What Do Pandas and Good Writing Have in Common?
I’ve always been a fan of the panda bear. Who isn’t? Goodness gracious, those videos of them rolling around in the snow? STAHP. But I read something this week that made me love them even more because it combined this adorable animal with another of my favorite things: writing.
It comes from the singular Ann Handley, whose weekly newsletter “Total Annarchy” gives me life. You can subscribe to it here. In her latest issue, Ann proposes using the P.A.N.D.A. method (below) to make your writing more vivid and clear. Check it out:
THE P.A.N.D.A. 🐼 GUIDE TO VIVID WRITING
🐼 P is for Percentages/numbers in context
No: 14% of us believe robots will eventually rule the world.
Yes: 14% of us believe robots will eventually rule the world—that's the entire population of the state of Texas, with a few counties in Oklahoma roped in.
🐼 A is for Analogies in context
Notice in that last sentence, not "a few Oklahoma counties included" but "a few counties in Oklahoma roped in." Because "roped in" invokes cattle, the southwest, Texas, Oklahoma. The analogy is stronger for it.
🐼 N is for Name the thing
Yes: A black Lab named Otter
🐼 D is for Ditch weakling verbs
And sparingly use "thinking" verbs that happen internally (like Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, etc). Show, don't tell.
This advice comes from Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club):
No: "Don't tell your reader: 'Lisa hated Tom.'"
Yes: "During roll call, in the breath after the teacher said Tom’s name, in that moment before he could answer, right then, Lisa would whisper-shout: ‘Butt Wipe," just as Tom was saying, ‘Here’."
FINALLY... let's loop back to where we started—avoiding Big Words for the Sake of Big Words:
🐼 A is for Accessible, simple language
No: Here is a hexad of cognitive content meriting distribution these septem of days.
Yes: Here are six things worth sharing this week!
If you know me, you know that final A is my favorite part: avoiding big words for the sake of big words. Writing with clear, plain language will help you get your point across so efficiently that you may have some extra time left in your day to watch a few more roly-poly panda vids.
How might you use the PANDA method in your everyday writing? Tell me about it in the comments below.