Convey Meaning, Not Information

 

Truly transformative writing—writing that gives information, conveys meaning and helps the reader learn or experience something new and unique. We often get so caught up into information, facts and data that we forget to give meaning to what we are writing. We forget context and often we forget how to help someone answer the simple question, WIFM—what’s in it for me?

The cold harsh reality is that remarkable non-fiction writers take the time to inform the reader about the meaning of facts and use the information to support their premise. They don’t simply and dryly present facts and data.

Remarkable fiction writers use facts to help create the scene or to push along the plot, but they don’t often leave those facts hanging. They explain them.

Here’s a clue: It’s OK to assume your reader isn’t current on the issue (or in the case of fiction, up to date on history or current events). So, give them sufficient facts but always help them with meaning and context. It’s best to lead them with context and meaning rather than to assume they know something and lose them.

Plumb the significance, don’t just present the facts.

How do you do this plumbing?

I suggest using story. Using anecdotes and story is one of the best ways to help your reader grasp what you are trying to say. This may be easier for a fiction writer, but those of us who focus on non-fiction can learn a valuable lesson in how story communicates not just truth, but also the meaning and significance of our facts (or research or information). Kendall Haven wrote, “Teachers, sales people, managers, lawyers, clergy, organizational leaders, writers, scientists . . .the list of those who can more effectively do what they do through story structure is virtually endless. Stories hold human attention. Stories are understood. Stories ‘make sense’ in a way other narratives do not . . . stories get remembered and are easily recalled.”[1]

Facts are good things to have in our writing, but without meaning or context or significance, they are easily forgotten or, easily dismissed. Remarkable writers use the power of story to do what facts alone cannot do—keep your reader engaged and hungry to come back for more.

 

[1] Kendall F. Haven, Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story, (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007), ix

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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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