Posts Tagged ‘writers’

Write for Clarity

Friday, July 15th, 2011
The Vocal Crowd

Top Left to Bottom Right: @MikeBrice, @PointsofRue, @ABGooen, @MHuras, @JGombita, @RobertJHolland, @Melissa_Novak and @CommAMMO.

Twitter chats are an important reason I use the microblogging service, and as moderator of #ICchat I get to participate in really interesting discussions with people I otherwise wouldn’t know.  So when I asked Robert J. Holland to be our guest for the 14 July discussion on writing, I was remedying an issue. I’d read Robert’s stuff for some time, whether through IABC or Ragan, or the comments pages on David Murray’s excellent blog, but we’d never met. I’m glad that #ICchat took care of that issue!

The chat featured 207 tweets that generated 226,696 impressions, reaching an audience of 9,326 followers.  (Stats via Whether that means much I’m not sure, but it’s interesting.)

We started with a somewhat obvious question, though I asked it sincerely:

@CommAMMO: Q1: With social media, texting and instant messaging, is writing still important for internal comms? #icchat

@melissa_novak thought it was a “silly” question — and maybe she’s right.

@RobertJHolland Social media presents new challenges. Content must be even more clear, precise, understandable. #icchat

@MikeBrice @CommAMMO writing is the foundation for all. #icchat

@JGombita @robertjholland social media (especially Twitter) has helped make my writing less flabby. Brevity is the soul of platform width. 🙂 #icchat

@CommAMMO I happen to think that writing is a foundation skill for business in general, and many CEOs agree (see @nytimes “corner office”) #icchat

As I told Melissa, you’d be astonished at some of the things I’ve heard and read about writing and its role in modern public relations in general — I personally don’t see how any communicator, especially in internal communication, can be less than excellent as a writer. That’s not to say that everyone has to be brilliant — just that words are a big part of our executional requirements.

@MikeBrice: SM may help with shorter writing but I think it hurts writers who forget how important it is to provide detailed descriptions #icchat

@RobertJHolland: Writing with brevity but also providing all the important details takes work, no doubt. #icchat

@RobertJHolland:  Mark Twain: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” #icchat

@RobertJHolland: That’s how social media are changing writing. Forces us to compartmentalize info, structure info differently, compete for attention #icchat

@ABGooen: Hi, Guys. Joining in. Two keys to good writing: audience analysis and message validation. Lots of “writers” don’t do it. #icchat

A quick sidebar question about information mapping (the structured process of creating information)  from  @MHuras brought this from Robert:

@RobertJHolland: Anything that gets us to clarity[…]

And that turned into the main theme for the discussion.  Clarity requires organization, solid process, research, economical language…whatever process helps you get there, as long as it doesn’t get in the way.

@RobertJHolland: A2: Don’t get wrapped up in process at expense of clarity, logical flow of ideas, and of course the reader’s enjoyment #icchat

@CommAMMO: I’ve read some on sense-makingappreciative inquiryBarbara Minto’s structures… Agree if it helps w/clarity, use it. #icchat

@JGombita: @robertjholland life lesson from high school English teacher: I don’t know what you meant to write, I only judge & enjoy what I see. #icchat

By now, the time was flying by.

@CommAMMO Q3: Describe your typical approach/process to writing. I usually free-write to start, seldom outline 1st…

@RobertJHolland: A3: Outlines never helped me much. I use them rarely. Process is such a personal thing. Whatever works for you, use it! #icchat

@RobertJHolland: A3: Main thing is to keep focused on the main message. It’s easy to lose the message as u get caught up in story details. #icchat@RobertJHolland: A3: I usually just start writing. But that’s just the first step. The real work is in rewriting, refining, editing. #icchat

@JGombita: @robertjholland alt., leave it alone for a bit (hours, a day). Start fresh with your writing, approaching it from entirely new angle #icchat

@MikeBrice: I start with a lede and nut graph to determine if it is interesting to me to see if it will be interesting to employees #icchat

How bout a specific method, step-by-step?

@ABGooen: @CommAMMO 1. Know who I’m writing for. 2. List five key points. 3. Circle top point/prioritize other points. 4. Write. 5. Revise. #icchat

We also touched on “conversational” writing, judged to be essential for internal comms. But what makes writing conversational?

@RobertJHolland: Use real English, but don’t get sloppy. And for heaven’s sake don’t slip into jargon. #icchat

That can be a challenge when dealing with leaders — some of whom want language to be “elevated” to some kind of lofty, complicated prose. Anyone had that experience?

@PointsofRue: Yes, but I’ve also had a leader keenly push us in that direction because she saw the value of connecting with “average” employees #icchat

@RobertJHolland: Absolutely! It’s a never-ending fight, but it’s our job to fight it. Push for clarity. Jargon rarely leads to clarity. #icchat

@PointsofRue: My response to “you’re dumbing it down” is “no, I’m opening it up” #icchat

@CommAMMO:  @pointsofrue Me: “I’m trying 2demystify leadership, make language more accessible to more ppl.” Boss: “but they don’t want that.” #icchat

@JGombita: Conversational is inclusive. It’s the kind you get at the best dinner parties, lots of give and take. #icchat

That leaves out a lot of good stuff — read the transcript from, here.

Many thanks to all our participants, and especially to Robert. We’ll resume 8 September. Stay tuned for the time of day. Cheers for now!