Reading through proposals, RFPs and other documents got me thinking lately about writing. Why, I asked myself, do so many marketing people, professional communicators, write so poorly? You’d think that they would be good at articulating thoughts or ideas.
The gamut of poor prose runs from brand directors to account people to designers and on down the line. You see it inside companies and inside agencies. I’ve worked with brand stewards who could barely write a sentence and continually misspelled key brand words despite repeated reminders.
It made me think of a blog post by Steve Johnson. The post talked about writing stats. The stats gave each writer their own “fingerprint.” It brought back words from my old teachers, Mrs. C in high school, Jeff Hart in college and Gerry Powers in grad school. We had to count and calculate words from Huck Finn to show how simply Mark Twain wrote. We had to apply those lessons to our own essays. We had to avoid passive sentences like the plague.
They were good lessons. Lessons that I need to push myself with in my own writing. Luckily, people like Seth Godin and Steve Johnson are there to remind us. We also have tools in Word to help us. I use this all the time. It makes me go back to reread and hone my text.
Then we get some fun reminders, like Susan Gunelius post about ten words to avoid in 2009. Words like really, a lot and that. Yikes, I really use that a lot in most of my blogs. Whether you remove all of those words, or just use posts like this as a cue to make your text more interesting and varied is up to you.
There are some people who write very well. Who knows whether it’s through hard work or natural ability? For the rest of us, it is work. But since we make our living in communications, the least we can do is to try harder to write better. It will make you better at selling your ideas. And that, after all, is the name of the game