Objections aren't something we necessary think about when writing articles
We're so focused on the main content that we might see no need to contradict ourselves. Yet, it's this very contradiction that makes the article more robust and removes those chunky holes. Let's find out why objections are crucial in our articles.
Cellophane, Mister Cellophane
Should have been my name, Mister Cellophane
‘Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me and never know I'm there.
That's an excerpt from the musical, Chicago. It's a sorrowful song sung by one of the characters who's almost permanently in the shadows. No matter where he goes, or what he does, his very presence is seen as inconsequential, almost like an extra. Similarly when it comes to writing articles, the objection seems like that extra.
Pitched against the glamour of the more important sections of article, no one seems to pay attention to the objections. In fact, it's possible that we're not even sure how important a role the objection plays in every article.
Yet objections are crucial for three very good reasons.
- Bring balance to the article
- Create greater depth and reduce skinny articles
- Enable you to introduce a different angle to the topic
1. Let's start off with the first point—the balanced view:
When you write an article, its your point of view
Let's say you write about green tea being amazing.
Or maybe you believe that “homeschooling” is outstanding?
Those are your points of view, aren't they?
But what about the reader's point of view?
The reader might not drink green tea, but enjoy Rooibos. She may have sent her kid to school because almost all parents do precisely that. And she knows little or nothing about homeschooling, let alone that it could be wonderful. However, the reason the client reading your article in the first instance is because she has her doubts, or may just be curious.
The headline of your article has drawn her in and she's thinking: “I need to check out if there's something different in the way I should be doing things”. And while the bulk of your article may be in favour of green tea or homeschooling, there's a bit of a lopsidedness to the content. It's all about your point of view, with no counterpoint.
Which is why the objection exists—and should be in almost every article. The objection says: I understand your point of view and here's the biggest issue that others bring up, and you might have that doubt too. In one paragraph or so, it provides the balance.
It's a bit like Mr Cellophane from the musical
As writers, we are so focused on the main contents of the article, that the objection seems almost like something buried deep in our to-do list. We plan to put in the objection, but it feels like an add-on, not a crucial chunk of the article. And yet, the moment you remove it from your article, the article seems to tilt dangerously to one side.
I've written articles without such a sense of balance
For instance, I wrote an article about how to maximize the time you have. The article was about how we're all busy and how there's never enough time to learn. The article talked about the methods I use to keep on learning while in a supermarket queue, at the dentist, even on our walks every day.
I got so wrapped up in writing my point of view, that I forgot that the reader was getting a bit antsy. The “learn, learn, learn” was so one-sided that I forgot to express the fact that I'm not walking around all day trying to fill more information in my head.
The reality is that I have a lot of downtimes as well, even when on the move
Renuka and I talk a lot on our walks. We don't always listen to podcasts or audiobooks in the car. Instead, we may talk about work or just chat about our day. However, the picture the article painted was one of a strict regime and not the way we really live our lives.
The client who objected to the article wanted to learn but also not be obsessive about the learning experience. She realised the power of learning on the move but also wanted to have conversations, to listen to music or just enjoy nature.
I'd gotten so bogged down with my point of view, that it took an e-mail from her to straighten me out. I was forced to hurriedly put in the objection and bring some balance to the article. But balance is only one role for the objection. It also prevents your article from being a bit too wimpy.
2. Create greater depth and reduce skinny articles
In 2016, I went to India to meet my parents, and not for any Ayurveda treatment. But I took a left turn in the road where I was staying and ended up at this Ayurveda clinic. Back then I weighed close to 89 kg (about 190 pounds), and all the walking and dieting wasn't helping in reducing those last few kilos.
About ten days into the treatment, I'd lost about 5 kilos (about 10 pounds), and it has been a permanent weight loss, no matter what or how much I eat . My wife Renuka now complains that in photos I look gaunt, almost too skinny.
Skinny may seem to work in our day to day world, but it may cause your article to be a bit anorexic in detail. You've written a few hundred words, but you've slightly run out of steam or content, or both. Which is when it's time to get over to the other side of the fence. It's time to think of the topic from a different point of view. And that's when the article gets a bit charged up because you're trying to tear down your idea, in a way.
It's like being in a one-person debate team
You make a point, then you jump across and make a point for the opposition. And it's when you're on the opposing side that you see a bit of their worldview. This allows you to put in a paragraph, sometimes two into your article. Even if your paragraph contains just about four lines, you're likely to have added 80 words.
Two paragraphs? Well, that's about 160 words right there. Consider that a lot of articles are about 800 words long and the objection itself, just a couple of paragraphs have beefed up the article by 200 words.
And it's not to say that skinny articles aren't good
Take me, Ayurveda boy, for example. My weight may have gone down, but my articles can soar to anywhere from 1000-5000 words. Time and time again, my wife, Renuka will tell me to write shorter articles as well. Yes, we know that Google loves long articles, but readers need a bit of a mix. They need long, detailed articles and a short one too.
They need excruciating detail and something that's almost an instant 7-minute read. And this concept of writing long and short, detailed and skinny applies to audio, video, and especially to article writing. Lean articles work amazingly well, but you need to have a variety in your work. However, when you need to pack in the detail, objections certainly help.
Does this mean that skinny articles don't need objections?
Of course, they do. Any point of view needs a counterpoint of view. But you may choose to write just a line or two, instead of two paragraphs. And when you want to drive home that big, long, detailed point, add in the chunkier objections, and you get instant bulk.
When writing we often don't think of objections
The material we're writing is what we really want to say, and objections seem slightly counterintuitive. Even so, you can judge for yourself how they not only add bulk to the article but also make you a greater authority in the eyes of the client. Even if your objection isn't precisely the one they have in mind, it drives the reader to write to you, which in turn leads to you writing even more on the topic.
It's a significant advantage because you're answering a specific point to a particular person and adding to the body of knowledge on your site or newsletters.
Balance, depth, but there's one more thing the objection does quite successfully. It can introduce a completely different view of the article all on its own.
3. How do you come up with most objections?
It's quite easy when you stop to think about it. You look at the headline and then play a version of devil's advocate. Let's say the headline is about “how to run the four-minute mile”, the devil's advocate version would be “but what if I haven't run in the past few years? Can I still do it?” In effect, the objection counteracts your headline, and that's probably the easiest way to figure out the objection for your article.
However, some objections may have no connection to the headline
Take for instance this article itself. In the second part, there was an objection about skinny articles. The objection was, “can we dispense with the objection when writing skinny articles?” Notice how that point of view is nowhere to be found in the headline.
The headline is about the importance of the objection, but suddenly we see another point of view creeping up. The article has gone down the path of less-dense articles and brought up an objection of whether or not we need objections if the article is skinny.
What we're witnessing is a bit of a deviation—a new point of view
When you start writing the article, you have a bit of an outline, but as you progress, it's not uncommon to see the article take a life of its own. The objections that arise have to counter the point you've brought up, and since the point itself is a bit unexpected, the objection too becomes quite an interesting novelty.
It's quite hard to anticipate this level of novelty when outlining your article
You are so focused on the task of writing that the objection or objections are busy playing Mr.Cellophane. Once you get deeper into the article, these strange and wonderful objections seem to pop up quite unexpectedly. Often an objection or two may pop up while you're writing, but they also pop up while discussing the point.
When Renuka and I walk, I bring up the point I'm covering, and she'll often drop her objection, something that's completely unrelated to the headline. This happens even in 5000bc when I write bits of an article. And even as you're reading this article, there's a good chance you may have a slightly divergent objection that you may bring to my attention.
What are you going to do if you have two dozen objections?
An article comprises of the First Fifty Words, the main content, the examples and mistakes, as well as the objections. We can't simply switch the objections from Mr.Cellophane to Mr A-Level Movie Star, can we? In most cases, no, you can't. You can get in one, maybe two objections into your article and that's almost always going to add at least a couple of paragraphs.
Any more and you're likely to throw the article off balance. However, if you do have a dozen objections, that's enough to start an article all by itself. For example, Five reasons why people struggle to run the four-minute mile.
An article like that would comprise of back to back objections
You'd bring up the five points and then give your version of why the client could indeed run, despite all the barriers in their way. Which goes to show that the objection is not only crucial but also extremely versatile. It can create enough excitement to generate an article or two all by itself. In doing so, it has moved far away from its cellophane status.
It brings balance to the article
Create greater depth and reduce skinny articles
Enable you to introduce a different angle to the topic
Not bad for an element of article writing that's been largely forgotten by most of us.