I wonder how many times I've said in meetings, “No one reads any more. How can we pare down the words and think visually?”
Clearly technology has drastically changed how we effectively communicate with a given audience. The written word seems less powerful and somehow like an afterthought for those entering our profession. Yet, I would submit that our knowledge of language and our function as wordsmiths are more important than ever.
When relying on 140 characters to get someone's attention, each word becomes vastly critical. How can you effectively communicate if you don't know the meaning of a word or don't know there may be a better word to convey what you're trying to say? Or, worse, if you rely solely on what my kids' third-grade teachers regarded as “trash can words?" Like,"good,” for example, as opposed to the plethora of better synonyms available to get your point across?
I'm not suggesting using trumped up words or convoluted sentence structures. We need to write clearly in the voice of our given audiences. That's one reason I ask our staff to read what they are writing out loud as they hit the keys on their computer.
Writing shouldn't be the lost art of our profession. In fact, it should be elevated and revered. And whether writing a CEO's speech, Web content, a Twitter post or a blog, such as this, we should all make a New Year's resolution to love language. Let's commit to finding the right words in our work, not just the jargon that's so easily bandied about. And let's demand from our colleagues and ourselves to engage in using words that move us to insight and action.
Helen Vollmer is founder/CEO of Vollmer PR