We’re shuffling around the Writing Style Bar with others who also write, reaching out, dropping and slopping and plopping all sorts of goop onto our sentences, anything to make the words go down better. We begin with our own fresh All-Natural Writing Style, squirt it with ketchup, slap it with mustard, sprinkle it with Worcestershire, A-1, maybe a little Tabasco, toss on some relish and onion, add avocado, bacon bits, mayonnaise, tomatillo, chopped almonds, shredded cheese, sliced olives, jalapeños, and top it with a dollop of sour cream. Somewhere beneath all of that same stuff everyone else has piled onto their Writing Styles lies our own pristine All-Natural Writing Style.
That’s the part we can’t help, our All-Natural Writing Style. It is our unique voice, a product of our personality, of our DNA, of our sibling rank, of where we grew up, who taught us English, where we went to school, how long we went to school, our parents' education, and topics discussed at the family dinner table or not. It is a product of every experience we have ever had, how we have been shaped, how we have endured, how we have prevailed, how we have come to where we are in our lives at this moment. Why would we adulterate what is uniquely ours?
But here we are, circling the Writing Style Bar with all of the other managers and lawyers and engineers and students and architects and teachers and accountants, spooning up and piling on the same wilted verbiage and expecting our clients and colleagues to appreciate what’s on our plate. We squirt it with “net-net,” slap it with “bottom line," sprinkle it with “at the end of the day,” toss on some “suffice it to say” and “impacts our productivity,” add chopped acronyms, office insider slang, corporate speak, Twitter jargon, and top it with a dollop of “that being said.” Somewhere beneath all of that is a clear thought.
A hint: Read good writing, feel what is good about it, and transfer that feeling to the page in your own words. Then think about those words. Think about what they mean, and what they don’t mean, and if they mean nothing, delete them.
If at all possible, I need to finish the SharePoint migration before Monday.
If there are any issues that have come up, feel free to let me know and I’ll pass them on to corporate.
And, if that was not enough, PSU filed two more answers.
Let’s face facts: For years, universities have looked at their law schools as profit centers.
Insurance companies, for their part, can’t refuse you coverage.
Our mistake is assuming we have to feed at the same Writing Style Bar where everyone else feeds. Or any Writing Style Bar.
One last point: unless you are Mark Twain (unlikely) or Will Rogers (also unlikely), don’t try to affect a breezy, folksy, down-home style. It will sound stilted and false because it’s unnatural. Speak with your own well-reasoned, or humorous, or colorful, or spare, or intrigued, or informed, or sincere voice, and let your reader hear it clearly.
Now I’ll stop, and take Will’s advice: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”