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(How do you) get to the point?

On my walk to work through Birmingham (UK) I stride decisively and with a quick pace. I actually plot out the route ahead of me so that my course is straight and true, to ensure I don’t waste a step. I hate missing buses by two seconds, so I know every step counts in the race to be punctual.

I walk with determination, as straight as possible, avoiding gaggles of people and long bends. I might not notice the people whizzing by (except those in my way) and I don’t take note of my surroundings – unless I stop to snap a picture of the Bullring in the early morning sunshine.

Oftentimes the communications I write are like this. Concise and succinct – the shortest route between two points. I craft clear, bare bones writing that delivers the message without superfluous detail.

Other times, I provide a richer backdrop, and a good deal of contextual information. It’s like when I’m walking home and thinking about Christmas shopping. I may have rushed to work, but I’m not in so much of a hurry to get home always. I meander from shop window to window. My route is circuitous and inefficient, as my feet take me where my fancy… um, fancies.

I’m not wandering aimlessly, my mind is examining the many purchasing options and firing off ideas for Christmas presents (I’m a heathen, so putting up a tree and giving gifts is all fine with me) and I’m enjoying / enduring the crowds and people-watching. I might even buy something, or pop in one or two shops for a closer look at least.

This relates to the less urgent, less formal communications and articles I write. To be emotionally engaged with the messages we send out, people should be able to enjoy the messages we publish / send. Context, background info, interesting factoids and a decent explanation of the why, what, when, where, who and how of it all help people grasp how the message is relevant to them. They might even be genuinely interested, and pass the message on to their friends and colleagues.

I have a different mode of walking when I’m on holiday, or on the beach or up the hills. I walk without hurrying, and I pop across to little things of interest, like pools and rocks, animals and so forth. I enjoy the journey even more than the destination perhaps. I don’t write too many articles like this in my day to day life, although several posts here are kilobox communiqué might manage to be this relaxed.

Writing so that the reader is genuinely interested and enjoys the time they spend reading is a real talent. Readers who want more, readers who would love you to write another 500 words – ah, what an audience they are! Writing in a relaxed style may not always be appropriate, as the sights and sounds may distract from the core message, but a literary journey can be enjoyed by the writer and the reader.

These are the three ways I walk, and this morning, as I was dashing to the bus stop, I thought about the styles I write in. I always mean to match the tone and language style to the core message, and so I often write in a formal tone, but I’m always passionate about ensuring there is enough context to make the message meaningful to the audience.

How do you walk? How do you write?

[Wedge]

About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.

3 thoughts on “(How do you) get to the point?

  • What a fabulous analogy! So true.

    Most of my business writing is that brisk, purposeful stride.

    My blog is where I do most of my mental strolling.

    And story time with my kids is usually the only time I get to take those fun, meandering adventures through more colorful landscapes and characters.

    I’m a writer. I need to write. And I love that I have a job that lets me do that. But the writing I do for work can be … rigid … repetitive … even monotonous.

    The more time I spend in that brisk, purpose-filled mode, the harder it is to slow down and enjoy the other paces. It’s easy to get stuck on one speed if you don’t change gears often enough. (Oops. Did I just mix your lovely metaphor? Sorry.)

    If practice makes perfect, I should be a great technical writer. That’s the skill that puts bread on the table.

    But all writers should remember to exercise the other side of our brains, too. You can’t just maintain that brisk walk forever. To be a successful traveler, you need to be able to transition between all three modes over the long haul.

    Thanks for making me think about all of this.

    You know … I’m becoming quite fond of your site. The more I visit, the more I find to enjoy. Thank you. :)

  • A great blog Wedge, I’ve been pondering on it for hours. I’d never before compared walking and writing, but there’s definitely a connection for me and it depends very much on my mood, location and environment.

    I have three ways of walking: Slow, head down; wandering, looking around me; and fast forward, get out of my effing way.

    My writing styles are similar. If I’m writing something with a very serious theme, or that I’m ’emotionally’ involved with, I will take my time and really get my head down.

    If I’m writing something that requires research, I will wander around the net looking for links and information, and adding to my writing here and there. I also write this way in Costa, stopping every so often for a bite of blueberry muffin :)

    But mostly, I write on fast forward and gods help anyone (particularly my long suffering husband) if they dare to get in my way by attempting conversation! Unfortunately this means there’s usually plenty of mistakes along the way – the writing equivalent of all the children and old ladies I potentially knock over in my frantic efforts to navigate Tesco as quickly as possible.

    But actually, a great deal of my writing (and walking for that matter) is done in my head!

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