“I write the way I talk,” said Anthony Bourdain on a recent episode of his television show No Reservations. He recently was nominated for several Webbys for his web writing. I think of him as a writer first, chef second. I love the show and his books.
If only I could get all my client organizations to write like they talk. We rant about corporate speak and then we stand by while otherwise smart communicators continue to spew it out. Use normal, plain English! Or, whatever language you’re translating into.
A new client introduced me to a great online tool for generating your own custom corporate junk. Classic. Reminds me of the employee I had years ago who would write each new word in large red letters on her white board â€“ to remind us to NOT use them.
In prior conversations about this issue I’ve expressed the idea as writing as if you are sitting across the table from the employee. But, I like Bourdain’s characterization better. Just say it, then write it down just like that.
We are gearing up for a new project with a client â€“ employee portal overhaul. My absolute favorite type of work! I asked the owners of each individual project to write out how they might explain their project during an elevator ride with an executive. Even asked them to read it out loud to themselves. Some did tragically â€“ too many words, the wrong words, etc.
Others surprised me with their tight, active and descriptive language. Brilliant! That, I could just say.
Some say that writing like we talk is dumbing down the language, or misusing proper English. What is “proper English” anyway? The language is constantly evolving. The rules I subscribe to are those that make reading and retention easier. And I’ll even bend some of those. Microblogging bends them all, texting too. As long as the message gets across with clarity and is retained. That is the most important thing.
Reading Bourdain’s books is like listening in to stone heads on the corner of the high school in the early 80s. “F” this and “f” that. He really does write like he talks. His TV crew keep their fingers on the bleeper throughout each and every show. I’m not suggesting that your next CEO letter be strewn with cuss words. But, it should actually sound like her or him. Make it real.