One of the biggest writing problems I see among people in my mentoring program, and others who hire me to improve their writing, is that they’re afraid to write like they talk. Perhaps they fear “wordiness”, but sometimes writing like you talk is less wordy.
- For instance, they never use one-word sentences. Or fragments. Those, for sure, are not wordy!
- They refuse to start sentences with words such as “and” and “but” because of an elementary teacher way back when told them not to.
- They try to sound important when they write. So they use long words in long sentences that make up long paragraphs.
- They remove all slang from their writing so it’s clean and pure. And often, boring.
Business coach Michael Angier agrees. “Too many times, I see people who are good verbal communicators try to put
on a different air in their writing,” he says. “It doesn’t work. It’s much better to be conversational.”
Writing like you talk is one of thirteen tips Michael offers for writing clearly and convincingly. It was one of the lead articles in an issue of Joan Stewart’s free subscription newsletter, The Publicity Hound.
Lisa Cron’s book, Wired for Story , shows us how humans were storytellers long before they were writers and how the processes in their lives wired us for story. Story and anecdote. It works for articles like this. It works for novels—great novels. And you’ll see it appearing more and more often as part of news stories. Another book I recommend is Tom Chiarella’s Writing Dialogue published by Writer’s Digest. You may find it inexpensively on Amazon’s New and Used feature.
In the newest book in my multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writing, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically, I remind authors that the best blurbs and endorsements come from people who compliment their books and their style in off-the-cuff conversations. When asked to write a blurb or endorsement, the same people may use language that is stiff, official—and unconvincing. I tell them to ask their contacts (or reader) if they can use what their reader just said to them rather than having them back up and make it into a brittle, lifeless twig.
Readers probably spent many years reading staid textbooks. They may now prefer to learn what they need quickly. When authors make their point with stories (and do it colloquially), they find their readers more easily bond with them. It’s about connection. Think loyalty.
Have you ever wondered why many are turning to the Web for information even at the risk of fake news and unprofessional advice? They are in a hurry. They’re after easily absorbed information (retention). You can provide both. Sure. Watch for wordiness. But don’t skip the story your readers’ brains crave. They’ll love you for it.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how-to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Editor; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Her blog TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, lets authors recycle their favorite reviews absolutely free.
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