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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It’s All in the Details

It’s not often something I read is so funny it causes me to choke on my drink.   This posting on Craigslist did just that. 

The author could’ve just posted a picture of an opossum, typed the words “Free Kitty,” and called it a day.  It would still be amusing, but it would be nowhere near as funny as it is the way it’s written now. 

So what is it about the posting that makes it so effective at its purpose (making people laugh)?

It’s all in the details.


Sentences like “I moved from NYC a few months ago,” “It has attacked my Chihuahua several times and now my dog is afraid to come out of the room,” and “To be honest I called in sick on Tuesday because it was outside my bedroom door and hissed at me” turn the author into a real, three-dimensional person.  Mentally, you can picture him afraid and cowering behind his bedroom door, waiting for the opossum to walk away. 

My favorite is the author’s use of clichés found in other pet adoption postings. “[It] just needs someone to love it,” and “I work too much to give it the attention it needs” are perfect at poking fun at other ads.

The author keeps hitting you with great content right through to the end.  S/he could have just ended the posting with “I have taken a picture,” but s/he really clinches the piece by tacking on “…I think its a Siamese.” 

Take all the great writing techniques from this posting and use it in your own writing: use details to bring your words to life and finish strong.

I have to point out that the author doesn’t use a single apostrophe throughout the piece.  I didn’t notice it the first time I read the posting because I was laughing too hard.  After I noticed the errors, the more I read the piece, the more it got on my nerves.  You want your writing to be as enjoyable to your reader the tenth time it’s read as it was the first time.  Bad grammar might not be bad enough to  inhibit understanding of your writing, but it will inhibit enjoyment the more obvious the error is. 

Even with its grammatical failings, this posting is a good example of writing that is successful.  It just goes to show you that great writing can be found anywhere – even in the classifieds. 

Photo credit: Florida Blume


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