One of the workshops I run is business writing for professionals. It’s hard to avoid getting a bit English-101 so we do dabble in some common errors of grammar, syntax & misused or confused words. (Are you disinterested in this topic? I suspect you mean uninterested but hopefully not that either).
I raise a few ‘rules’ of English & the inevitable myriad of exceptions. It’s not for academics or novelists. It’s for practical business communicators concerned with impact, risk & reputation – all of which can be effected (I think you mean affected) by our writing. So, I get the groups to generate their own rules / guidelines / principles for the real world. I’ve done this dozens of times & the results are always similar.
Reading efficiency, consistency, the writer should do the heavy-lifting for the reader, reader centricity, ambiguity is the enemy (97% fat-free & gluten free, anyone?) & my favourite: if in doubt, leave it out. Whom would have a problem with that?
How does your writing measure up?
If you don’t know who Bill Hicks was, you’re clearly not in the comedy business (art?) He is iconic and controversial – a comedians’ comedian. This blog isn’t about comedy though. Why mention him? He spoke up for what he believed and wore a ton of trouble for doing so. He kept on. I’m pretty sure most sensible business commentators / mentors etc would advise strongly against basing your professional communication on the model that was Bill Hicks.
I dunno though. The list below may or may not actually be from Hicks himself. Its one of those urban mythical things. That’s not important; Let’s assume that the principles are his. Have a read of the list. Put yourself in the picture. In your mind, change the references to being on “stage” to being in your market, role, industry, profession, whatever. You might want to change the word “funny” to whatever it is that you’re supposed to be. Change “audience” to “clients” or “customers.”
Go on. Give it a go. See how it makes sense now…
1. If you can be yourself on stage nobody else can be you and you have the law of supply and demand covered.
2. The act is something you fall back on if you can’t think of anything else to say.
3. Only do what you think is funny, never just what you think they will like, even though it’s not that funny to you.
4. Never ask them is this funny – you tell them this is funny.
5. You are not married to any of this shit – if something happens, taking you off on a tangent, NEVER go back and finish a bit, just move on.
6. NEVER ask the audience “How You Doing?” People who do that can’t think of an opening line. They came to see you to tell them how they’re doing, asking that stupid question up front just digs a hole. This is The Most Common Mistake made by performers. I want to leave as soon as they say that.
7. Write what entertains you. If you can’t be funny be interesting. You haven’t lost the crowd. Have something to say and then do it in a funny way.
8. I close my eyes and walk out there and that’s where I start, Honest.
9. Listen to what you are saying, ask yourself, “Why am I saying it and is it Necessary?” (This will filter all your material and cut the unnecessary words, economy of words)
10. Play to the top of the intelligence of the room. There aren’t any bad crowds, just wrong choices.
11. Remember this is the hardest thing there is to do. If you can do this you can do anything.
12. I love my roots. Get to know your family, be friends with them.
More ideas at http://gettingbetterbuyin.com/
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