Meaningless at its worst, trite at its best, business jargon clutters up your writing.
When writing anything–whether it’s an email or a proposal–your goal is clarity. Duh, right? You want your readers to understand what you’re saying.
Toss in a whole bunch of annoying business jargon, and you risk losing the clarity of your presentation.
So, what is some of the most irritating “corporate speak”? Here my five biggest annoyances:
Move the dial: Also, move the needle. This means that the task or project has a visible impact. Remember the most important tenant of good writing? Show, don’t tell! Instead of saying something will “move the dial,” tell them how, what, and why your idea has impact.
Drinking the Kool-Aid: I’ve heard this one a lot lately, and while I agree that blind allegiance makes zero sense, I’m also not fond of comparing office politics to an actual massacre.
Moving parts: This one crops up when someone wants to convey that a project or task is complex. Instead of the vague, “There are lots of moving parts,” quantify what those parts are to create a greater impact.
Synergize: I hate this word. It’s meaningless. What are you really trying to say or convey? Write that instead.
Out of pocket: This one bugs me. The intent is to convey that you’re not at you’re desk. You’re out of the office. It cropped up ages ago to imply that you were so important you’d still be working but limited to the Palm Pilot or whatever was in your pocket. Now? It’s misused, overused, and needs to go!
Ditch these annoying phrases; your writing will be succinct and clear. Plus, you won’t annoy people! 🙂
The term “writing voice” is bandied about but rarely defined. Your voice, though, will make you stand out from the crowd of other writers and bloggers.
So, how are you supposed to hone your writing voice if you’re not sure what–or where–it is?
For starters, I like to think of my writing voice as the sound of my work. If you were having a conversation about your article/book/post, think about what you would say and how you would say it. You want to capture the sound of that discussion in your written work.
I admit: It’s often easier said than done, especially while you’re still refining your craft. Why? We all want to sound funny, witty, intelligent, wry, whatever, and if you’re trying to force that to emerge in your work, you lose your natural voice. But you don’t have to! It took me a long time to get comfortable with my voice, and here’s what’s helped.
3 steps to hone your writing voice:
- Think out loud. It drives my husband crazy, but it works. When you are in the early stages of a project, you’re brainstorming an idea, or you’re stuck for the right phrase to round out a paragraph, start thinking out loud. Talk to yourself or to your dog or to your spirit guide or to whomever you want to imagine. When you think out loud, you will hear what sounds truly like you and what sounds forced. Delete the forced stuff.
- Knock out that shitty first draft. I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. If not, or if it’s been a while, the concept is simple. Just get words down on paper (well, word processor), and deal with the mess later. If you second guess every word you type, not only will you slow yourself down, but you’ll also interrupt your natural thought process, your stream-of-consciousness. Sure, it won’t be polished, but it’ll be finished – and, most likely, it’ll be a pretty darn accurate representation of what you really wanted to say. It just needs to be gussied up a bit.
- Proofread out loud. Your neighbors might start to think you’re losing it if you’re talking through all your pre-writing (point #1) and then again in the editing phase, but trust me. This is the single most effective thing you can do to refine your voice. When you read your work out loud, not only will you catch all your little glitchy errors and grammar mistakes, but you will hear–actually hear–when your work doesn’t sound like you. Then, you can focus your editing efforts on those places to generate a far more solid second draft.
I recommend proofing everything out loud. It makes a huge difference in the quality of your writing, and it will help you refine your writing voice until it really, truly sounds like you.
If you want to dig into your authentic voice, check out my comprehensive, actionable ebook, Authentic Blogging. It’s full of step-by-step instructions, worksheets, and tricks to help you find and refine your genuine voice, grow your blog, and build a loyal audience!