Readable Writing Rule #11: Stick Your Neck Out

Speaking your mind can be frightening, but…

Imagine that you are sitting at your desk, reading a new book on the benefits of exercise.

Would you follow the exercise plan if the author proudly proclaimed, “Some of these exercises will affect you in a positive manner?” That’s not much of an endorsement.

You’d be much more impressed if the author said, “These exercises will strengthen your stomach,” or “Eighty-two percent of those following my program have cast-iron stomachs.”

Scientific journals are filled with sentences along the lines of this:

“The authors have concluded that some authorities feel there might, upon further study, be a role for this procedure in carefully controlled settings under the guidance of those who have developed an expertise in its use.” That might be okay for a professional journal, but not a book written for the popular press.

Your article or book is supposed to persuade readers, not puzzle them

So say what you want to say; don’t bury your message under a pile of “ifs” and “maybes” and “perhapses” and “occasionallys” and “some-have-reporteds.”

Stick your neck out!

Decide what you what the world to know, then write about it in specific, concrete, positive words and phrases. Use qualifiers when necessary, but not as a habit, and not as a way of covering your rear. If you want to say something, say it with confidence. If you’re not sure about something, don’t say it.

Writing, “The Smith Diet has had positive effects in some patients,” won’t inspire a lot of people to jump on your bandwagon. Instead, try, “Thirty-percent of the dieters lost ten pounds in two weeks,” if that is indeed the truth.

Instead of writing…

“Thus, the studies seem to suggest that it would not be unreasonable to believe that my diet will result in a weight loss of up to two pounds per week,” write, “You can lose up to two pounds per week on my diet.”

Instead of writing…

It might be fair to conclude that pain is a major problem in the United States,” write, “Pain is a major problem in the United States.”

Instead of writing…

One can see why it has been suggested that such an exercise program could be considered to be beneficial,” write, “The exercise program will be beneficial.”

Don’t be afraid to say what you need to say.

I’m Barry Fox, a New York Times #1 bestselling ghostwriter. I help executives, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and top professionals create top-notch memoirs and business books. I can also guide you through the self-publishing process. Call me at 818-917-5362.