A few weeks ago, I challenged you to inspect the words that lurk in your wardrobe. When I wrote about the Wardrobe of words, did that prompt you to take a quick peek into yours (or maybe even your real closet)? Did you perhaps resolve to only stock your wardrobe with powerful words that matched your intent?
When we become aware of the power of language, we become selective in allowing only positive words into our vocabulary. When we become aware of the expressions that we choose, we begin to employ only compelling phrases in our daily lives, be it in speaking or in writing.
We humans learn new ideas by comparing to concepts that we can already comprehend (such as likening your language to a wardrobe). Metaphors are a powerful way to communicate ideas swiftly.
For years, I have been frustrated by those who communicate poorly at work. Poor writing can take numerous forms: using words inappropriately, failing to devote adequate time to explaining a concept or parroting phrases used by others.
Have we become so complacent in communicating our ideas that we fail to appreciate the power of language? Are we so accustomed to the tools at our disposal that we have stopped putting thought into how we write?
Why bother carefully crafting a message when you are just sending an email or a text message? Why should you learn to become a proficient writer when all you do is express the same ideas to the same people every single day?
Writing is an essential skill no matter whether you are a student, employee or entrepreneur. Writing is the fundamental means by which you can express your strengths, your learning and your views. Even as you learn and grow in your chosen career, writing will continue to build your cognitive and decision making skills. Ultimately, writing well will garner attention and position you as an authority in your field.
I am curious about how you evaluate your writing skills. Are you ready to transform your writing today? Are you ready to become a confident writer?
Start by making these simple but effective changes right now.
Stop “verbifying” nouns
If your vocabulary is filled with meaningless jargon, then it is likely that you reach for them often. Begin by replacing jargon with the true meaning that you want to convey.
If you can’t find a word to describe an action that needs to be taken, do not create a pseudo-verb out of a noun. Instead select a related word. It is not a crime to use the Thesaurus.
1) Leverage – Go ahead and hold me culpable for using this word! It is a hard habit to break and not discouraged in a corporate environment. Instead try these words with a more positive connotation – employ, use, utilize, apply, capitalize.
2) Synergize – By all means practice Stephen Covey’s famous 6th habit. But, if you mean partner, collaborate or cooperate, just say so!
3) Ideate – Type this word into Merriam Webster, I dare you! Their example is the only fitting one. Try to brainstorm or strategize instead.
Don’t spout rhetoric
Mimicking phrases that circulate in senior management will not make you a leader. Please stop using these meaningless phrases. Instead clearly state the problem you are facing and the solution you recommend.
1) It is what it is – It most certainly is not. Please explain why the current state can not be altered.
2) Take it to the next level – What next level, and can you please elaborate what it is on the next level that makes it so appealing? Instead say elevate, boost or raise.
3) Take offline – You are not an artificial intelligence being that can be taken offline. Instead offer to resume a conversation at a more convenient time.
Eliminate meaningless metaphors
Think twice before using metaphors that you would never choose of your own accord! Using them doesn’t make you sound cool.
1) Ducks in a row – Are you a mother duck? No, I didn’t think so. Instead say organize, coordinate or standardize.
2) SWAT team – You can’t help it if your management chooses to call your team the SWAT team. But you may point out that you are an expert advisor and not a law enforcement official.
3) Punt – Football terms are used often the most used in Corporate America and they are sometimes the least tolerated. Unless you are playing football with your colleagues, you are not punting anything. Instead you may choose to revisit an idea or a strategy at a later time.
Streamline Your Writing
There are numerous writing mistakes that we make in our daily lives either through lack of awareness or instruction. Lucky for you, I am here to point out a few ways that you can become a confident writer!
1) If you want to be a writer, I am all for it! But it is best to not get carried away. Tailor your communication to your audience. Keep emails short and sweet, save the arduous arguments for documents and presentations.
2) As a technology consultant I have found that most problems can be nipped in the bud by clear upfront specifications. Write precisely and unambiguously; advocate others to do the same.
3) It is possible to be succinct and clear yet incomplete. Be sure that you don’t fall into that trap! In emails, include purpose, description, and an obvious call to action on what you expect from the recipient. In documents, be sure to narrate the entire story from objective to recommendation.
4) What they say is true, a picture is worth a thousand words. If find your concept hard to explain, use a graphic to illustrate your point. There are a number of graphic tools that allow you to create process charts, mind maps, or infographics.
5) Provide supporting evidence (yes, data) for any assumptions, conjectures or expectations.
6) If your business is prone to acronyms or specific terminology, be sure to explain them through a glossary. You can skip this step if you communicate mostly within your company. However, it will be crucial to explain any esoteric terms to external vendors before you leap into any agreements.
7) I am a big believer in retaining versions of all documents I write. When you collaborate on a writing effort, be sure to use the built in tracking and reviewing tool in your Word processor to maintain versions of your document.
8) Lastly, if you are presenting a written proposal to an audience, be sure to send draft versions ahead of time to allow for preparation. Allow your audience adequate time to process and understand your message.
There you have it, a few simple yet effective ways that you can improve your writing today! By using these methods you can also become a confident writer at your school, work or business!
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