This is a blantantly personal rant, so forgive me.
This afternoon, as I was driving home from an appointment, the radio news guy was talking about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and his report concluded as follows:
“There are fears that violence will become more widespread as the United States begins its troop drawdown.”
I’m not here to debate war or policy. But I am here to call people out when they use irresponsible language, and this is one of those times.
What does that mean, “there are fears?” Who has fears? What exactly are they afraid of? Who will do violence to whom and why? How intense are these fears? What can we do about it?
Yes, it was a contextual remark that assumed that listeners had a handle on many of the challenges that currently plague American involvement in the Middle East. But, when you say “there are fears” without attributing them to any particular person or group of people, no matter to context, you imply that fear is justified and universal.
Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. But once people believe they are afraid, even if they don’t know why, they change their behavior, and usually not for the better.
I’m not saying that we should act like everything’s all butterflies and kittens, but this culture of fear will crush us. And when that happens, no one will care how many newspapers or radio spots got sold because of it.
Why You Should Care
Think hard before you say anything. Think about the implications, especially when using the passive voice. Yes, it’s simpler. Yes it’s safer. But the whole world is watching. Nothing is ever thrown away. It’s all chronicled…forever.
When you leave something open to interpretation, aren’t you inviting people to interpret your comments in a way you didn’t intend?
Good writing isn’t fuzzy, it’s direct. If what you’re trying to describe is complicated, all the more reason to be absolutely clear and transparent. You can be precise and be funny at the same time. I like to think I prove that here three times a week.
Take a look at your own writing – your marketing collateral, your proposals, even your contracts. Beware of passive voice, corporate speak, and platitudes. Consider how you might be more direct and transparent in your communications with your clients and prospects. They will love you for it.