The Power of Assumption

Something always to think about in writing is the power of assumption. Now, this isn’t much of a writing tip today, but can be thought of as a type of warning, or note you need to take or contemplate. But first, I’m going to tell you a joke.

Farmer Brown has two horses. He can’t tell them apart. Their heads are the same size. Both have bushy manes and tails. They’re both sweet tempered and hard workers. Finally Farmer Brown decides to measure them, hoping that one is a little taller than the other. He measures each horse, and bingo! The brown horse is four inches taller than the white horse.

Isn’t that funny? When I first read that in Gail Carson Levine’s book, Writing Magic, I grunted. Then I sort of half-laughed. It’s a great joke. I hope you feel the same way.

But why is this joke important? Well, think about it.

When you first heard about the two horses, how did you see them? Were they black or white? Sepia or painted? If you saw them both as brown horses, then you win! Well, why? Assumption, and that blended with context. Take a look.

What was the farmer’s name? Brown. Farmer Brown. Even though that’s only a name, I still do see the color when I think of it. I think it is very possible that Farmer Brown’s name got us thinking on the color brown subconsciously, and when we heard “two horses” we thought “two brown horses.” This is the power of assumption, and like I said before, mixed with context. Farmer Brown is in the context, and the color of the horses are what we assume.

So why am I telling you this?

Think about this in your writing. Do you have anything in the context that could be misleading? Do you have anything you didn’t explain, leaving room for the reader to assume something inexplicably wrong?

Check it out. Reread your drafts. Ask someone else to. Then edit it all.

Keep writing!


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