The Power of the Unsaid

If you control the story, you don't need to go for the obvious way to tell it. And you don't need to let the word of the day force what story you tell.

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There’s no need to talk about what everyone else is.

I didn’t need dozens of emails from companies, most of which I hadn’t done business with in years. When I’m buying digital products, I don’t need to know that you’re working remotely.

It’s not that I’m indifferent. Rather, we’ve become a bit like five-year-olds playing soccer — all bunched up around the ball while the rest of the field is empty. It takes skill and maturity to be fully aware of where the ball is but also play your position.

Going after SEO is lazy. Sure, it’s part of the problem. Almost anyone who writes online feels the pressure to pack everything with buzzwords.

The culture of push notifications and breaking news doesn’t help. Dropping an overused word is an easy win in the attention economy.

My explanation is far simpler. Most of us are bad writers. For that matter, we’re not great readers either.

Good writers control the narrative without stating the obvious.

Take a look at how Apple announced WWDC 2020:

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2020 kicks off in June with an all-new online format

This is powerful copywriting. Apple is unveiling a new format that is going to allow more developers than ever before to connect. The press release doesn’t mention COVID. There’s no need to.

The story Apple is telling is one of optimism, new opportunities and getting on with it. Adding “because of COVID” is a different narrative altogether: “We’re scrambling to throw something together, we’re making it up as we go because we’re reactive.”

Even more compelling was the Creativity Goes on ad. Nary a word about lockdown.

This works beyond an all-encompassing current event. Take Seinfeld’s breakthrough episode: the Contest. The main premise is a masturbation contest, without mentioning masturbation.

If you control the story, you don’t need to go for the obvious way to tell it. And you don’t need to let the word of the day force what story you tell.