Here at IMIX, we think a lot about words. So when you are writing your next tweet, or Facebook post, pitching to a journalist, designing a campaign or empowering others to speak up and be heard – here are our top ten hints for making your words matter.
1. Simplicity is king
If your words aren’t understandable, they will achieve nothing. Ask yourself when you have written your blog post, tweet, op ed, script or pitch to a journalist: can my 12 year old son understand this? Is there a simpler way of saying it? Be clear. Be brief. Be precise.
2. Brevity is power or ‘Keep it Short’
Tick-tock the clock is ticking. Our world is faster and more furious than ever before. Stuff (people, voices, demands, life) competes for our attention almost every single minute of every day. People are always busy. They have a dishwasher to load, a sick child to deal with, a meeting to prepare for, a thousand other emails to deal with or ignore, a deadline to hit. They will give your words very little attention. They might stop reading your words after a few seconds. So keep it short.
3. Avoid jargon
‘You will be tasked at COP22 alongside sub-committee ACR2222 to achieve X deliverables towards the actualisation of carbon neutrality by 2021’. No? Me neither! How about, ‘We need action on climate change now’. In other words, avoid jargon like the plague. It will kill your power to make change happen. Jargon is boring, excluding and turns people off. See simplicity and brevity.
4. Tell a story
Storytelling is part of being human. We all love stories, no matter who you are or where you come from. It fuels the imagination, adds drama and emotional punch which is something all of us can relate to. So ask yourself, whether its in 140 characters or a novel – do my words tell an amazing story? Will my audience stay with me till the very end? How will they feel when they get there? Inspired. Or despairing? Think about that, before you choose your words.
5. Think about your audience
Know who you are trying to talk to (in detail) – what they think, feel, what motivates them, inspires them, where they live, what football club they support, if they are a farmer or a Hollywood star. Do your research and then find the right words.
6. What do you want people to do?
Words should be alive. Not passive. They should engage, inspire and not broadcast or preach. Words should empower whoever you are talking to. Not deflate.
7. How do you want people to feel?
What emotions do you want to convey? At their most powerful, words are a gift. ‘I love you. Your child is a beautiful, healthy baby girl. We want to offer you the job. We are so very sorry for your loss. I have a dream. You are cancer free.’ These are the words we remember.
8. Choose your words carefully
Mindfully. Words are precious. Words are gifts. But they can also be weapons. ‘I hate you. You’re a loser. Calm down dear.’ They can heal or harm. It’s easy to offend, disempower and dominate, when you should be listening. Choose your words carefully and also think about when is the right time to say those words to any given person. See think about your audience.
9. Tone of voice
It’s not just the words you use, it’s how you say them. Think about your tone. Are you too angry? Are you turning people off? Are you patronising? Are you unclear? Be clear. Be kind. Be informed. Be engaging. Be sincere. Be human. Be truthful. Be respectful. Be relevant. Bring people with you. Empower those around you with the right words.
10. Will these words make a difference?
In the end, that’s what all campaigners and strategic communicators want. Change for the better. A better, kinder, more compassionate, more inclusive country. Think about how your words can help move towards that goal.