Book Review: Made to Stick

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Made to Stick by Chip and Dan HeathMade to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath is a must-buy-and-use if you want to write better. That’s my basic review in a nutshell. Now for some details.

There are lot of great books that will help you write better. But if you’re like most readers of this blog or most of my clients, Made to Stick is the one book you should have and read and apply.

Most of the other books are aimed at people who want to become writers. Many others are written for people who want to write powerful and persuasive marketing copy. Made to Stick will help you with those challenges. It will also help you write better reports and proposals and blog posts and, maybe, a business book.

In other words, if you want to do the kind of writing that most business people do most of the time, and do it well, buy this book, read it, and put what you learn to work. The authors lay out the good and evil forces that affect business writing.

On the good side, they describe what you should do if you want your writing to be more like Malcolm Gladwell’s: easy to read and memorable. Here’ a list of six things that characterize writing like that. There’s a chapter devoted to each one.

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional
  • Stories

That’s the good news. Use those forces and your writing will be better and more memorable. Now, you may look at that list and say “Well, of course! I’ll do that.” Alas, you probably won’t. That’s where the dark forces come in.

The biggest dark force of all is something the authors call “The Curse of Knowledge.” This is actually nothing more than human nature. It turns out that once we know something we no longer understand what it’s like not to know it.

That’s the bad news. Even if you master the techniques in those six chapters, it will still be hard to consistently produce Malcolm-Gladwell-like writing. Your very nature will fight against it. But there is a bit more good news to go with that bad news.

It’s possible. Readers of Made to Stick have done it. The people who take Chip Heath’s “Made to Stick” class at Stanford have done it.

There’s no magic to beating The Curse of Knowledge. It takes work. But you can do it and Made to Stick gives you the understanding and the tools to do the work effectively and well.


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