You are what you write
Updated: Jul 20, 2021
There she stood. Five-inch stiletto heels, in bone. A trendy dress that hugged every curve. Impeccably coiffed. She was about to pitch the Food Network celebrities, producers, marketing and branding executives for her own TV show.
The evaluation criteria? Charisma. Communication skills. Speed in developing audience rapport. Culinary talent, obviously.
“You’re up. Give us what you’ve got,” instructed a judge. “Hi, I’m Dana, I’m here today to …. gobbledygook. Gobbledygook. Gobbledygook. The camera panned. Heads tilted. Eyes squinted. The power brokers deciding her fate, were baffled about her message. It fried their neural circuitry. Now, the judges had to decide between two final contestants; gobbledygook Dana and one other. The rival contestant? Imagine watching paint dry.
As the judges told Dana she’d go on to compete with eight other cooks they issued a warning. “The audience must understand you and your message, clarity is imperative,” true that, especially for businesses. “Sure, I’m clueless about your product, I’ll buy nine of them,” said no customer. Ever.
That's the verbal side of communication. Now I'll discuss written communication although I won’t compress decades of writing experience into a five-hundred-word article. That’s nuts. There’s The Elements of Style, Strunk & White and a bazillion other writing books for that.
You’ll see a few concepts that helped me sell thirty-three million dollars in discretionary intangibles and gobbledygook-proof my writing. Have a look.
1. Psychology. No doubt, there are natural born communicators who can have you on the edge of your seat reading about kumquats. But when an aspiring writer asks my opinion, I suggest they have an understanding of human psychology. Knowing how humans process and interpret information, what drives a decision and why, is a writing super power.
2. Three questions. What are you communicating? Who are you writing to? What’s in it for them? Communication 101, right? It’s gone missing in a lot of contemporary content. Answer these questions, before you start, during and after the piece is finished.
3. Perspective. No matter how cogent your message, every single person interprets what you say or write from his/her lens of perspective. It’ll mean something different to most everyone. The truth is, “You see things not as they are, but as you are. Your perception is shaped according to your previous experiences, according to your faith, according to where you are in consciousness,” Eric Butterworth. Your readers follow the same rule.
4. Information overload. The information explosion i.e. social media, has backfired. Because people are disturbed by too much information not enough. It’s caused, attention bankruptcy. Which makes cutting through the incessant noise, difficult, not impossible when you know how. There’s a way to organize words and messaging that’ll grab readers by the lapels and compel them to read to the very last word. It’s part master writer and part alchemy. When you grab and hold the reader’s attention you direct their emotions because humans are the only species who can create emotion by thought alone. Direct thought with words and you conjure emotion. Emotion is motion. If you’ve done your job, the reader will do the rest.
5. Muddy messaging. It’s not a reader’s friend. Pointless words guarantee a muddy message. Aside from sucking the life out of the reader’s attention like a vampire, they waste space and the reader’s time. No style editor? Give your content to a fresh set of eyes. Have them do a vampire check. I know. Who likes their work red- lined? But when someone’s reading your material, they’re giving you precious attention. Make it concise and worth their investment.
With razor sharp communication skills, you grab and hold attention. Influence decisions. Your writing is crisp, relatable and actionable. Writers who synthesize complex subjects into meaningful material so the audience understands it, in today’s fast, fleeting and forgettable content tsunami, are worth their weight in gold.
When in doubt about clarity, enter Mark Twain, “My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. (Fortunately) everybody drinks water.” Wanna bet Twain wasn’t a fan of gobbledygook either. Paula M. Parker (C) 2019 Originally published in