Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Making Words Work in the Workplace

I go to workshops. I talk to people. I listen. I make notes. And every time I do I walk away with the same belief: far too many professionals do not realize how important good writing is to their image and success. Rushing through emails, memos, and correspondence, they haphazardly throw words together with little or no thought to the outcome.

They unknowingly fill the page with abstractions, jargon, cliches, gobbledygook, faulty composition, and poorly chosen
words -- each and every one a highly visible soiling of the writer's image. In a way, it's like the fellow who doesn't see the mustard stain on the lapel of his $800 suit. Everyone else sees it, but he doesn't. The point is:

Bad writing makes smart people look dumb.

"I hadn't learned yet what I know now -- that the ability to communicate is everything."
Lee Iacocca, former Chairman, Chrysler Corp.

But should we indict the professional who has not yet acquired the skills of a professional communicator? Should we scold someone who has not yet studied and practiced the craft of effective communication? Probably not. After all, rarely did teachers of long ago shake their fingers in our faces and bellow: "You had better become good writers if you want to succeed in your field." We had a steady diet of Shakespeare and Mark Twain, but did anyone teach us how to write for the many demands of the business world? they didn't.

So do we live with it? Do we live with the flaws, the goofs and the gaffes? Also probably not. If we can, we should work toward becoming better speakers, better writers, better communicators.

In this blog, I hope to pass on a few things I've learned through the years about writing in the workplace -- especially the marketing/sales workplace. You see, I'm one of the "snake oil" crowd. I'm the one who says, "Step right up, have I got a deal for you!" Well, maybe not that corny, but you know what I mean. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, "Everyone is trying to sell something."
Stick around, or come back when you've got a moment. It might even be fun.

Email me at And come visit my companion blog:

Oh, by the might be wondering why I dated this entry well in the future, like December, 2008. As you know, each time you post a new article, it assumes the main page position. Advancing the date is the only way I can maintain this introductory article as the perpetual main page. One more note: The Previous Posts list in the right margin is limited to ten posts. Scroll down for additional posts.


Blogger Mike said...

And...for every encounter, there is always a sales job occurring.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Robin Nobles said...

By the same token, good writing has a tendency to float to the top of the search engine results. It's well rounded, using synonyms and related words that are missing from poor writing.

Good writing creates a vivid picture in a reader's mind. The search engines, through artificial intelligence, relate.

There's no better time than this to be a writer online. Reap the benefits!


2:52 PM  
Blogger poojyan said...

No wonder it is said you thrive on your tongue. True. I liked your ideat of post dating.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Jack Payne said...

The actual phrase was, "Step right up, sport, tell you what I'm gonna do..." It's from the 19th century origins of the con man, of whom I write on my blog. (In fact my latest piece is on the 1890s Carnival Barker, and how the term, "mark" was born.)

Great piece, this admonition of yours to make some sense with your words. I learned a few things from it.

1:03 AM  
Blogger Kristen Hallows said...

I'm glad to hear from someone who shares my feelings! My personal bete noire is "singular they." It drives me crazy.

Keep up the good work.


10:01 PM  

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