Write and Speak with Conviction

 

Since law school I often refer to Strunk and White, The Elements of Style . They taught me to write and speak with power. Below are maxims from their book.

Place Yourself in the Background. According to professors Strunk and White good writing (and speaking) comes naturally without trying to effect a certain mood or temper.  Write and speak so the recipient is drawn to what you are writing or talking about rather then your emotional take on the subject. In this way the recipient is drawn to the substance.   If the substance is there the recipient will form their own emotional response. The message is powerful and internalized.

Write and Speak Naturally.  This means be yourself. Forget about trying to imitate someone else.  Admittedly, we are all imitators and have been since babies, so what we are talking about comes from somewhere else.  The key is draw on our version of what we know rather then lifting it directly from the source. When writing cite to the source.

Never Overwrite or Overstate. Stick to the facts nothing but the facts without gilding or adding. When we overstate the reader or listener knows. The message is processed in a negative way like this guy is trying to sell me something.

Write and Speak with Nouns and Verbs. This means eliminate adjectives and adverbs. As stated by professors Strunk and White: “The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.” It is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give good writing its toughness and color.

Avoid the Use of Qualifiers. This means words such as rather, very, little, pretty, and probably to name a few. As stated by the professors: “these are the leeches that infest the pond of good prose, sucking the blood of words.” The use of the adjective “little” is particularly debilitating. “Little” is a badge of a weak speaker or writer.  The same is true with other qualifiers.

Active Voice. Speak and write in the active voice whenever you have a choice. The active voice “I know I will speak and write with conviction” has power. The passive voice conveys weakness: “whenever I speak or write I will try to do so with conviction.”

Write and Speak at High Level. When speaking use the ing.  Rather then “I’m thinken about doen it, ” say I am thinking about doing it.” This elevates you  to to a speaker with more education in the listener’s mind. The listener consciously and subconsciously hears your messgae as a high level statement. Also eliminate slang in writing and speaking. This  puts you at a higher level.

Make the Point and Stop. As stated by our professors “do not explain too much.”  When saying too much adverbs and adjectives creep into speaking or writing. This makes the message weak rather then strong. Shakespeare says: ” The lady doth protest  too much me thinks.”

Avoid Fancy Words. Speak and write like you are talking to a high school student. Avoid words of  trade that only fellow trade members know.  Avoid foreign language;  it sounds like you are trying to impress;  it is not impressive to deliver a message the recipient  misses.

Remember John Wayne’s Maxim:  “Speak slow, speak low, and don’t  say too much.”

    29 Responses to “Write and Speak with Conviction”

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