Don’t Forget What Supports Good Writing

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There is several things I eluded to recently that cause me to reign in my ideals about writing good?

Who read that and thought, “Has she lost her mind?!”

People who think grammar, word choice, and punctuation aren’t all that important don’t seem to understand that those elements are necessary for clear communication. Clarity of writing is the target we all (except maybe politicians, legislators, and lawyers) must strive for.

Any business knows that clearly and precisely outlining the benefits of the products or services it offers means success.

What happens when we ignore the guidelines for good writing? One thing is that we make our readers work too hard. If the reader has to go back several times in a sentence to try to “translate” what the writer means, the reader is forced to concentrate on the mechanics rather than the meaning.

Worse than that, we all know what happens when people have to fill in the blanks of intention. In the old game of telephone, a message is whispered along to each player in a line until, by the end, what comes out barely resembles the original message. Let’s not provide an environment of obscurity.

We need to remember that grammar is the infrastructure that supports the easy flow of communication while precision with words is the traffic light that guides the reader to the idea.

We write to share – to provide information, evoke emotion, or persuade. If we ignore the elements that create good writing, we fail to communicate.


Weekend Wrinkle: Another Adventure Begins

Everyone loves new things – new cars, new clothes, even new semesters.

business writing welcome documentYes, it’s the beginning of another semester, and this year I get the opportunity to teach a course on business communications. I’m really excited about it because it is the perfect platform to proselytize about good writing.

I think it’s great because it lets me relearn concepts I may have forgotten and even investigate some new ones.

One of the icebreakers I ask my students during the first class is, “What is your dream job and why?” I realize that I’m living part of my dream every day. I get to write and share and find new ways to spread the excitement of writing.

I even love the challenge of getting my students to understand and appreciate (if not love) grammar.

If I can pass on just a fraction of my enthusiasm to my students, I will consider my job well done. I’ll have helped send another group of effective communicators into the world of business and, hopefully, to success.

Happy start of the semester, all!

Weekend Wrinkle: Graduation and Writing

It’s the graduation “season.” I can’t help thinking of the parallels between academic graduation and completing a writing project.

  • Writers often spend a long time working on a project, sometimes years – just like students pursuing a degree.
  • Writers explore different aspects of their subjects to get to the final goal.
  • When writers “finish” a project, they can’t help looking back and thinking they could have done something a little differently or put more effort into something.
  • Writers often find it hard to move on from the environment and people they encountered throughout a project.
  • Writers look forward to good things resulting from all the hard work they put in.
  • When the project is done, writers move on to something new.
  • Graduates and writers mark the end of one phase and the beginning of the next.

As we congratulate those students who have worked so hard to finally achieve the reward at the end of their studies, I want to remind writers to give themselves a pat on the back and a “great job” when they reach their own “graduation.”

Weekend Wrinkle:Be Creative, Be Successful

Many people have an incredible ability to talk themselves out of things. Writers can be particularly talented at this.

We convince ourselves that our writing isn’t good enough. We think of all the practical things that can sideline us before they ever come into being. Sometimes our creativity is counterproductive.

Mostly we fear to be wrong. Writing gives us power, and it is an awesome responsibility. What if we write something and it goes awry? What if we fail?

Writers are not superheroes that, when they fall, can easily become super villains. We really have to get over ourselves.

Creativity is a gift. Yes, sometimes we’ll stumble and fall, but the world doesn’t crash down around us.

More often than not, we succeed and, oh, what success there is! We should rejoice in our accomplishments and put our failures in their proper place.

Banish fear and create!

Weekend Wrinkle: Eavesdrop for Success

One of the biggest problems writers face is how to keep coming up with material. One source is to eavesdrop on other people.eavesdrop

Now, I don’t mean turn yourself into a prying biddy. You don’t need NSA-type efforts. But people will talk within your hearing, and it’s not a bad thing to listen to what they’re saying.

(Interesting tidbit: the word “eavesdrop” originates from a term describing the area under the eaves of a house where the water from the roof dropped. It developed into a verb and noun to describe the activity and the person who stood in the area to listen in on the inhabitants.)

This can be done physically – on line in a store, sitting in a restaurant, cruising through a mall, sitting in the company cafeteria, or riding in a bus. People will talk to their friends or peers about what is on their minds. Heck, they’ll even let you listen in on their phone conversations (sometimes whether you want to or not).

It can also be done online through social networking sites. See what’s trending and check out the comments people make.

There’s a whole bunch of juicy material out there just ripe for turning into something useful — a blog post, a marketing pitch, a short story, or a character in a novel.

You’ll be surprised at how much fodder for writing you can get when you just do a little eavesdropping.

Failure, My BFF

“Failure is not an option!”

That’s a phrase bandied about everywhere, especially in business. Why are we so failure-averse?

Sure, there are times when failing can be a very, very bad thing: brain surgery, parachute folding, bungee jumping. But trying to eliminate it altogether is counter-productive.

The consequences of failure can be painful. At the very least, when we fail, we lose confidence in ourselves. Failure can be expensive, frustrating, and embarrassing. We tend to hide away our failures like crazy relatives. They exist, but we don’t talk about them.

“I failed my way to success.” – Thomas A. Edison

 The only calamity is not learning from our failures. Writers know this only too well. For writers, failure is an old friend.

The relationship starts out rocky. Failure is annoying and ever present. It’s there in the red marks on our school essays. It’s there when we send out the products of our heart and soul only to receive letters back that essentially say, “Sorry, it’s not good enough.” It’s there every time we turn around, sticking to us like bubblegum on our shoes.

Once we start to accept failure and all its warts, we understand how it can help us. Like a friend, it points out where we’ve gone wrong and what doesn’t work giving us a chance to improve. Like any good friend, failure then makes us better.

When we change our perspective of failure, when we look at it as opportunity instead of misfortune, then we establish a relationship that can lead us to success.

So, you failed. Join the club. If you want to be successful, get over it!