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Friday, August 20, 2010

Fresh Out of a Tin Can

Consider the peach. During the height of the peach season, this fruit is sweet, easy to peel, delicious. It doesn't taste much like peaches from a can, which are still pretty good. I use canned peaches for a particular cobbler I make, but it's not my favorite peach cobbler--just the one I make when I don't have fresh peaches, and I don't serve it to company.

Fresh peach cobbler is for company, and when you write any kind of document that the world will read (eat), it needs to be made from fresh language.

Some people (and business writers) forget that too often because it is so easy to cut and paste copy blocks from one available document into the open white space of the screen in front of you.

But when you do, you are basically serving the equivalent of canned peaches.

Only in this instance, you are using canned language. Another name for that prepacked language is "template language" --words that come from templates that have been built for consumption by people who don't understand that their words represent who they are on the page.

When you use template language you are telegraphing in a meaningful way that you don't think for yourself and can't write. When employers specifically ask for applicants who are able communicators, they don't mean they want someone who knows how to cut and paste.
They want someone who understands the difference between canned language and words authentically used to present ideas persuasively or keep accurate documents, because a great deal of business writing is recordkeeping.

As you confront your next writing task, whether it's an email that you have been concluding with "Have a nice day!" to a report that should bring fresh insight to what could be old news or weak numbers, use your own words.

When you don't--if you used recycled language--your presence and thinking on the page will taste the same way peaches do out of a can.

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