June 28, 2006
Liz published this at 9:37 am
Word Choice Reveals Things About Us
Hugh Prather says, We cannot talk without talking about ourselves. Word choice is where our bias shows.
Difficult, arrogant, clever, brilliant, resistant, creative, out-of-the box, genius, spoiled brat, misunderstood, having a bad day, playing with you, smartass, ambitious, valuable, disruptive.
I heard all of these words said by different people to describe the same exact behavior by a single individual.
Each person chose a different word. The word for them described the behavior, but even more it described their mindset, the filter through which they see the world.
Words reveal the mindset of a company culture too.
Does your company choose nice words to talk about inanimate objects and violent ones to talk about people? Does it seed catalogues and grow the business, but target customers and kill competition?
Word choice is a powerful thing. It communicates our unconscious thinking. At first we think it’s just a habit, but imagine for a second. What if we said “seed and grow customers”? How would that change the way we think and what we do?
What if Google called us customers? Would Blogspot bloggers have more service? What if Technorati called us partners?
Word choice is a power tool — both in writing and in business.
Finding the Right Word
I try not to talk about good writing, because good implies a personal preference. I want to focus on what works, is strong, and engages readers. Check your word choice in these 6 + 1 ways to help your writing communicate in a more precise, more compelling, and a more natural way.
- Avoid words, once wonderful, that have lost their meaning — nice, good, interesting, fun – use them sparingly only when you really mean them. In other words, be aware when you use them.
- Reach for striking words and phrases that call up images for the reader.
- Use authentic language — formal or informal — Write with the voice that you would use to speak with them respectfully and warmly, if you ever have a chance to be with them face to face. You’ll find that voice at the center of the thinking place where you and your audience meet.
- Use lively verbs for energy and precise nouns, adjectives, and adverbs for depth and color. Use just enough to paint a picture. Too many colors can overtake the message.
- Make your choices with thought to how they come together to form one picture — don’t put skateboard wheels where you need a bicycle tire.
- :Read your words aloud to hear how the words work musically. Sometimes the most precise words, just don’t sound that good together.
PLUS ONE: If you want the strongest piece, go back to revise out words that you don’t need. Words and phrases, such as very, different, the, kinds of, variety of, range of, There are, It is can take up space unnecessarily. Each of these words and phrases get between readers and the message. When you take them out you’ll find that your writing becomes sleeker and more powerful.
Readers appreciate it when we pack solid meaning into every word. They’re like us. They have no time for clutter, no time for extra space and extra letters to filter through and decipher. If we can offer an accurate message with precision and lively images and no word weeds to trod through, we’re offering them the highest quality content in a most compelling format.
I’d go back to a blog like that. In fact, when I find one I do.
Quality compelling content becomes the brand and its promotion. A great blog is hard to find. That alone makes it a keeper. But you knew that.
Tell me how you recognized the ones that you go back to again and again.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you would like Liz’s help with your writing, check out the work with Liz page.
9 + 1 Things Every Reader Wants from a Writer
9 + 1 Ã¢â‚¬â€ The Sequel Ã¢â‚¬â€ When Big Words Go Bad
6+1: Writing Voice the Sound of Your Brand
See the Writing Power for Everyone Series on the Successful Series Page.