Issue 5 July, 2013
Cookie Monster hasn't made an official appearance in my house for many years, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the furry guy. This issue of Wordnerdery talks about how the Sesame Street writers both entertain and educate. We may not be kids, but we can learn from them, too.
7 writing tips from the creative folks at Sesame Street
Sesame Street is among the Writers Guild of America's 101 best-written TV series (at #56; The Sopranos is #1). Coincidence? Not likely. Clever, funny and effective, it reaches both children and their parents.
The dual target is deliberate. A 2010 interview with the head writer, Joseph Mazzarino, explains that:
- "There's no better way for the child to get the concepts we're giving them than when they're sitting down with their parents, watching."
In a recent Ragan Communications piece, Deborah Bates explains the secret to Sesame Street's YouTube channel reaching one billion views as this:
- "Educate, balance serious and light-hearted content, and know what's important to your viewers."
- Know your audience. What's important to your readers? What do they already know?
- Be clear about what you need to get across and focus on that. Too many points will dilute the message.
- Tell a story to make it memorable.
- Keep it simple. You may not have children reading your work, but you will have people with little time to read. Help them out by steering clear of words like "utilize."
- Keep it short. Who has time or patience for reading lengthy material any more?
- Think about references to pop culture as a way to capture attention or make a connection. You could echo the words of a song or reflect current television shows.
- Don't be afraid to be silly or play with words. You may not be able to follow the Sesame Street rule of thumb ("When in doubt, throw a chicken.") but guaranteed you can lighten up.
Images: Cookie Monster from PhotoBucket.com. Sesame Street® and associated characters, trademarks and design elements are owned and licensed by Sesame Workshop. © 2012 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved. Sue by Chris Salvo, salvophoto.com.