I know that my colleague Margaret is currently absorbing the gems in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, and so she may well post a piece shortly…
For my part, the overriding “impression” I had from reading his excellent – though slightly overworked – treatise is the incredibly robust nature of the first impressions we gain in every aspect of our daily lives. It’s also easy to see how we have very little control over these!
On meeting someone for the first time, picking up a DVD case, or walking into a new shop or restaurant, our brain fills up with images, impressions, values, opinions and of course snap judgements.
After just a few short seconds, we believe we have a very clear reading of that person, place, or object. More to the point, that first set of impressions is incredibly sticky. We would have to receive lots – and lots – of contrary indications before we will even consider re-evaluating our impressions.
All of which underlines the critical need to project the “desired” image in everything we do. When we’re writing something, that doesn’t just mean the words, it also means what I think of as the “look and feel“. This includes the design, layout, visual content, use of white space, length, typeface, positioning, context, timing, etc., etc.
All of these things “inform” the reader before they’ve read a single word.
(Imagine that you’ve picked up a doordrop flyer written in an alien or unfamiliar langauge. You’ll probably be able to easily identity the offer, the audience, the price, the contact details, even the special terms, just through these essential “clues”.
So next time you write something, give some thought to how it introduces itself to your reader, before it has earned the right to engage them in conversation.
Let me know what you think, and post a comment!
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