Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saying Things JUST So Is SO Worth the Effort

Lately, I find myself laboring over significant emails... like the one I wrote to my niece about graduating from college, or the one I wrote to my realtor about listing a house ... or the one I sent a client prior to a strategy meeting.

I don't mean laboring in a bad way. I mean honoring my need to examine, think through, and clearly express myself.

These emails take a long time to craft, but I find writing is my only option for clear communication. I don't want to communicate on the phone (unless there is plenty of time to hash it out "just so.") I could do it face to face, but very few have time for that anymore.

In writing, I can question -- and edit -- my own thinking process. I can check my own prejudices. I can examine my own emotions. Do I really feel that way? Do I want to disclose that feeling? Or is it more accurate that I feel this other way? Am I being respectful enough? Honest enough? Diplomatic enough? This process is very useful in a hurried society.

Eureka!

My obsession with careful expression is founded on the conviction that sloppy words equal sloppy thought. In this day of tweeting and texting, that realization leads to a huge question mark about the future of humanity (not that there's anything wrong with that....)

To support the premise that words have deep significance ... to exemplify the notion that words disclose thoughts we never knew we had ... to plead for greater appreciation of formulated human utterance, consider this:

1. I realized several years ago that when people describe their dreams, they always use -- without realizing it -- key words with double meanings. They'll say things like, "I got lost. I tried to make a phone call, but I didn't have the right change." (Okay, somebody old enough to remember pay phones said this, but ... ) Think about that: "the right change." So many meanings, so many insights. Give this a shot: Pay very close attention the next time somebody describes a dream. You'll hear the clues, too. Even better, listen to your own dream descriptions. (Hmmm...I guess that's what psychiatrists do -- wait for the patient to hear their own "true words.")

2. When I watch reality t.v. (and, yes, I do watch it), I see people screaming and yelling. That's bad enough, but usually everybody will yell at the same time. This fascinates me -- I gaze in wonder, watching human beings bellow, with no idea how to communicate the very thing about which they feel so passionate, and with zero understanding of the precious exchange inherent in a well-chosen word. I never stop being amazed.

3. The six months I spent in daily blogging are responsible for this revelation. I found that blogging took hours... not because I can't write fast, but because I wanted what I said to be precisely what I meant. And I wanted it to be thorough and well-researched, too. Whether I failed or succeeded is up to my readers to decide. But, for me, the effort confirmed that saying what you mean, means thinking about what you say.

That says a whole lot, right there, don't you think?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

3 comments:

Michelle Collins said...

Great observations, and I find myself going through the same process. I come from a journalism background, and while that has afforded me the ability to write quickly and succinctly, it also leads me to really look at all of the words I choose.

I certainly don't think it's a fault, but it also makes me very aware that a lot of people DON'T do that. Anything worth saying - and especially worth writing in a forum where other professionals might read it - is worth saying well.

In a day when it seems the internet is full of shorthand and abbreviations that have stripped much communication of even proper usage, far less nuance, it's difficult to not be frustrated at much of what is out there. At the same time, I realize how the writing that is done WELL stands out and resonates.

As a marketer, it's a constant struggle I have. How do I help my clients reach everyone while still maintaining standards of excellence. I'd love to hear how others have come to grips with that challenge.

Michelle Collins said...

Great observations, and I find myself going through the same process. I come from a journalism background, and while that has afforded me the ability to write quickly and succinctly, it also leads me to really look at all of the words I choose.

I certainly don't think it's a fault, but it also makes me very aware that a lot of people DON'T do that. Anything worth saying - and especially worth writing in a forum where other professionals might read it - is worth saying well.

In a day when it seems the internet is full of shorthand and abbreviations that have stripped much communication of even proper usage, far less nuance, it's difficult to not be frustrated at much of what is out there. At the same time, I realize how the writing that is done WELL stands out and resonates.

As a marketer, it's a constant struggle I have. How do I help my clients reach everyone while still maintaining standards of excellence. I'd love to hear how others have come to grips with that challenge.

Marketing Brillo said...

One answer would be to hire good writers. :-) The April 12 edition of "Newsweek" features an article titled "Chaos Theory" by the hot guys who founded 37Signal, which is getting a lot of publicity. Their #2 Rule for succeeding in business without really trying is "HIRE THE BETTER WRITER: Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking." And I hadn't even *read* this until after I wrote the article! Every client should see this, don't you think? p.s. Their #1 rule is "Avoid Workaholics." :-)