Writing With Flair, Not Flamboyance
Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people
~William Butler Yeats
Nobody likes that loquacious communicator who engages in obfuscating palaver that does nothing but contribute to convoluted verbosity. Right?
Chances are most people wouldn’t have been impressed with all those big words. Quite the contrary, it would frustrate your readers to have to take the time to translate and place the words in context to gain a better understanding.
The bedrock of Public Relations is communication. In fact, companies seek and pay good money for the eloquence and word smith-ing skills that PR professionals are known to possess. However, the common misconception is that you have to be walking dictionary. Well, you don’t – writers must impress their readers with their ideas, not their vocabulary, and a simple, direct vocabulary gets those ideas across more effectively.
Emails, letters, proposals, contracts, all these are a large component of everyday business. Some days you leave the office with the rapid click-clacking of keyboards still resounding in your head from banging out words all day. With the written word being the main mode of communication, you have to ensure that the meaning gleaned from the message is understood in the same way by both writer and reader.
The simplest way to achieve effective business communication with the recipient is to write the way you would when conversing face-to-face. Using ordinary, everyday English (also known as shirtsleeve English) will translate into better results.
Ditch the stuffy emails that say “Attached herewith please find the document for your kind perusal”. Cold and pretentious expressions from the past should be eliminated – it doesn’t help with fostering the warmth and familiarity needed to build solid business relationships.
It is tempting to substitute common words with bombastic ones to showcase your rich vocabulary, especially when it’s right there at the top your head. However, doing that will make you no different from the person who uses a 100 dollar note to pay for something that costs 2 dollars, when he has a 2 dollar note in the first place – it doesn’t make sense and gives the impression of being showy and arrogant.
Reconsider, Revise, Replace
Before sending out the email, take a few seconds to revise your draft, look for places where you may have chosen fancier words in a conscious or unconscious attempt to impress your reader. Replace those words with words that express your meaning clearly.
Whether it’s editors you send press releases and media pitches to, or marketing collaterals directed at your target audience – the reader is likely to first scan the content and then decide if he wants to read further. The eye traverses the page quickly. So why would you want to add any element of obscurity to your post and decrease the chance of your material being read?
Eloquence, not grandiloquence is the foundation of effective communication. Save all the polysyllables for your own personal Shakespearean endeavours or weekend novelist whims. Wield your power as an effective communicator in your ability to convey ideas in a simple and easy to understand manner. Professionals don’t complicate information–they simplify it.
Malcolm Forbes said it well: “Pretense invariably impresses only the pretender.” You want your readers to be impressed more by the clarity of your content and style of writing than by pretentious words and heavy phrases.
As PR professionals, writing in such a way where your work captures attention is crucial. But we must remember that writing with flair is only a few unnecessarily flowery words away from flamboyance.
By Nellia Ho, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services