Five Quick Ways to Dramatically Improve Your Writing

 

3531532114_78338e283dIn Remote, the authors say the ability to write and communicate is absolutely necessary to get hired at 37 Signals.  Whether you’re trying to build a platform or send an email, it’s worth learning how to be a better writer.  When you write better stuff…

  • More people will read what you write.
  • More people will take action because of what you write.
  • More people will understand your message.
  • More people will share your message.

You can take writing workshops, read books and hire a coach.  I’ve done all three.  But start with this simple list, apply it to the very next thing you write, and you will see immediate improvement. Here are five quick ways to dramatically improve your writing.

1.  Remove the word “that.”

This word is rarely needed.  You can delete it 80% of the time and the result will be a tighter, cleaner sentence.  Of course, you should remove ALL unnecessary words that clutter your writing.   As Jed Bartlet said, something can’t be very unique or extremely historic.  Cut the clutter.

2.  One thought per sentence.

Your brain works faster than your fingers can type. So the result is often long sentences with multiple thoughts.  Go back and make sure you’ve only got one thought per sentence.

3.  Reverse the ME/YOU ratio.

People care more about themselves than they care about you.  So replace the parts where you talk about yourself with more stuff about your audience.

4.  Write for a person, not for people.

Pick a person and craft your message for them.  You’ll come across more personal and more likable.

5.  Act like you can only use five exclamation points in your entire life.

Exclamation are the cheap way to emphasize something.  Delete them and use real words.

Go back to your last blog post, email or paragraph.  Take 5-10 minutes and apply just one of these rules.  You, and your readers, will notice a difference.

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Your Best Year Ever

Here is video from my message at Fusion Church on Sunday, January 5, 2014.  The message title is “Made for More.”  In this message, you’ll hear me say goals are dumb.  But don’t let that keep you from watching.

Made For More from Fusion Church on Vimeo.

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Five Secrets of the Best Communicators

I’ve delivered well over 1,000 messages in my life, and I’ve listened to at least that many.  And while I don’t have a study or a stat, my experience has led me to the following observations about the best communicators.

1.  They start with the audience not with their content.

People care about themselves more than they care about your topic.  And while you’re the expert, you must make sure your message actually matters to people’s daily lives.

When I coach preachers on how to connect with their congregation, I give them advice that sounds heretical at first.  I challenge them to start their message prep with the Bible, but to start their message with the audience.

2.  They have a message, not just a topic.

A title isn’t the same thing as a point.

The best communicators work hard to find their message.  They uncover the driving point buried in all their points and slides.

3.  They have a unique voice.

Some communicators are storytellers.  Some are explainers.  Some are motivators.  But no matter their style, they find ways to truly connect with the audience.

Your experiences are unique.  Your successes and failures are unique.  Your style is unique.  So don’t try to communicate like someone else.

4.  They lead people to action.

There is certainly a time to call people to give thought to an issue, but some of the best messages do more than that.  They motivate people to take action.

Awareness is great, but action is better.

5.  They are master storytellers and point makers.

When I ask people what they remember from any talk they have ever heard, their responses fall in one of two buckets.

First, people remember carefully worded principles.  I’m talking about wordsmithed statements that stick.   Secondly, people remember stories and object lessons.  Instead of just sharing facts and points, tell a story.  It’s more memorable and impactful.

If you want to learn more, here’s a free video I did on becoming a better storyteller.

What lessons have you learned from the best communicators.  Leave a comment and help us all get better.

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Five Quick Ways to Dramatically Improve Your Speaking

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I am convinced improving your communication skill is one of the most crucial things any leader can do.  Whether you’re giving a keynote, a speech, a lesson or a sermon – you want it to be good and you want it to be effective.

Here are five simple things you can do to dramatically improve your next presentation.

1.  Reverse the ME/YOU ratio.

People care more about themselves than they care about you, so read through those notes and replace the stuff where you talk about yourself and add in more stuff about your audience.

2.  Turn three short stories into one developed story.

Get rid of the six one minute stories and tell one six minute story.  Not only will it be better, it will be memorable.

3.  Chop five minutes from your talk.  

There are very few talks that would not be better if they were shorter.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

4.  Lose the notes. 

You’ll definitely leave stuff out and forget to say something, but you’ll connect better with the audience. If you’re afraid to do this, then reduce your notes by 50%.  Pair the manuscript down to an outline, or the detailed down to five main thoughts.

5.  End with an action step.

As you get to the end of your talk, say, “So what should you DO with all of this.”  Then plainly answer the question.

 

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Why People Don’t Do What You Preach

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Your content was carefully researched, outlined in detail, and prayed over it multiple times.

You put in hours of study on an important topic and you communicate your guts out, only to have people walk out the door and forget everything by lunch or kickoff.

You delivered a faithful, accurate, truthful and well-written message. And nobody did anything.

Frustrating, isn’t it?

So why didn’t people apply any of it and make the changes you absolutely know would help them?  Here are five observations.

1.  They forgot what you said.

People can’t implement your sermon if they forget it.  A lot of sermons are accurate, but forgetful.  It’s hard work to craft memorable statements and deliver great content to a distracted congregation. There’s little change they can do what you say if you forget what you say.  That’s why saying it right and saying it well is so important.

Let me ask you a question:  What do YOU remember from your message three weeks ago?  You wrote it and delivered it…how much of it do YOU remember?

It’s a tall, tough order to shape your message in a memorable way, but if you want people to apply it, you’ve got to help them remember it.

2.  You didn’t give them a clear action step.

Too many messages do not drive an action step all the way through the content.  What do you really want people to do?  If you can answer this question on the front end of your prep, you can drive it all the way through your content.  Failure to answer this question might result in a helpful message that leads to little action.

Your action step has got to be more specific than “think about it this week.”  If you don’t have a clear and compelling action step, people won’t come up with one on their own.

3.  You didn’t tell them what was at stake.

Its’ a big mistake to assume people care about your message.  They didn’t come with a driving desire to learn about your topic.  They didn’t wrestle with those questions throughout the week.  Just because it’s important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to them.

That’s why you’ve got to show them what’s at stake.  What will happen if they DO NOT implement?  What will it cost long term if they don’t heed these words?  Miss this and it will be like trying to cram food into a man who just stuffed himself at the all-you-can-eat buffet.

4.  You didn’t inspire them.

Many accurate messages are never implemented.  That’s because most people aren’t motivated by something that’s true.  Emotion and passion and stories are what motivate people.  Connecting the content to THEIR lives is what causes them to think about making personal changes.

Seth Godin said it this way:  “The skeptic will always find a reason, even if it’s one the rest of us don’t think is a good one.  Relying too much on proof distracts you from the real mission – which is emotional connection.”

5.  They aren’t ready.

If people aren’t changing or implementing or applying your messages to their life, evaluate yourself.  Be honest and ruthless and hard.   Do everything you can to make changes that lead to effectiveness.

But sometimes people don’t implement things because they just aren’t ready.  Remember, preaching is a spiritual thing.  The Holy Spirit is the one who works in people’s hearts and leads them to life change.

Yes, your words are important, but at the end of the day,  you’ve got to let those words go.

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