do your daily reading, jot down great quotes in a notebook or electronic file. They may come in handy later.

How do YOU add personality and warmth?

I’m sure I’ve skipped some great techniques. Please share YOUR great ideas for adding personality and warmth to your writing.

 

Note: I updated this article on July 8 because I found my notes about that great weasel quote from “Chinese Media Open Cannon at U.S.” in The Wall Street Journal. Updated again on July 7 to correct a typo.