Reader Respect

I’ve seen dozens of Rembrandt’s works on paper reproduced in art books and I’m enthralled by how much information he conveys with so few strokes. Many of his drawings appear as though the Dutch master has casually thrown down a few lines in a moment of inspiration, much as we today might whip out a camera to snap a photo. His sketches are undoubtedly not finished works but our mind’s eye fills in the gaps using our knowledge of the way real world objects appear.

The same is true of great writing. It respects the reader’s intelligence through an economy of words that doesn’t spell it all out. Take the example of a recent post on the Signal vs. Noise blog in which Jason Fried laments the awful sameness of business writing. It’s a good read, but a day or so later he follows with another post consisting simply of this brief unannotated quote:

“This is an important inflection point in our business because it allows us to accelerate our commitment to enhance premium online services to the entire robust EA SPORTS online community.”
Peter Moore, President of EA SPORTS

What I find remarkable is that he didn’t reference the previous post and tell readers something like “speaking of poor business writing check this out…” instead he just gave the quote and let you decide for yourself what it means. Undoubtedly many readers would have thought it an endorsement of EA SPORTS, he’s happy for everyone to draw their own conclusions (judging by the reader’s comments his trust was well placed).