Writing for Success
"If you be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams -- the more they are condensed the deeper they burn."
~Robert Southey, English Romantic poet
What strikes me about poetry is the way it conveys meaning so economically, with not one word too many to get the reader's attention and hold it. Indeed, when they set pen to paper, the greatest poets lived by the credo that brevity and clarity go hand in hand.
But what about those of us who have no aspirations to versifying, and may not have read a line of poetry since high school? Well, it goes back to one of the three foundations of effective writing that I mentioned in the April newsletter (see Archives): Know your readers. Know them and respect their time.
Part of that knowledge is the assumption that each one of them is busy. And why wouldn't they be busy? Isn't that a common identifier for successful people? If they weren't successful, why would you -- a respected consultant, businessman or woman, nonprofit leader, government official, you name it -- be writing to them?
So please keep this in mind: Write to edify, not to impress. When it comes to communications in the professional working world, the only one impressed by your ponderous writing will be you.
Being a reporter is as much a diagnosis as a job description.
~Anna Quindlen, columnist
Building on what we discussed in the April newsletter, if you want to turn a news media encounter into a plus, you should understand reporters and where they come from. A few tips:
- We're not in it for the money. We are in it because our curiosity about people and their triumphs and foibles drives us.
- Our agenda doesn't have a political slant. What we really want is recognition, preferably envy, from our peers.
- Our real bias is for the story, the "what's new?"
- Getting that story often leads to obsessive, obnoxious, manipulative behavior, none of which is to imply that we're dishonest. The best of us are determined, which can make us unpleasant to deal with if you're the one answering the questions.
- Reporters taking those traits to the extreme become editors and producers, who in turn make reporters they deem unworthy quite miserable.
I'll be back next month. Take care.