I’ve just delivered another of my virtual rhetorica® writing programmes to ten IT consultants.
At the end of the third and final session (on Editing), I asked them to post in the zoom chat what they’ll change about their writing, plus the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ scores in their writing confidence.
As you can see from the screenshot, everyone felt more confident at the end than at the start of the programme. Result!
Why confidence matters
From the two Latin words con and fide, meaning ‘with faith’, confidence is often the link missing between dull writing and writing that leaps off the page into the reader’s heart and mind.
When we write with confidence, our words flow fearlessly: we express our (informed) views on the topic in service to the reader and their needs. We feel able to express who we really are, and not hide behind corporate-speak or techie ‘jargon’ (a medieval French word meaning ‘chattering birdsong’). We take them by the hand and walk with them through the landscape of our experience or expertise. They feel they are in safe hands, so trust us. And readers that trust us are likelier to do what we invite or recommend them to do.
How did my training boost their writing confidence?
My rhetorica® writing system of 15 simple, universal techniques (five planning, five drafting, five editing) demystifies what for some is a black art, or an innate skill, ie you’ve either got it or you haven’t.
This is just not the case.
The ability to write with personality, persuasion and power is a learnable skill within the gift of anyone already literate. The cliche that ‘good writing is caught, not taught’ I’ve disproved by improving the writing skills of over 5000 technical professionals since 2004.
By separating planning from drafting from editing, the rhetorica® system breaks the process down into three discrete steps, with each step containing five techniques that anyone of any background can master.
For instance, one of the five planning techniques is Nail your Objective. For this we use F.F.A. to identify the Facts, Feelings and the Actions we want the reader to take. In other words, we’re breaking down the reader’s desired behaviour change into three dimensions: what we want them to know, feel and do. That drives clarity into the objective or purpose of our communication, influencing our word-choice and the structure of our document.
When we’re drafting, we need to write concisely. The single guaranteed way to write concisely is to Omit Needless Words, ie remove the words that add no value, content, meaning or information. A simple example: instead of saying ‘In order to further her career’, just say ‘To further her career’. That’s a 50% saving in verbiage! (Your reader will love you for it.)
And when we’re editing, in the third and final writing step, one of the things we should do is read our writing out loud.
R.O.L. is a favourite of mine (and of pro writers), ‘cos it’s so darned simple and effective.
When we read our writing out loud — audibly, so we hear every single word — we catch the long-winded, the obscure, the vague, the pretentious, the verbose. If it sounds good to you, it’ll probably sound good to your reader.
What’s not to like?