“Imagine,” LitCharts.com writes, “if every time someone used the expression “it was a real Cinderella story,” they had to retell the entire story of Cinderella to explain exactly what they meant.” By using an allusion to something a majority of people will already know, you can clarify your own message – provided they DO know what you mean.
Around six years ago, the Indianapolis Star ran a story about an auction at which items title of the piece was “Annie Get Your Checkbook”, referring to the movie and Broadway show “Annie Get Your Gun.” As it happened, I recognized the allusion immediately, but as a blog content writer and trainer, I had to wonder how many other readers would have “gotten” the point. That’s the thing about allusions, I tell writers – they need to be handled with caution.
“Use pop culture references sparingly,” cautions Joanne Brooks of Helium.com, offering two main reasons why:
- You want your work to have relevance several years from now.
- Pop culture references can delay reading and cause you to lose your audience.
On the other hand, the last thing you want is to be ho-hum and b-o-o-r-ing,so there are reasons to consider popular culture references. For one thing, as Neda Ulaby noted on National Public Radio, even if only a minority among in your audience understand your allusion, they are going to feel like really special insiders and be bonded to you.
The Blocabulary blog points out that allusions can:
- help people see unique connections between two ideas
- help readers better understand the subject
- be surprising and funny
My own observation, based on working with Say It For You blogging clients from many different industries and professions, is that it’s a challenge to find the precise style of communication that will best connect with target readers. While this is especially true in business-to-consumer blog content writing, even with suppliers and distributors, you want to avoid anything that is a barrier to understanding.
Going back to my original example of the IndyStar auction promo, in business blog copy writing, it’s a simple equation: If they don’t “get” Annie, they won’t buy the gun!