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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Didn't Take Long...

It didn't take long for writers to start using the Gulf Oil Spill as a metaphor. Here's an excerpt from Rob Cottingham's post on Read Write Web:

"Anyone building or managing an online community has a responsibility to keep the oil slick of aggression out of the conversational coastal wetlands."

Using something that is in the news or currently top of mind for your readers is a risk. On one hand, it can deliver a punch that immediately evokes emotion. Your phrase taps into the knowledge the reader has about the situation, and a cascade of information and emotion is packed into a very small space. That's great for keeping your writing concise. You can accomplish a lot with just a few words.

The drawback, however, is that over time your metaphor, and consequently your writing, becomes stale and outdated. When people no longer recognize your phrase, or they have to struggle to remember exactly what about your phrase is vaguely familiar, you've lost them for at least a few moments. The farther your writing is distanced in time from the event to which it refers, the weaker it becomes.

Don't let that stop you, though, if leveraging terms that are in the news provides the kick your writing needs. Just remember that if your piece is to have longevity, it's best to consider different word choices.


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