In your coaching sessions, consulting, and workshops, questions are the heart of the process. And the people are sitting right there, so they can answer and you can listen. In presentations and key note speeches, they can’t answer – but we still use questions and feel the frisson as the question hangs in the air. It feels energetic and alive. In writing, questions change their mood completely. What works well in a speech suddenly turns patronising, even irritating, in a book. So what do we do? To write great questions, let’s first look at three kinds of bad questions: rhetorical questions, yes/no questions, and masterclass questions. Then we’ll turn that around and see how to write awesome coaching questions. Continue reading
Headings and subheadings in your book are a fantastic way to help the reader. ”Chunking” information like this makes the book easier to scan, so busy readers find the bit they need fast. It makes your key points easier to remember – each one is clearly signalled. It also breaks up the page for visual learners, who remember what pages look like. Brilliant headings do what they say on the tin, are brief and bold, are positive, paint pictures, and for true sparkle have a touch of poetry. Continue reading
You probably know the great business reasons why you should write a blog, just as you know why you should write a book (and not just because Seth Godin thinks you should!) Something that will support your business, expand your network and your influence, showcase your expertise, raise your profile, develop your insights… But here’s the surprising bit. You should write a blog even if no-one reads it. If a book is part of your business plan, start today with a blog. This is why. Continue reading
Everyone finds some types of writing difficult. Your thoughts hit a brick wall, your mind goes blank, your fingers freeze. It might be a difficult chapter, a cover letter, your web text, or a biography. Usually, you’ve hit an emotional or psychological barrier: it’s too personal, too important, or too far outside your comfort zone. It feels like anyone in the world could write it better than you – but you’re the only one who can write it, because the information’s in your head. Longer term, you might want to sit down with your fears; if it’s just one piece of writing, though, and you need to get it done now, this is how. Continue reading
Every book on writing says “Think about the reader” – and of course that’s essential, to think about what they need to know and how you need to say it. The content you choose and the way you write depends on who you’re talking to. In practice, though, how do you do that? Simple: look at them. Pictures of real people you really know. Writing can sometimes feel difficult, but communicating is effortlessly human. It’s part of what defines us as human. The throes of unrequited love aside, it’s usually easier to explain what we mean when we’re talking to a human face. So here’s how to do it. Continue reading
Write like a human being
Is your writing fresh, lively, and immediate? Does it sound like your voice? Or is it weighed down with formality? Write like a human being listed three style mistakes people slip into: too formal, too much jargon, or too chatty. These three articles will look at the extremes of each one, to help you write bright, clear content. Continue reading
Is your writing clear, human, and inclusive? Does it invite the reader in or slam a door in their face? Write like a human being listed three common style mistakes: too formal, too much jargon, or too chatty. We’ve already looked at how to loosen the strangling bow-tie on your prose – next up is The Jargonatorizer. Continue reading
Is your writing clear, direct, and to the point? Or are your ideas being strangled by a tangle of chatter and tangents, wasting your reader’s time? Write like a human being lists three common style mistakes: too formal, too much jargon, or too chatty. We’ve already looked at how to ditch the stiff suit and include your reader; the final extreme style enemy is The Blatherer. Continue reading
Every book of writing advice will say, at some point, “show don’t tell”. The rubbing of time has smoothed over that advice until we can barely feel the shape of the letters, like an epitaph in a church worn to smoothness by centuries of feet. Continue reading
Something awful happened to my writing last week. My pen was looping speedily across the page, the story was coming freely and easily, but I kept getting brought up short by the phrases that were coming out: blushing furiously – the tension was palpable – he bit his lip… The cliches were coming thick and fast, despite my attempts to stem the rising tide. Great collocations if you’re a language student trying to demonstrate your command of the English language. Not so great if you’re writing a literary novel.
I spent all day wrestling with the language, but it kept slipping back into its ruts. Where on earth was it coming from? That’s not how I write! Only that evening, bemoaning my day on Facebook, did I realise what had happened. Actually, the realisation came when I wrote, “It was all jolly rotten!” Jolly rotten? What am I, a schoolboy from the fifties? Ah… yes. Continue reading
“Having read the job application in detail, I now feel competent in all aspects of office work,” someone wrote in a cover email to my friend. Wow – that must’ve been one helluva job application! Simply reading it confers competence in all aspects of office work. But I don’t think that’s what they meant.
For a start, they didn’t mean job application; they meant job ad. And having read it, they felt sure they could do the job – not every aspect of all conceivable office work. (Inconceivable!) So what happens, to make normally literate people suddenly burble nonsense? Continue reading
Under a sunburn-sky in Waterperry Gardens, I discovered two things: the endurance-limit of a three-year-old and how to explain the art of storytelling. Every tent around us brimmed with sculpture, illustrations, weaving, carvings… but my niece had visited Granny’s Calligraphy stand and had eaten an icecream, and was now done for the day. Continue reading
Storytelling has had a resurgence in business, with Hubspot, The Content Marketing Institute, and the Harvard Business Review all leaping into the fray – while I blink in astonishment, feeling like the business world has suddenly discovered cheese. Stories are all over your business already. Every time you give an example, a case study, or an anecdote, you’re telling a story. Your bio is a story, your company history is a story, your company plans are a story – so how do you make those stories sparkle? Take a few lessons from an award-winning storyteller. Yep, that’s me. When I’m not helping my clients whisk and whirl all their expertise into captivating, powerful books, I write stories – novels, short stories, novellas, stories that people read not for the information in them, or for useful tips, or to understand a business, but because the story itself is that interesting. So grab a coffee, maybe a nice piece of cheese to nibble, and let’s make your stories sparkle. Continue reading