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If In Doubt, Leave It Out

if in doubt leave it out

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?

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Good Joke vs Great Joke

a good joke is

As a professional speaker, I hang out online in speaker groups. Folks will post provocative questions and see if sensible comments or a fiery pitchforked mob appears. Usually both.

Someone asked if speakers should use jokes or humour. It’s always a fun exchange for a short while to get into whenever people demonstrate widely and wildly divergent views, usually on the very definition of the words being compared. Words are super powerful and when used as labels and catch-alls for a whole bucketful of history and emotions (like feminism or liberal or socialism), any exchanges are often doomed from the start. I’m currently designing a tee-shirt that says, “I’m the guy that changed someone else’s opinion via social media”.

As a speaker who is also a comedian, i did post a comment in reply that I re-post here today. I”m not overly prone to generating genuine original wisdom or fluffy overdone and glib inspirational quotes, but I was kind of proud of this one.

Feel free to share. The nub of it is expressed in the image with this post. here’s the full post:

A good joke is one where you don’t see the punchline coming. A great joke is one where you don’t even realise it’s a joke until it’s too late. For speakers, humour / anecdotes / funny stories aren’t just there to entertain or add variety (tho they do & should), they’re there primarily to make a point. A great joke, well-told, does that on steroids.

That said – old jokes, hack jokes, dodgy jokes, off-topic jokes that get regurgitated more than delivered can do more harm than good. And, like starfish stories, can be predictable & taint subsequent content.

I reckon I could probably drive a formula 1 race car but they shouldn’t let me. For some people, it’s the same for jokes.

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Commonly Confused Words: Method & Methodology

methodology-terry-williams

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