Writing is communication and there are two types of communication; successful and unsuccessful. Most of us feel we can communicate quite successfully when we speak about what we know or care about but feel much less confident when we’re tasked with writing the message we need to get across.
In my last post about content I mentioned passion. Passion can be a real source of trouble for many people in business. And not in the way you might be thinking. Here’s the thing; when you reveal your passion, you expose yourself. Now, if you promise to clear your mind of any unsuitable images, I promise to avoid any more double entendres.
Exposure is one of our great fears. This is why people hate standing up and giving presentations. This is why men hate dancing at parties and discos unless they have been well lubricated and can then blame the alcohol for the lack of coordination and early onset ‘Dad dancing’.
This fear of exposure probably goes all the way back to trying to stay out of view of the roving sabre-toothed tiger on the hillside above. Nowadays it comes down to a simple desire to avoid looking a fool or giving anyone else the opportunity to think badly of us or to make others think badly of us.
However, this is not a post about the psychology of self-esteem, so I’ll cut to the chase.
When it comes to writing, many people face a double fear of exposure. Over exposure, you could call it.
On top of the perfectly normal (in the sense of completely human) fear of revealing what they think and believe, there is the further fear of exposing their inability to write ‘properly’. (I put that last word in quotation marks because I want to emphasise that the word ‘properly’ has no place in any discussion about writing skills.)
Write As You Speak
Try this. Write down a description of the service your company delivers or the product it builds. Write this as if you were putting together a short paragraph or two for a brochure – perhaps one of those directories of participants at a trade show.
Done? OK, now – without looking at what you’ve written or consciously trying to remember any of it – record yourself talking about the product or service as if to a colleague or someone you know is interested in what you’re saying.
If you now compare the written piece with the audio piece I think you’ll find that your audio description conveyed more of your passion. Listen to the audio and then read aloud your written piece. The written piece was probably stilted and, let’s face it, pretty dull. No?
The reason for this is that, for most of us, as soon as we try to engage ‘writing mode’ we fall into the trap of thinking that there is a ‘proper’ way of writing. We forget the rule that we are communicating and simply want to show that we know the rules of ‘business writing’.
And yet when you talk about this stuff, you let the passion show and you don’t worry about ‘proper’ speaking. Of course you follow some rules of syntax and grammar – otherwise you would end up jabbering nonsensically. When it comes to writing, those are also the only rules you need to follow: make the sense clear. So much business writing seems to be about hiding rather than revealing the meaning of what’s being said.
Here’s a simple rule to follow the next time you want to write something at or for work. Write as you speak.
If you have another go at your ‘brochure’ piece with this in mind, you may be pleasantly surprised, not only by how it sounds when you read it back but also how much easier it was to write in the first place.