Rules Broken

From today’s email version of PC Magazine

“You can learn a surprising amount by taking just a moment to read what one of the most influential voices in our industry has to say. Editor-in-chief Michael J. Miller weighs in on this year’s technically excellent products…”

This piece of popular culture reveals a rule of popular culture…by breaking it.

1) “just taking a moment.” There is something simultaneously pleading and patronizing here. And the pop culture rhetoric says, never plead and never patronize. You can’t appear to need the reader and you especially can’t appear to know better.

2) “you can learn a surprising amount.” Never tell the reader what’s good for them. They will decide this for themselves.

3) “one of the most influential people in the industry.” Be careful how you self promote. They will decide Miller’s standing for themselves.

At the very least, this rhetoric turns on a delicate negotiation of standing. Writers may not dare to plead, patronize, or know better. They must respect the autonomy of the reader.