Let’s suppose you’re discussing business with a coworker. You’re an expert in the mechanics of stock options. He’s the novice. The novice craves the opportunity to show his stuff.
“Okay, let me explain what an option is so you understand what I’m talking about,” he said.
“I know what an option is. I grew up in this business.”
I witnessed an exchange like this yesterday. Even without the benefit of tonality and body language, you can sense the expert’s annoyance. Now imagine the expert stretching out the word “know” in this sentence.
“I know what an option is.”
Next, picture the expert slapping her hand on the table as she said the phrase.
Three seconds of silence followed her response. It felt like an eternity. The novice is a twenty-something in his first job out of college. The expert fought her way through twenty years of experience.
Was her response a bit heavy handed? Maybe.
Here’s the point.
The novice did not intend to show up or embarrass the expert. He was trying to show his stuff. It came across as pompous and insulting.
The Pompous Writer
Writers make the same mistake. You want to show your stuff. You worked hard to obtain your expertise.
There’s a tendency to vomit out your knowledge as if your reader will then take a knee in deference to your awesomeness.
Establishing credibility is important. But you want to avoid sounding arrogant or boastful. How do you strike the right balance?
Here are three guidelines to keep in mind.
These are examples of unintended self-praise.
“Listen to an expert.”
Refer to yourself as an expert and in third person. Wow. That will raise an eyebrow or two.
“Nobody matches my expertise on …”
Boasting rubs people the wrong way.
You may get away with this language towards a novice. Use it with an expert and you sound insulting.
Reveal Your Knowledge In Bits And Pieces
Your expertise should become evident as your piece progresses. It avoids the boastful label and also increases suspense. It gives the reader a reason to stick around longer.
Reveal your expertise within the context of the story. Tell a story that drips bits of your expertise as the story progresses. Teaching allows you to reveal your expertise without sounding boastful.
Learn From The Master
Consider a credibility statement. The legendary ad man David Ogilvy, wrote a famous ad years ago.
How To Create Advertising That Sells
It included a short statement of fact in the beginning of the add. It was nothing fancy.
His firm created 1.4 billion dollars of advertising and spent 4.9 million tracking the results.
That’s it. No bravado. No boasting. Just a statement of fact. It established credibility. In the reader’s mind, it made the actual ad worth reading.
One warning about the credibility statement. Don’t use it if you haven’t earned it.