What Do You Do at the End?

#editing #pitching Aug 02, 2021
The conclusion of a speech or essay is no time to just keep talkin'.
 
Don't waste the opportunity. Instead, make use of this fact: readers and listeners most readily remember the last thing you say.
 
That's why you must always close with your "ask."
 
Not your personal story. Not your extended thank-yous. Not your introduction to the mixer later that night.
 
Make sure that the last thing you say is what you want them to do or remember.
 
No exceptions.
 
 
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Don't Take Advice from Randos.

Uncategorized Jul 20, 2021
From an email exchange with a writer friend:
 
If I tell you I don't like your outfit, it could be for one of two categories of reasons. Maybe I don't like the color. That's a matter of taste. You may like the color just fine, so who cares what I think? Call these subjective criticisms.
 
Or maybe I don't like your pants because one leg is shorter than the other. That's not how pants are made. That's a structural error. Call this objective criticism.
 
Few people are equipped to make objective criticism of writing. They just know what they like. That's not useful criticism. Take it seriously and you'll waste time and energy chasing a standard that changes with every new hot take you hear.
 
Your work won't improve. You'll get frustrated with writing as a discipline. That's why most people quit writing at all.
 
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Ask This First.

Uncategorized Jul 19, 2021
What do you want your readers or listeners to do when it's over?
 
*** Be able to put it in a single, short sentence.
 
*** Don't include the word "and."
 
Models: "I want them to vote for X... I want them to change the way they do Y... I want them to stop doing Z...."
 
You'll make more choices that push toward the goal, and you'll more easily set aside things that are superfluous or distracting.
 
Every document has a goal. Before you write, figure out what yours is, then write it down in plain language. It'll save you lots of time and trouble!
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Feeling More Than Thinking

Uncategorized Jul 16, 2021

In my weekly essay out today, I explain three ways to build emotion, starting with eight techniques for getting people's attention right away. Read it here.

If you enjoy my writing tips on social media, you might also enjoy my weekly deep dive, delivered every Friday -- free! Now in its 12th year. Click here to subscribe.

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Never Say "I Care" -- Unless...

Uncategorized Jul 13, 2021
Never say "I care" unless you follow up with what you're going to do about it.
 
Whether you're writing a note of condolence, sharing the disappointment of an audience, or just being a friend in conversation, keep in mind that words cost nothing. Back them with action.
 
Never leave it at "I'm sorry."
 
Never say "If there's anything I can do, call me."
 
Instead, offer to do a particular thing, then follow through. "I'm sorry for your loss. Next week I'd be pleased to look after your kids for an afternoon so you can get some other things done. I'll call you tomorrow to set up a time, if you like."
 
Or bring dinner. Or run an errand. If it's an audience, offer to provide some of your goods or services to them or to a cause they believe in. It doesn't really matter. Just do something.
 
Effective writing creates good things in the physical world.
 
Don't just write. Don't just speak. Do something.
 
 
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My Boss Insists on Using Jargon!

Uncategorized Jul 12, 2021

Two problems with jargon:

1) some people don't know what it means, and

2) those who have heard it often have probably stopped thinking about its practical meaning.

Good writers try eliminate jargon, but sometimes clients insist on using an obscure term anyway. If that's your situation, improve the piece like this. Use the term, then follow it with an explanation in simple words: "We need greater policy coherence. Consider all the added value when we coordinate those individual policies toward their common goal."

Non-experts get an easy bit of education. Experts get a humanized reminder of why they do what they do.

 

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Creativity by Committee?

#creativewriting Jul 07, 2021

Paul Feig helped bring you lots of things you love, such as Freaks & Geeks, Bridesmaids, and The Office.

These shows are unlike their competitors.

Paul Feig says that creative material that works is almost always the vision of one person. Teams are great at lots of things, but creating something that is emotionally inspiring is rarely one of them.

The point?

If you hire a writer or a creative type, give them latitude to do what they do best. You might be able to improve it with tweaks near the end, but in the messy heart of the creative process, stay out of the way.

And if you're a writer or a creative type, stand up for your vision. If you don't, you may keep the gig but what you produce will typically be second rate.

Paul Feig's a smart guy. (Funny, too.)

 

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Lessons From Other Kinds of Art

#creativewriting Jul 01, 2021

Writing is an art, even the writing we do for business. One way we get better at our own art is to examine art from other people.

I recently shared some thoughts from Nile Rodgers, founder of the band Chic and the creator of some of the most carefully crafted and memorable (and happy!) music of the second half of the 20th century.

Another lesson from Nile Rodgers? In the middle of the excess of the disco era, Rodgers threw on the brakes.

Listen to one of his biggest hits, "Good Times." He reduced the recording to the foundational elements of the genre: the bassline, nuanced percussion, and his own "scratching" rhythm guitar. In this way, the few "extras" -- the well placed string flourishes and the keyboard licks you're remembering right now -- are forced to stand out, highlighting how interesting they are.

This recording is so strong that you've heard pieces of it copied or even lifted outright in other famous recordings such as "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Rappers Delight."

...

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Speaker's Mistaken Belief #1

Here's what writers and speakers often believe that is just flat-out wrong: "This material is so valuable that all I have to do is provide it and they'll listen."

No, they won't.

Listening is hard.

Unless you make your talk compelling on its face, all the life-and-death power in the world won't get the audience to listen, let alone take action.

Don't kid yourself. Your first task is *not* explaining stuff. It's not even persuasion. Your first task is **getting them to pay attention.**

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Make Your Point Like a Doctor With Good News

#editing Jun 22, 2021
Ever see a TV show where the doctor comes out with good news? "She's gonna be fine!" he says.
 
For bad news, it's a whole lot different. "We did everything we could," says the doctor, and on it goes until the point is obvious and, often, unspoken.
 
When you write, be like a doctor with good news: just say it. All that set up just telegraphs what's coming, and softens the blow.
 
If you're a doctor with bad news, that's fine. But if you're a writer or a speaker with something important to say -- something you want folks to be affected by and to remember -- just say it plain.
 
Say it like a doctor with good news.
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