The Power of Simplicity

by Lou

I discovered a technique that op-ed writers use to get readers to start thinking in the direction they want them to go. I was almost ready to discount it when I realized how powerful it really is to “directionalize” someone’s thinking.

Here’s the pattern:

Is/Are (SUBJECT) (X)?

(X) is something positive or negative you want your readers/listeners to think about or believe. But it has to be a chunk or two up a level and not at the same level as the subject; this would just lead to a normal “Yes/No” question. For example,

“Are doberman pinschers black and brown?”

That’s just a plain question about a type of dog. It’s asking about something on the same level (a physical description).

Now if we up the power of (X) we create a rhetorical question that states your opinion. Like this:

“Are doberman pinschers the best guard dogs for your home?”

That was for a positive spin. For something negative, we could do this:

“Are doberman pincschers the world’s most dangerous dog?”

Used this way, a “simple” Yes/No question becomes a way to inject a presupposition into it, especially if the person reading your piece doesn’t have a formed opinion or knowledge about your subject. Even if your reader knows about the subject you are writing about, they might be intrigued to read more about your views and thoughts on the subject.

This pattern makes a great headline in that it gets your prospective reader curious, and that’s always a good state to get people into…especially when selling.

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