As PR professionals, we are wordsmiths by nature. Our clients ask us for support in telling their stories – and while many of those stories are great, just as many are difficult, painful or embarrassing.
We’re regularly asked to dig into our toolkits of experience and language to find the best way to deliver a message. We lean on past experiences, our knowledge of the client, our recognition of the current landscape and the mistakes of others.
We also rely on the best practices of our profession – and for me, that often starts with word choice. Following are six tips to keep in mind when you start writing:
- Start with person-centered language: Be sure to keep people front and center in your writing. We are always more than a single label, so lead with the person, not the condition you are writing about. So it would be a patient with diabetes, rather than a diabetic. A child on the autism spectrum, rather than an autistic child. A person experiencing homelessness rather than a homeless man.
- Consider other viewpoints: For every winner in a given situation, there are often losers – or people who will perceive themselves as losers. Bring your empathy to the situation at hand and be sure to take other viewpoints into account.
- Choose strong verbs: One of the best – and easiest – things you can do to invigorate your writing is to select strong verbs. Choose action words that showcase true action. Avoid weaker, linking verbs that won’t give your writing lift – or inspire your reader.
- Skip the thesaurus: One of the worst – yet easiest – things you can do to spoil your writing is to sound like you’ve swallowed a thesaurus. Sure, when you get stuck, open that online thesaurus, but don’t pepper your writing with 25-cent words in an effort to sound smart. Instead, you may just alienate your reader and bog down message delivery.
- Steer clear of cliches: Cliches may have been original once upon a time, but constant repetition has diminished their effectiveness. You can always find a better way to say something.
- Delete jargon: Every business has its shorthand. Every profession does, too. When you’re writing for an audience not steeped in your vocabulary, though, eliminate as much jargon as you are able.