Share a Secret (Psst)

23.08.2018 |

Episode #10 of the course Conversational writing: Engage your readers by Gay Merrill


You made it!

Today is our last lesson, and we’re covering one of my favorite techniques for conversing with a reader.

Have you noticed writers who use short messages in parentheses as if they’re sharing a secret? (I do this often.)

This writing device of sharing a quasi secret with readers is known as an aside.

The device is similar to the technique actors use on stage to speak in private with the audience.

Humor writers often use asides to:

• Poke fun at themselves.

• State the obvious.

• Exaggerate.

• Make a witty remark.

• Add a tongue-in-cheek comment.

• Ask a rhetorical question.

Sometimes a writer might use an aside to add a sound effect, like the sound of clearing your throat (ahem) or a whisper (psst).

By making the message of the aside a bit unexpected, you can add a bit of levity to your writing.

Because the aside is like sharing a secret, it can also help build a connection with your readers.


Check out the asides in these mini bios:

• Fran Thompson is a freelance librarian. She loves reading (kinda goes without saying), traveling, and helping people find great reads.

• I write about productivity (stop wasting time), public speaking, and motivation (aka kicking your butt … in a good way).

• I’m a coach for entrepreneurs who need help writing their business plan and figuring out their cash flow (ka-ching!).

Using an aside is a fun and easy way to create a conversational element to your writing.



Use an aside to add a conversational element to your about page or bio.

This lesson ends my Conversational Writing course. We’ve covered simple techniques, which I hope you’ll apply if you’re not already using them.



Here’s a recap of each lesson:

#1 – Speak directly to your reader by picturing that person and writing in the “you” voice.

#2 – Get rid of formal-sounding (robotic) writing by writing the way you talk and using contractions.

#3 – Make your writing clear by using the active voice and checking it for readability.

#4 – Eliminate and replace inflated words, jargon, and gobbledygook to ensure your audience can relate.

#5 – Vary your sentence lengths to give your writing a dynamic rhythm and change the pace.

#6 – Use transitions, and try different sentence structures to create flow.

#7 – Involve your reader in the conversation by adding questions and pauses.

#8 – Start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS), end with a preposition, and add an interjection to break the formality.

#9 – Add a personal touch to your writing with an anecdote.

#10 – Use an aside to share a secret and add a bit of humor.

Thank you for taking this course. I hope you found it informative and helpful.

Have fun writing,



Recommended book

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott


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