Hyperbole is Dead or Writing for Trust



The excessive use of superlatives and hyperbole in blogging today leads to sensationalism fatigue. You actually lose parts of your audience when you are guilty of sensationalizing.

Can you write attractively without exaggeration and cheap special effects so that you don’t lose trust? Yes, you can. You don’t even have to sound boring while at it.


x is dead and y is the next big thing

We all now the “x is dead”, “y is the next big thing” types of articles. Whenever I see the term “awesome”, “best” or “ultimate” in a headline I already stop reading by now in most cases.

It’s not only about overused headline formulas that make you look stupid. You can shoot yourself in the foot by exaggerating in the post itself.

I have been a victim of exaggeration myself by being overly critical of Google.

It’s not that my criticism wasn’t important. I wasn’t making things up either. People just can’t stand too much of a thing. Google is generally accepted and even looked up to, mostly because of their business success by now.

Sometimes Google is still seen as the cool company they have been a several years ago.

Most of their fans haven’t caught up with reality, other have simply too much of a stake in Google’s success. This is just an example though.

I have never bashed Google to get publicity like many bloggers do covering other topics.

Indeed I could have filled this blog solely with articles showing Google in the negative light. I didn’t even bother to describe how they stole my Adsense money for example.

In contrast I focused on the positive outcomes of this: how I can write again for readers not search engine spiders for instance.


People know me

I also didn’t declare banning Google search to be the thing to do from now on. I didn’t convince others to try it. I declared it to be an experiment I want to perform myself.

Why didn’t I rally around my cause? I don’t want to lose trust with my remaining audience. The people who are still with me now are the

  • true fans
  • supporters
  • online friends.

I don’t get the drive by traffic from Google anymore. I also refrain from click-baiting on social media.

It’s difficult to write for trust, especially when you attempt to ignore headline formulas and click-baiting techniques.

I’m tired of everybody on the Web trying to trick me to steal my attention. As a mature Internet user I already develop what I might call bait blindness, which is similar to banner blindness.

The articles that shout too loud get filtered by my nonsense blocker inside my brain. It’s the same thing as with “banner blindness”. I just ignore too sensational clickbait type of articles.


How to write for trust

Speak the truth

The most important aspect of writing for trust is of course telling the truth. It can be your subjective truth but lying doesn’t work of course. Lying starts with misleading headlines.

When you say “SEO is dead” yet looking it up on Google Trends shows search engine optimization still going strong it’s more than bias.

You are actively sending people the wrong way just to accomplish your goals (like getting more pageviews). You have lured them once but they likely won’t return.

When the truth is a bit less spectacular and doesn’t bring in thousands of visitors it is still more likely to attract the right visitors. “Lies have short legs” we say in German.


Don’t repeat

The other almost as important factor of being trustworthy when writing for the Web is to be unique. Don’t just repeat and repackage what you’ve read elsewhere.

In order to stay true to myself I start each post with a unique idea I never had and covered before in that form.

  • Would you trust someone who only repeats gossip?
  • Would you listen to somebody who says the same thing over and over?
  • Would you want to talk with someone who only recounts what the person has seen on TV?

Even in case you would that doesn’t work for writing. Unless of course we are dealing with curated content for the sake of overview and summary.

Me too type of content simply gets overlooked in a sutured “content market” with finite attention but an infinite number of content pieces.


Get personal

You have to show a unique approach to reality that separates you from others. Writing for trust is showing that you are uniquely human.

When you sound like everybody else a bot can do the writing too by using “artificial intelligence” and recounting the facts.

Your unique background and experience that ultimately forge your world-view make the difference. At the end of the day uniqueness is about subjectivity.

You are not God and you should not even try to speak like you are all-knowing. Speak from your own perspective.

Explain your personal viewpoint while encompassing as much “objective” insight as possible. Include data like statistics or survey results ideally. That’s far better.


Fix things

Everything else is a mere afterthought. Of course you need a clean site design for proper readability. Also think about text formatting, line breaks and white space in general when crafting content.

You also need to write proper English as too many spelling and grammar errors will make you lose your credibility. These things can be handled by others though.

User experience designers and blog editors can help. Nobody can replace the lack of personality and make your lies sound truthfully without cheating readers.

Be yourself. Stop purporting stereotypes. Don’t act like a persona. Do not believe your personal branding message too much to speak out when things go wrong or the success you sell does not work anymore.

Last updated: June 6th, 2017. Elaborated on main points and added outgoing links for further reading. Added white space/line breaks for better readability on mobile.

* Creative Commons image by Christian Scheja