Coexistence 301: How To Write

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Coexistence 203: How To Stay Legally Safe

Writing is mostly like talking, but it has some differences

  • In the developed world, writing skills are often more important than speaking skills
    • Crafting emails, sending text messages and giving summaries are all more common skills than public speaking or most technical skills
  • Talking is usually about 110-150 words per minute, while reading is usually 200 words per minute
    • This means that more information can be covered when reading
  • People can jump ahead easily with text, while they are forced to listen through speaking
  • Since writing is completely premeditated, florid verbs and deep articulation are more possible
    • At the same time, the extra complexity of writing allow for more possible ways to screw up and more people to irritate

There are many writing tricks to improve communication that often take experience to overcome

  • Write about what you want to write about
    • If you aren’t passionate about what you’re writing about, the feeling won’t be conveyed well
  • Have a specific audience in mind
    • Write to please only one person, opening it to please everyone will please nobody
    • Use the time of a total stranger in a way that they don’t feel the time was wasted
    • Whatever you’re writing, it needs to convey the style that your natural creativity works with
  • The first sentence/paragraph/word/title defines what everyone will expect and what everyone will think throughout the work
    • Get to the point or start as close to the end as possible
    • Give as much information as soon as possible
      • Suspense should be within possibilities the reader is thinking about, not with obscurity
  • Even with self-help or instruction manuals, most writing is built as a story
    • All good messages contain a WHAT and a WHY
      • WHAT describes the information that you want to convey
        • Event details, date, time, location
        • Educational information, data, facts
      • WHY describes the benefits of knowing the information
        • It gives a reason for the information being shared
        • It answers the “call to action” that the reader needs to take
      • Experiment with the Inverted Pyramid to craft your point
        • inverted_pyramid
        • This method only works when trying to draw readers in
          • It can’t present a chronological or ordered set of information
          • It can’t give a narrative or story
  • Writing successfully will show specific results
    • The writing should sound excellent when read out loud
    • The purpose of writing is to entertain, but it needs to leave the reader with something they’ve learned
  • You will need to revise and edit repeatedly to get to a great finished product
    • If you can be misread, you will be
    • The longer your sentences, the higher the chance that you will be misunderstood

Be careful about some of the small details that show amateur writing

  • Things that make fanciful and empty statements
    • Don’t use too many words, every sentence should either advance the action or add relevant information
    • Using a common metaphor, similar or figure of speech that has been commonly heard
    • Using long words where simple ones work
      • Trade-specific terms, scientific words, slang or foreign words that could be replaced with a plain language word
    • Words that don’t point to anything and can be removed without any negative effect
  • Things that make the writer sound immature
    • Using passive instead of active voice (e.g. “x of the y” instead of “y’s x”)
      • This dilutes the impact of the language
      • The message is more indirect, but is a terrible way to try being inoffensive
    • Mixing up some of the more common amateur words
      • “Less”describes intangible concepts, “fewer” describes actual numbers
      • “Then” refers to time, “than” refers to an alternative
      • “Impact” is a noun, “affect” is to change, “effect” is a consequence
      • “It’s” is the contraction of “it is”, “its” is the possessive of “it”
      • “Alot” is not a word, “a lot” is a large amount, “allot” is to give something
      • “Whom” is only used when the statement can refer to “him”
      • “Into” refers to inside, “in to” has no connection to location
    • Using any of the following overused words
      • Using “really” or “very” to give an emphasized point instead of a nicer word
      • Using “you” when not referring to the reader
      • Saying “feel” instead of the word that describes the feeling
      • Saying “think” to indicate it’s an opinion, since the reader obviously knows it’s what you think
      • “As”, “just” and “used to” in most contexts, since it adds padding for no reason
      • “A lot”, since it gives very little context
      • “Sort of” and “kind of”, since they are extremely vague and don’t give any clarity to the reader
      • “Like” to show an analogy, since describing things with analogies is stilted compared to speaking with proper verb placement
  • All of the above rules can be broken as the situation demands

There are some rules for writing fiction

  • Your Characters
    • Give the reader at least one character they can cheer for
    • Every character should want something, even if it’s only a glass of water
    • Make awful things happen to the characters that seem cruel and frustrating to watch
    • Every story has a few specific character archetypes to choose from
      • Hero – main essence is self-sacrifice
        • Journeys from the self to a grown new identity that includes the experiences of the story
        • Could be an Anti-Hero, whose main essence is self-preservation
          • Self-destructively journeys from an experienced identity to a worse state
      • Mentor – older or more experienced guide for the Hero, sometimes can act as the Hero’s conscience
      • Threshold Guardian – the Hero’s first obstacle, symbolizes the breach from the Hero conventional life they’re accustomed to
      • Herald – informs the Hero of the need to break from their confined lifestyle
      • Shapeshifter – changes in role or personality, often significantly, hard to be certain of their allegiance or loyalties
      • Shadow – works to malevolent ends usually against the Hero, but will often see the malevolence as being a good thing
      • Trickster – operates as the comic relief and keeps everything in proportion
  • Your Narrative
    • Your voice is more important than the image you’re crafting
      • Everyone wants to know how good the story is, not how good the writer is
    • Show, don’t tell or give an editorial
    • Regularly shift focus often by varying the sentence structure, type, style and jumping around inside the story
    • One misplaced word can ruin the entire flow of the story
    • Build a story from back to front
      • Conclusion – what is being resolved and how has this changed the character(s)?
      • Falling Action – how does the character overcome or not overcome their challenge?
      • Climax – what is the final challenge for the character?
      • Rising Action – how does the character come to the final challenge?
      • Exposition – what is the world the character is in, and how are they pulled out of it?
    • Give closure to the story
      • The conflict should have a satisfying resolution, not necessarily perfect, but resolves the problem
      • The close must be something that leaves them after they put the creative work away

Email exists in almost any professional environment, so learn how to make them

  • Think about your audience
    • Many times emails can be resolved with a phone call or as an off-hand conversation topic at a meeting
    • Hitting “Reply All” is useful in many email conversations, but pay close attention to who is being sent the email and who is being CC’d or BCC’d
      • CC stands for “Carbon Copy” and is good for keeping someone informed but without them being expected to respond
      • BCC stands for “Blind Carbon Copy” and will send a copy to the individual but won’t show to anyone else that they received it
  • Attach the documents you’re sending or upload them to cloud storage as soon as you start the email
  • Create the Subject line that articulately summarizes the purpose of sending the email
  • Make a greeting that matches the cultural expectation
    • “Hello” zone – professional first-time greeting only
    • “Hi” zone – strangers, professional contacts, non-professional introductions
    • “Hey” zone – warm professional contacts, loose acquaintances
    • No Greeting zone – closer friends
  • Email is not effective for conveying emotion, so avoid using it when drafting emails
    • Always keep the tone respectful and courteous
    • Often, the simplest way to communicate that something is funny is by saying “that’s funny!”
  • Avoid using language often used in text messages (e.g. lol, jk, brb)
  • Carefully choose your words, ambiguity misinterpretation create more emails
  • Writing emails needs to be simple and straightforward, and if it needs a lot of explanation then make a phone call
    • Every email should have a 5-sentence limit or 150 words unless it’s a special circumstance
      • Most people view their emails exclusively on a mobile device, so lengthy emails can be even more daunting!
    • Stick to only 1 or 2 points in an email
      • Break out the ideas with spacing and bullets to make it easier to read
    • Make a clear “call to action” to indicate what they are supposed to do now that they have read your email
  • Pay attention to unequal power dynamics as the email conversation unfolds
    • One person is making typographical errors, skipping punctuation or ignoring capital letters and the other isn’t
    • One person is taking a long time to reply and the other isn’t
      • It’s best to reply quickly and not too frequently
      • If you need more time to reply, send a quick reply that you’re going to get back to them
    • One person is responding to long, well-written emails with much shorter responses
      • This can vary based on background and industry
    • If the conversation starts getting too long, start a new email with a new subject line
  • Take advantage of 21st-century technology
    • Use a “delay send” or “scheduled send” to deliver it at a more appropriate time
    • Always use spell-check and review all of your work before you send it
      • As a safety measure, don’t put anything in the To: section until you’re ready to send
    • Make sure your email address gives the right image to the recipient
    • Don’t use electronic return receipts, they are annoying to the recipients
    • If you use a mailing list, keep the content you send people relevant and significant to them
Next: Coexistence 302: Public Speaking