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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The power of plain language when communicating strategy | Kevin Bishop, Anecdote

Bishop's company sometimes helps leaders tell strategic stories, stories to build employee engagement and stories to influence change in their organisations. And those leaders struggle in doing that.

This article caught my attention for several reasons: First, I like writing stories about the work and other activities of people. Second, In the current election cycle, various politicians have been running to be our leaders. And third, I like it when the people I interview and politicians I hear speak in language that I and my readers can relate to and understand.

Bishop writes about his leader clients:
They don't seem to be able to get past the formal language they are used to using in business.
Instead of talking the way they normally would when they are sharing anecdotes informally, they resort to using big words, abstractions, and terms that people just don't use in every day speech. ...
With help, Bishop explains, leaders learn to speak in plain language, using familiar, concrete words that people can quickly understand. But it takes more effort to get leaders to transfer those lessons to writing. Leaders apparently feel they must be "formal" in their writing.

He apparently asks his clients:
Before you send anything out that you have written, read it aloud. Does it flow? Does it sound like the way you would speak? Are there words in their you would never say in conversation?
And he advises:
If it doesn't flow, if it doesn't sound like the way you speak, if you are using words you would never use in conversation - then keep editing.
Or, as I ask on another website:
If people can't, don't or won't read your brochure, newsletter, report, letter or website, why publish it? And if people read it but don't do anything as a result, what was the point of publishing it? 
This article is featured today (Aug. 1) in Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs -- available at the the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

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