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Your Words: Your Style

When I was a kid in primary school, writing was laborious. One had to be precise with every letter neatly placed between the lines. If you deliberately stuffed it up, there was a thick leather strap with your name on it.

I knew the sting of the leather for other reasons, not because of my writing.

When I was fourteen, my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I left school. I think the question was put forward just after I had brought home my latest school report. My response was that I wanted to be a writer. Her reply was, ‘that’s nice dear, but don’t you think you should do something that makes money.’

While I have penned my way through my career thus far, I do get her point. Having self-published my first novel, I am well aware of the financial and emotional cost. I was keen to post a copy to my mother who is now 97 years of age and the book has given her a great thrill. She says she is very proud of my accomplishment. I won’t remind her of her comment when I was fourteen just as I have never told her of getting the strap every day at primary school.

For some, writing is a chore; for others, it is a passion. I fall into the latter category and only wish I could be a Patterson, Grisham, King or Robotham. Of course, if I were as good as any one of them, I most likely wouldn’t be writing this article.

When writing, whether it be business or creative, the words you write will most likely reflect your personality, your personal style. It is almost inevitable but for this reason, there will be times you may have to stop in your tracks to make sure your message is truly received. This is where the ‘reader-writer’ method comes into play. If you put yourself into the mind space of your target audience, you may find that you will use different words or phrase passages differently.

I have found this method useful, particularly in putting forward a business proposal or preparing a presentation. It can help lead your audience to the conclusion you wish to attain.

Creative writing is somewhat different but will generally still reflect the writer’s style. The authors I have mentioned above, all have their own unique style. I was recently asked by a publisher which author’s style could mine be compared to. I struggled to come up with an answer and I still don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Some novelists are more descriptive than others. Some write long chapters, others much shorter. I again, fall into the latter category.

Regardless of whether it be fact or fiction, words are used to convey messages or tell a story. I prefer my characters to speak for themselves, and I imagine that I am in their shoes and in doing so, they deliver their own messages, in their own way.

Prolific author, Stephen King, wrote On Writing (published in 2000) but he was lucky to complete it. He almost lost his life the year before when he was hit by a van while walking.

Following the accident, King was at a loss and struggled to return to his craft but the literary world was graced when he did return and On Writing was the first book to be published after his near death experience. It is a book that I highly recommend as it provides some excellent tips for writing along with-it being part memoir of the author.

Ghost-writing is not an easy task because again, the words need to reflect the style and language of the person you are writing for. Then you should also put the ‘reader-writer’ lens over what you have written, to make sure the audience takes on the messages conveyed.

Many of you may be sending out regular newsletters to your customers or clients and while you can personalise to an extent, you will be generally providing the same consistent content to everyone. Some of this content may be citation of new products and services or it may be a case of providing helpful tips that add value to the client’s business.

Regardless of the content, there are always certain points to consider:

  • Objective: this is where you should start. Why are you writing in the first place? Is it meaningful? Does it add value to your chosen audience?

  • Audience: who are they and why should they read what you have written?

  • Message: what are you wanting to convey and how can you ensure your audience receives the message?

  • Style: this is where you can put yourself inside the written word and add the human touch. Even the most serious of messages can be conveyed with a human element.

  • Delivery: What is the most effective and efficient way of getting your message to your audience? Sometimes, if it is an audience of one, you may just pick up the phone or better still, see the individual face-to-face; if it’s a large number of people, you may want to think of the most effective way of reaching (post, electronic, website etc) and you may want to consider the best time of the day that is likely to suit your clients to increase the percentage of those you want to truly receive your message.

In 1839, English author, Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote a play titled Richelieu, Or the Conspiracy. In Act ll, Scene ll, Cardinal Richelieu states: The pen is mightier than the sword. In 1870, literary critic, Edward Sherman Gould wrote that Bulwer "had the good fortune to do, what few men can hope to do: he wrote a line that is likely to live for ages".

Very true, the pen is mightier than the sword but when you are writing you still need to get to the point.

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