How, not what.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a writer. It’s one of those jobs that people perk up about when I claim it as my profession. I think a lot of that is because its one of those jobs that people seem to believe you can’t get.

As any liberal arts major will tell you, we were all led to believe (at one time or another) that we were wasting our time in programs that wouldn’t amount to much. Luckily for me, I get to spend my days doing something I like and people seem to think I’m good at. I talk to people, listen closely, then spend hours putting what I’ve heard down on paper in the clearest way I know how.

Really, as much as my job is writing, it really is about discerning what is important and removing everything else. (Then hopefully I can also do something creative with it to grab a reader’s attention.)

What I’ve noticed in the last little while is how wasteful we are with language. Maybe this is because I spend so much of my day cutting out meaningless and excessive content that I’m blown away that more people aren’t outraged by how unnecessary so much of it is.

For me, what it comes down to is that the true impact of our words can really come from how we express ourselves and not just what we express.

If we say something amazing, but we say it in an intonation that poses it as a question, it loses is gravitas (I’m looking at you upward inflectors).

If we race through our conversations as quickly as possible we get lost in the speed and don’t get to chew on each word,

tasting

everything

it can offer.

If we use a vocabulary that isn’t accessible to the audience you end alienating them, making them feel like outsiders who don’t belong. (And, really, you just end up looking like a pretentious ass.)

Say it simply, or don’t say it at all.

Then there is this endless repetition. I beg you, stop. Just stop for a moment.

 

Say what you want, say it slowly and with intention then leave it there. Every time I listen to someone repeat and repeat and repeat I lose interest, my attention strays, and I want to escape. You aren’t doing your thoughts justice.

And then there’s my least favourite habit we’ve fallen into. The competitors. You know the people that dominate the entire conversation, speaking endlessly.

Don’t fear silence. And don’t worry if you leave a little to the imagination.

We’re all creative humans who are more than capable of stringing together meaning. As much as you want to believe that you need to beat people over the head with your ideas to win, please consider your writing, conversations, and general communication to be more of a team sport.

It’s thrilling to get the opportunity to go back and forth, playing off the other’s strengths. If you dominate the entire time there is a chance your audience will leave feeling uninspired and drained.

There’s nothing wrong with leaving a question or statement hanging in the air. We all just need some time to think.

So next you’ve got something to say, I beg of you to consider not just what you want to say, but how you want to say it. I promise, it will make a world of difference.

 

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