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Failure to spell-out exercises
Failure to spell-out exercises in numbered steps writing good exercises is an art. When you have a clear image of an exercise, it is easy to feel that the elements are self-explanatory, and that actually labeling them Step 1, Step 2, etc. would be redundant. But it is not redundant, it is a necessity.
Generally, an exercise teaches readers a new ability they did not have before. Or fine-tunes one they already possess, but aren’t making the best use of. Both situations intimidate readers. Most people are certain they have unusual difficulty learning and will get things wrong. They can literally panic when they find advice or tips that haven’t been broken down into numbered steps.
They immediately become confused and trip themselves up trying to think of every possible interpretation of what you’ve written. In all these cases, they are more likely to give up than to give your techniques a try. But there is no guesswork when you format your exercises in the form of numbered steps. Using them relieves the reader’s feelings of intimidation.
Plus, since the exercise has been divided into small, easy sections, readers become more confident that they can do it. The result is that readers are far more likely to give your exercises a try than the brush-off. In short, do not just write down your exercises in the form of general advice. Take for example, the following exercise for coining dramatic, colorful “sell” phrases. Here’s what not to do: “Write down what you want to say in your own words. Rephrase what you have written to give it as positive a spin as possible.
Using what you have just written as inspiration, dream up four or five other positive ways you might formulate your point. Go over everything you have written, including your first, rough try at what you wanted to say. Underline, or put a check mark next to, the words you think have the most power. Try putting the words you have underlined together in different creative combinations. Write down the results.
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