Who is Hank Walshak? Hank Walshak, founder, owner, and CEO of Walshak Communications, Inc., is a communications consultant, executive presentation coach, and author. He focuses on helping knowledge entrepreneurs in small and mid-sized businesses and their owners create expertise-related content to differentiate themselves as experts. Read More

What a Difference a Word Makes

Watching a recent episode of The Bachelorette, I nearly fell out of my chair, when Kalon, one of the bachelor-suitors, referred to the young daughter of Emily, the bachelorette, as “baggage.”  Aargh! I winced. Not just a mistake. It was a blunder.

 Because I’m often called on to help clients with their communications, I watch this show to glean how the gentlemen suitors present themselves to win the bachelorette’s love and affection. That includes what they say.

 In this case, I immediately recalled the Neuro-Linguistic maxim: “The meaning of your communication is the response that you get.” Kalon’s ineptly using the word, “baggage,” to refer to Emily’s daughter brought on a response with vengeance–from a woman deeply hurt and angered.

 When you get right down to it, much of our business communications comes down to how we use words, especially when we write blogs. Here are some blog guidelines to help your blog writing:

 Word choice is critical. Always. Do you want to look and read like everyone else? Of course you don’t. Then why write like everybody else? Use words other people aren’t using. Overused words are like commodities. They’re bandied about so much they lose their vitality and strength. They eventually they mean nothing and are worth nothing. A couple of my favorites to avoid are “unique” and “awesome.” 

 When writing blogs, write for the short. Use of space here is the final writing frontier. Using too much space drowns the reader in verbiage. It’s best to write or say what you mean, no more and no less. That’s the trick. Some people over write and drown us in their word avalanches. The way to improve on this is to get feedback on your blogs from colleagues whom you respect and who respect you.

Write for the ear. When I write blogs for clients, I read the copy aloud. Hearing narrative helps to know when phrasing is awkward, words are inappropriate, and sentences are complicated or too long. When you read aloud, you’ll know if your copy is energetic or boring and needs more work.

Think of writing as sculpting. A sculptor starts with a block of material, then takes away little by little to reveal a form. He or she starts out with the form in mind. But the fabrication of the final form lies in subtracting just enough material to make it real.

Be a word predator. When lions and tigers are done eating, the only thing left is the bare bones. When you edit your blogs, be a word predator and cut out every word you don’t need, starting with adjectives and adverbs.  But don’t just cut them out. Think about how you can replace them with active verbs and nouns.

Write strong headlines. Writing headlines that grab readers’ attention and pulls them into your narrative is a must when writing blogs. Business people are on the move. They don’t take time to read stuff unless they know in a second or two that what they’re going to read is useful, practical, and worth their time.

Be prolific. Not Now and Then. My experience tells me that successful people don’t write blogs just once in a while. They write them a lot. They get their messages out to their readers with frequency. They treat their blogs as their publishing work. As integral to their content marketing.

Above all, don’t be like Kalon, the bachelor. Think about the reactions you want to prompt before you write. And write accordingly.