By Gerard Braud
Few people read to the end of an article. I have little confidence that you will read to the end of this article, even though the final thought may change your life and career. Every reader makes several judgments throughout each article as to whether they should move on or read on.
What if you began with that thought every time you write?
Would you change the way you write to make it more compelling?
Here are three things that you can do to produce words that resonate with your audiences and increase the chances that your audiences want to either read more or hear more about your topic.
Approach everything you write as though it is a script for the greatest speech in the world. Listen to great speeches and study the language and motivational techniques. Notice that the language is conversational. The words in great speeches are usually words that we hear in everyday language, yet they are organized in a way that invokes a call to action or a deep emotion.
Whether you are writing for print or the spoken word, re-think your style to be conversational. No, this isn’t the way you were taught to do it in college. Face it — most colleges taught you to write for a newspaper and that style was created long before we lived in a world with as many information outlets as we have today. This is your permission to rethink your style to match the needs of your audiences.
As you write, hear the voice. Channel the voice of Kennedy, Reagan, King or another great speaker. Consider that sometimes you may write something that looks great in print, but it doesn’t sound good when read aloud and it isn’t comfortable to the ear. Something that sounds good to the ear, and can be spoken with ease, will also look great in print and is easier for your reader to read.
After nearly two decades of political correctness and diversity training, we should all realize that these movements are centered on inclusiveness. Corporations and government agencies have spent millions on training programs centered on inclusiveness. Yet these same organizations, and the people who write for them, exclude vast audiences when the writing is filled with institutional jargon and acronyms. A person shouldn’t have to “belong to the club” in order to be able to understand what is written or said.
Junk the jargon and realize there are no prizes for being multi-syllabic. In media training classes I always try to get spokespeople to speak at a sixth, seventh or eighth grade level, because that is the level at which most people comprehend the written and spoken word. To achieve this, you must shun the idea that you are “dumbing things down” and adopt the approach that you are simplifying the information to be inclusive of everyone in your audience.
Vigorously Fight Edits from Non-writers
Many corporations, government agencies and non-profit agencies are lead by left-brain, analytical individuals and seldom by right-brain, creative individuals. Analytical people, such as accountants, engineers, scientists or doctors are each great at their skills, but their proper writing skills are as poor as the creative person’s math skills.
When I’m invited into organizations to help them achieve more effective communications, I always promise the accountants that I won’t try to balance their books if they don’t try to re-write what the public relations team has written. You should instruct the left-brain analytical types that they have permission to correct errors, but that they should respect the professional training of the writer and respect the content and style of what is written. If you really want to get their attention, tell them that every time they change a letter you’ve written, you get to change a number that they have on a spreadsheet. This should cure the problem.
We each have natural skills and gifts. I know my gifts are definitely not in math but are rooted in written and spoken word. Try the above lines where you work. Stand up for yourself. Push back. If someone wants you to re-write something that you’ve written — and you know it is good and they want to clutter it with jargon, acronyms, and excessive facts and figures — you have an obligation to your craft and your career to push back.
Will there be a big payoff if you implement these three ideas and re-think your writing? Try it and see for yourself. You’ll never know until you give yourself permission to try.