Writing Tips for all writers

The One-Two Setup

Today I will talk about the one-two setup. What is the one-two setup or sometimes referred to as the one-two combination? Simply speaking, it’s a style of writing where you make a definitive statement but then you undercut it with an ironic twist. What it does is that it makes for interesting reading and also creates an instant connection with your reader by drawing them into your word play.

Here are some examples of obvious one-two combinations:

“ There’s no such thing as failure, there’s just giving uup too soon” — Jonas Salk


“And, of course men know best about everything, except what women know better” — George Elliot

Sometimes writers will resort to more subtle undercuts:

“It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way” — Rollo May

And when Robert Bly expertly explained the intricate nuances of poetry by saying,

“God made me tender, but writing poetry — with it’s eared herd of images that have to be saved or murdered — has made me fierce.”

Just keep in mind that in general, it’s a good idea to stay on topic and not veer off too far away into your undercut statement. Be confident in your writing and take a definitive stance in your assertions. Words like “might”, “possibly” or “seem” should be avoided if you want your reader to consider you an authority on the subject.

Also notice that, in all the examples I have given above, the use of punctuation and how it adds so much more meaning and drama to the content. Punctuation accentuates the effect of a one-two combination by emphasizing the pause. Just make sure you do not get carried away like me and use TOO MANY commas :)

For the intermediate writer, as you might already know, the pattern behind this combination is called “Parallel Structure” and we will discuss it in more detail in our next blog post.

Happy writing!