Summary of Malcolm Gladwell’s Masterclass on Writing

Masterclass Notes
5 min readNov 17, 2021

21 key takeaways from the NY Times bestselling author of Outliers
  1. Go for the imperfect argument. Because the perfect argument is too obvious, too overused, and no longer intrigues. It’s the works of art with some glaring flaws that get people talking. Imperfections allow for diversions and questions that perhaps can never be fully answered, and that’s often where the most interesting stories are.
  2. Sprinkle candies. If you’re writing intellectually rigorous nonfiction, like a heavy meal, it can get too dense. To help with this, sprinkle candies, such as little did-you-know facts or funny quotes, throughout the story to help the reader get to the end. Candies can also be fun little tidbits that readers can easily remember and share with others.
  3. Let the reader discover the patterns. Make data more interesting to the reader by presenting it in small chunks, in a way that helps the reader easily see the patterns in the data themselves. Rather than lecture them with charts and graphs, inspire them to become their own data detectives.
  4. Engage with suspense and surprise. To keep readers moving through the story, use elements of both suspense and surprise. Suspense is when readers know that something is about to happen, they just don’t know when. Surprise is when readers think that one thing is about to happen, but another thing happens.
  5. Allow yourself to fall into the rabbit hole. In the research stage, give yourself permission to wander off from the main topic. Allow your interests to take over and take you to new and unexpected places. This will help you develop a back shelf of cool things that you can use in writing both your current piece and future pieces.
  6. The best stories end with a portal. If you haven’t been transported somewhere new after reading something, you’ve wasted your time. Many writers spend more time thinking about the beginning than the ending, but the ending is just as important. Save the most powerful moment in your story for the end.
  7. Pay attention to obscure details. Often just talking to an underused librarian or checking the endnotes on an article can lead you to some great discoveries. Talk to peculiar people, as they’ll often have interesting stories and can connect…