Recently, a Reddit user posted what he claimed were the World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) producer’s notes, giving a sampling of rules and suggestions for the announcers of the notoriously fake wrestling shows. One might assume there would be nothing to learn from such a list (I mean really, what can you learn from bad TV?), but out of pure curiosity, I reviewed them and found myself pleasantly surprised with an abundance of insight. As I continued through the pages, whose legitimacy is still being questioned, I found several notes that are incredibly applicable to online writers. Who would have thought that announcing pro-wrestling matches could be relatable to writing? Well it is. So, if you’re here to learn something about online writing, keep reading as I translate “sports” broadcasting into the larger (and arguably more vague) field of digital writing. And if you’re here to learn about announcing for fake wrestling? Well, you’re in the right spot for that, too.
The very first line in the alleged notes struck me so deeply, I found myself flashing back to my grad school memoir class last fall. I tend to write incredibly emotional essays, but sometimes it takes me a draft or two to really open up and get into the raw emotion. I have to allow myself to feel it before I can write it. In one of my essays, my professor detected I was holding back, and also detected some parts of the essay that just didn’t feel genuine. She told me to let go and let the emotion flow and to avoid clichés and too many adjectives. Today’s viewers (of WWE especially) and readers alike are always searching for the signs. We live in a world of skepticism where audiences constantly search for the insincerity behind any entertainment. If you make up your passion, or manufacture it, today’s audiences can easily detect it. In the world of online writing, where skimming outweighs reading at depth, you must be careful to make sure your passion comes across genuine, even at a quick glance.
Often times, writers can forget how important engaging an audience and including them in the conversation can be, especially in the long run. When you watch a show, do you just want to be talked to, or would you rather an announcer or host get you thinking? The same is true for writing. Encouraging an audience to think and, especially in the online world, participate not only keeps the reader reading until the end, but also encourages the reader to come back for more. People like using their brains and exercising their free will and thought. People also like to be heard. Wouldn’t you rather join in a conversation than just watch it happen? The notes also point out that, “Everyone hates being told what to think.” How true is this in today’s society? As soon as someone tells us what we should be thinking or doing, we instinctively push back. We raise our defenses and immediately want to think for ourselves. Lead the audience in the direction you want them to go according to the point you’re trying to make, but encourage them to get to the end point on their own.
“Be topical...We have the ability to bring stories forward from that week or day and can use analogies that help our audience relate to the situation at hand.”
Simply put - be up to date on current events. Being able to tie in your own story into what people are already concerning themselves with will enable you to bring even more relevancy to your story or point. Draw similarities and use analogies to help a reader better visualize what you are trying to portray. Think about which gives a reader a better visual: “The guy made absolutely no sense,” or the “The guy made as much sense as Donald Trump’s comparison of gay marriage to golf putters.” Using current events that virtually everyone in your audience base knows about helps a reader draw interesting and visual conclusions while also building the writer’s credibility. A writer who is current on trending topics, and can use them appropriately, is more likely to be seen as “in the know” and intelligent, versus one who is solely focused on his or her own story. The WWE notes also caution the announcers to “please be aware of major national events…You don’t necessarily have to call them out but don’t inadvertently insult them and others sympathetic by using a move’s name or analogy that could be hurtful.” Remaining in the know can keep writers from a complete foot-in-mouth moment; people don’t tend to forgive faux pas on widely known tragedies easily, even if they are accidental.
Tone and inflection, however, need to be conveyed through word choice. Choosing strong words to make your point is far more important than bolding and emphasizing with exclamation points.
“DON’T SCREAM. We are all guilty of it from time to time, but there is nothing more annoying then [sic] to listen to an Announcer scream for an hour.”
Ok, so our readers don’t hear our voices and there’s not a literal way that writers shout at their audiences, but hear me out here. In writing, especially digitally, there are certain ways to express strong emotions or sentiments. We have the gifts of formatting (bold, larger type size), CAPS Lock, and punctuation (!!!!). IF YOU READ THIS, DOESN’T IT FEEL LIKE I’M YELLING AT YOU? What about if I just need you to know it! Even if I’m really excited! And you should be, too!!! These options are gifts to us as writers in a digital age, but we need to use them cautiously. Expressing enthusiasm with an exclamation point is helpful, but use it only to emphasize certain sentences. A reader is not going to believe that you are truly that excited about every sentence you write.
“Always go back a little in your story telling. Take :30 to set the stage before diving into a discussion. Not everyone knows who or what you are talking about.”
Make sure you provide your writers enough background on your topic that they can follow the entire piece. While it’s important that writers use current events to draw analogies, make sure they are widely known enough that at least the vast majority of your audience will understand them. Make sure any new points are clearly introduced and explained. While you don’t want to hand-hold your readers or talk down to them, take a moment to make sure any back-story is explained enough that the reader can follow all the way to the end. For example, when writing about the military community, make sure to explain acronyms, especially those that don’t transfer between branches, or unique verbiage that might not exist in the civilian community.
“Do Your Homework. An Announcer should never, ever do a show they have not done research on.”
Be educated in your writing. Build credibility for yourself by knowing what you’re talking about. Be sure to see both sides of an issue, so if an argument should arise, you are prepared and ready to debate your side. Open yourself up to possible comments. Anticipate your readers’ responses and write in a fashion that lets them know you are thinking of them. After all, you should be thinking of your readers - they’re the reason you’re writing.
“Listen to other Announcers and styles. WE ARE ALWAYS LEARNING.”
Read. Read. Read. Read other writers, read other genres. Learn from each other. Many see this world of online writing as highly competitive, which it certainly can be, but viewing it that way misses opportunities. Reading and noting things you like or don’t like about other writers can help you improve your own writing immensely. Stephen King said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.” Reading is probably the single best resources a writer has.
“Work with your Producer. It is important to know what you are shooting, where and when it airs, and who the audience is.”
This translates in the online writing world as simply, “Listen to your editors.” Editors aren’t here to crush you or make you feel bad. They aren’t here to turn your words into something completely different (at least not at Many Kind Regards). We are here to guide you into writing the best piece to fit our particular publication. Listen to us when we suggest edits or rewrites. We’re not doing it to be jerks. Part of our jobs as editors is to know our audience, know what works and doesn’t work on our platforms, and understand the timing of pieces in relation to current events. If we say it’s been too long since something happened, that our audience won’t receive it well, or that it doesn’t work with our particular brand - trust us. Often, an editor can even suggest a better place to submit your piece if they don’t see it mingling well with their publication. Use editor’s notes to strengthen your writing and learn which pieces work best for which publications and platforms.
In the original post of the notes, the title began “The reason why WWE commentary is so bad…” but I’d really have to disagree with the poster on the selection of that headline. All of the notes were incredibly thought out and applicable. You’d think with notes like these, WWE would be better than what it is, but at the very least we can use the notes as writers to make our writing better than it is. Maybe WWE is bad because the announcers don’t listen to the notes - let that be a lesson learned. Either way, it is amazing how lessons can come from the most unexpected places and be applied directly to our field.
What unexpected places have you learned something about writing? Tell us in the comments!
Many Kind Regards,
R J P
As Rachel says, she is always learning. Read what she learned about being an editor here.
Original image credit: Benjamin Von Wong Flickr Ed Schipul Flickr