July 22, 2014

How to make your writing more distinctive

Distinctiveness is as important to your personal or corporate brand as design or presentation, yet the skill of written distinctivenss is widely ignored. I have a solution for you.

This month’s – soon to be released – podcast will cover the question of distinctiveness in some detail. In the meantime, here’s a Slidshare presentation on that writing technique: How to make your writing more distinctive.



Transcript

The transcript on Slideshare is a bit jumbled, so here it is:

1. How to make your writing distinctive.

2. Distinctiveness is essential across all aspects of your personal brand: From your design and image, to your ideas and the way you approach your content…

3. …and to your writing.

4. Your writing style and quality are key elements of your personal (or corporate) brand. They reveal your character, who you truly are.

5. Yet most of the writing we see around us lacks distinctiveness. The ideas, the perspectives, the wording, the conception of the writing often lack differentiators.

6. Result: The writers sound like everyone else..

7. There are two causes:

  • Reliance on convention
  • Reliance on cliché

8. Conventions

9. Convention is everywhere. We swim in it. Most of it goes unnoticed, but not without effect: The dismal, me-too sameness that we see in so much of what gets written.

10. Anything you do on your website, in your reports, on your pdfs, e-books, and so on, can fall into the convention trap – visual convention, conventions of the genre, and so on.

11. Too many blog posts (and the blogs themselves) look, feel, and sound generic. They work from the same conventions.

12. The same is true for reports, pdfs, e-books – for every kind of information product: Few verbal, visual, formatting differentiators are the norm.

13. Example: When you use graphics, pics, or quotations that add nothing to the content… That’s convention.

14. When you use a photo of a handshake, or a globe in your report – and especially when you use a handshake superimposed over a globe…convention. [Please, no.]

15. When you trade other people’s ideas, write only posts with lists, or apologize for not having blogged recently…Needless, nauseating convention…

16. In other words, when you mindlessly accept the standards and the clichéd norms of writing in our time, then you’re in the land of convention.

17. And it may be time to evacuate. Because with convention, the generic look/feel/sound will be the result – regardless of how good the ideas, the information, the insights may be.

18. Most of the people who trade in convention are unaware of it… For most of us, flat and conventional and is our default.

19. Unless you do something about it, your work will give off the impression of sameness, of being conventional.

20. And convention And convention makes it almost impossible to deliver the content in interesting or engaging ways.

21. It guarantees that your work will not stand out and will not be as widely read as it should be.

22. Cliche

23. The verbal equivalent of the convention is the cliché.

24. “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” George Orwell

25. When you’re epic, and awesome, and thinking outside the box, or opening the kimono, when your eyes glaze over or when, at the end of the day, you go the extra mile, or if you’re a rockstar writer in the making

26. Then you’re indulging in needless cliché.

27. Avoiding the conventions and the clichés.

28. I admit that it’s tempting to do what everyone else is doing. It’s easy to use cliché easy to use cliché.

29. And clichés save you having to think….

30. But clichés are also deadly.

31. … Because they can submerge you in a sea of sameness and mediocrity. So…

32. Instead, learn from the artists.

33. Artists develop a distrust of the commonplace, an instinctive reflex against what has been done before.

34. Seeing and rejecting convention is the half the battle of creativity.

35. Example Kurt Schwitters. His ‘sound poem’ “Ursonate”

36. ‘Brand Schwitters’ is distinctive, surprising, unexpected. He did poetry like no-one else.

37. So look critically at your brand – your website, your reports, anywhere you write. Look at the design , the ideas, the wording, and the formats.

38. Look for the stock ideas and stock phrases, the stock photos and the clichés of the genre that everyone else is using.

39. See and identify the conventions and the clichés of every kind.

40. Then kill them. Be merciless.

41. But I want to make special note special note of dealing with verbal clichés. The reason for this important…

42. Because the solution lies in good word choice.

43. Good word choice isn’t just an alternative to cliché.

44. Good word choice is essential to the vigor, the accuracy, and the distinctiveness of any writing.

45. Don’t reach for the cliché that kind of represents your thought. Stop. Think. Choose.

46. Replace the cliché with thoughtful, accurate, specific alternatives that convey your true meaning.

47. Ask yourself one of the most powerful questions in writing productivity…

48. “What exactly am I trying to say here?”

49. Good word choice holds true for all forms of writing. Regardless of what you write, you must find ways to sound like you and no-one else.

50. “… Great theater begins with great talkers and… great talkers… never sound like anyone else.” Edmund White.

51. Every character in a play, movie, or novel must be distinctive. He/she should not sound like anyone else. The writer achieves this distinctiveness explicitly. Word choice is one way.

52. But cliché is also the biggest block to developing your own voice.

53. Because instead of thinking through what you want to say, you slap a pre-fabricated meaning on it.

54. That’s not your voice. It’s someone else’s.

55. So, good writing is rarely a matter of the first words that come into your head.

56. So, think. Find fresher ways, more interesting, and specific ways to say what you want to say.

57. Develop the habit of good word choice.

58. So here’s the strategy in brief: Shun the convention and the cliché. Think through your precise meaning and choose the words that speak most accurately and powerfully to your meaning.

59. So, those were the two ways to make your writing more distinctive.

 

 

 

 

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    Comments

    1. Well Written post by Ken and nearly 59 points were written on it which could help to anyone while writing post distinctive.

    2. Ken Carroll says:

      Siddhartha,

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Ken

    Trackbacks

    1. [...] of perspective, of design, of conception, and so on.  Then do a Kurt Schwitters on them. (More here on convention and [...]

    2. [...] The message is this: Beware the cliché of every kind – clichés of form, clichés of ideas, cliches of perspective, of design, of conception, and so on.  Go through your writing and your branding and find the clichés. Then do a Kurt Schwitters on them. (For an in-depth Slideshare presentation on avoiding convention and cliche, go here.) [...]

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