When I think of the trust an author (or journalist or speaker) needs to elicit, quickly, from his/her audience, I see myself offering my hand to a child I don’t know well. (I did a lot of babysitting, so this is a familiar picture.) What can I do, I wonder, to make the child feel confidence in me?
As an author, I need to do the same. Sometimes an author does it with a flood of data (trust me, I’ve done my homework) or references to impressive events or people (trust me, I went to Davos). When I do popular writing, I either want the reader to relate to me (trust me, Iâ€™m not a wild-eyed hard-core environmentalist who will tell you to cut the power now) or to see that I have some kind of experience that might be interesting (trust me, I really did put the manuscript of the T. S. Eliot Letters in the taxi with Mrs. Eliot – and here’s the article). Trust me, come along with me, into the story.
Other authors lose me from the first page. I remember a book called 1,001 Ways to Save the Planet that included a tip to â€œWrite small so youâ€™ll use less paper.â€ Who could trust an author who included something so silly?
But itâ€™s important not to try too hard. T. S. Eliot is reported to have said that, â€œ. . . one should record opinions simply and forcibly, omitting all the qualifications and cautions which scholarly diffidence would wish to drape round them. â€˜People like just to be told what to think.â€™â€ ((T. S. Eliot to H. S. Davies, recorded in â€œMistah Kurtz: He Dead,â€ T. S. Eliot: The Man and His Work, edited by Allen Tate. P. 359.))