Good writing is more than just saying what needs to be said. It’s all in how and when you say it.
Greek rhetoricians defined kairos as saying or doing the right thing at the right time. Clues to understanding kairos lie in its dual etymological roots: Weaving and archery. In weaving, kairos occurs in the instant at which the shuttle passes through an opening in the loom’s threads; this is the moment when all the threads come together to create the fabric. Similarly, on the web, the threads of technology, design, content, culture, and user science intertwine to form the fabric—or context—that swathes the opportune moment.
But what seizes the moment? That’s where the other etymological root of kairos, archery, sheds light. Something has to act like an arrow and—ZING!—hit the mark, with enough force to stick. For Greek rhetoricians, that something was spoken language. On the web, that something is written language.
As web professionals, we craft a context for the opportune moment. But we then need to aim at that context with words that zing. To do that, I believe we have much to learn from kairos.