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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Shake That Thing! 5 Ways to Sharpen Your Professional Writing This Year

Pay attention to how often you use the word "thing" to refer to the subject you mean.  Like the word love, for which there are a variety of feelings, the word thing is considered an all-purpose word, but sometimes it doesn't serve its purpose.

The thing is, words are symbols, and the word you use creates a link between your brain and the reader's brain.  The more precise the word choice, the stronger the link of understanding will be between the writer and the reader.  Recall how often you check your bars for the strength of a WiFi connection or how much power you have left on your cell phone.  Now, imagine that the word "thing" is the last bar, the faintest hint of power.  That's the power of the word thing when you are communicating.

Don't take my word for it.  The next time you write anything, double check your use of the word thing, and then consider which noun you really need to express the clearest idea possible.  You don't have to swap out every thing--just the ones where you mean the kitchen sink rather than that thing that has two faucets, or the traffic light rather than that thing that hangs over the road that controls traffic flow, and that thing between your two ears that thinks about the power of language.

If you are not a big user of thing, take a second look at the four other most common words that people rely casually upon to communicate and which are worn out from overuse:  do, it, seems and awesome.

When you confront those words, you will also feel the nagging discomfort of not wanting to sound snooty or out of step with other people who use the same language and in the use, help each other to feel part of the crowd.

Here's the question for you.  Are you part of the crowd or do you want to stand out as a stronger communicator who sets a higher standard for clear and persuasive communication?  Then, be willing to be uncomfortable by sounding sharper than your friends and by showing progress in the craftsmanship of writing even if that progress means that you have to give up your longtime lament of   "The thing is--I've never been a good writer."  Good writing begins with a desire to become a better communicator because you understand the power of that position.  A growing self awareness that produces a more controlled use of vocabulary is one step to take to reach that goal.  When you make that choice, your workplace writing will improve and, most likely, your earnings will as well.

1 comment:

  1. I say "thing" all the time. I wish I could stop, but when it comes down to it, I just forget what to call certain objects.