We live in a nano-second world. Today’s readers, harried and exhausted just don’t have time to linger, quietly absorbing the glorious intricacies the English language.
Nope. Too busy. Way too tired.
This means everything you write has to appeal to the fast paced, raised on Sesame Street, weaned on MTV generation.
And as a writer, you need to deal with this reality.
But how do you do this?
Easy. Write conversationally.
Now, when you’re speaking with another person, they have the benefit of watching your nonverbal communication. You wave your arms, roll your eyes, intone your voice… all these nonverbal cues clarify the message you’re trying to convey.
Unfortunately, written words don’t transmit nonverbal cues very easily.
That’s why you must write conversationally while using absolutely every tool we can muster to make up for the lack of nonverbal communication.
Here are three of these tools:
First, as a writer, you must “word paint” your message and create as similar a message in your reader’s mind as possible. This means that you must choose ultra-specific words, particularly verbs. Of course, using a few passive verbs (such as is/was/had/etc.) is inevitable.
However, whenever possible, eliminate them and replace them with a vibrant/active/visual verb. This means that a sentence such as “You are greeted” can easily transform to “Larry greets (active verb) you the minute you step in the door.”
Second, you must also use ultra-specific language.
Readers cannot hear your tone of voice. They cannot observe gestures. This means that EVERY word you choose MUST carry its weight and propel your message forward.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. What do you visualize when you read this sentence?
“I drive a car.”
Weak sentence, eh? We’ve probably got two very different pictures in our mind. Here’s a better sentence:
I drive a red car.
Closer but I’d venture to guess that our pictures are still very different.
I drive a cherry red 2005 Porsche 911 Turbo S. Coupe with an incredible 3.6 L. Turbo engine.
OK. Now we’re probably “seeing” the same car PLUS you can infer a number of my personality traits based on this car I drive.
How would your opinion change if I told you I really drive a ’93 earth friendly three-cylinder Geo Metro hatch back?
I don’t drive either of these cars, but by now I’m sure you’re able to see how word choice can influence your reader’s opinion of your message.
Lastly, you’ve probably heard the writer’s mantra, “show, don’t tell”.
This sentence puzzled me for far to long. It’s actually a very easy concept to understand.
Suppose you came across this line, “The food is cold.”
This sentence doesn’t draw a “word picture.” In fact, at this point, you’re probably not even sure if “cold food” is a good or bad thing.
Here’s a better phrase: Light dances on little ice crystals as the waiter carries your own little slice of heaven.
Or perhaps instead of saying, “The food is hot,” write “Fragrant steam drifts upwards as…” well, I’m sure you get the idea.
So yes. Write conversationally, but choose ultra specific words.
This means you tighten your verbs. You won’t get rid of every passive verb, and that’s fine. However, you must pull every weapon out of your arsenal to make your reader see, taste, smell, hear, and feel this world you’re creating.
Paint vivid word pictures and you’ll connect with your readership like you never have before.
Beth Ann Erickson is the editor and publisher of Writing Etc., the fre* e-mag that’ll make your writing sparkle, help you write killer queries and get you onto the road to publication fast. Subscribe today and you’ll receive the e-book “Power Queries.” http://filbertpublishing.com