Posts Tagged ‘Graham Williams’

Word Choices Determine Whether A Story Soars or Bores

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

When I lead workshops–whether the focus is Corporate Storytelling, media relations, or business writing–one of the key components is a segment on developing–and especially, editing–the participants’ core stories. Just as story construction can make or break a good tale, so can word choices. They determine whether your story soars, bringing the audience along for a spectacular ride, or bores, losing the audience to the multitude of distractions surrounding us all 24/7 (or even worse, putting some to sleep).

Here are a few tips from a colleague in South Africa, Graham Williams, that I particulary endorse. He included these in an article about word choices in a recent issue of his e-zine, The Halo and the Noose.

1. If there’s a choice between a long word and a short one, use the short one.
2. If a word isn’t necessary to convey the message, cut it out.
3. Whenever possible, use the active form of a verb instead of passive.
4. Never use a foreign phrase, scientific word or jargon if there’s an everyday term that will work.
5. Ignore any of these rules if following it complicates your story or makes it sound awkward.

I especially love the story Williams shared to illustrate his points. It’s from the book, Halo and Noose:The Language of Work, the Language of Story, written with Dorian Haarhoff. As Williams explains, We refer to a cartoon where Hagar and Lucky Eddie are exchanging ideas. One says to the other, “I can’t stand people who use big words. They are pretentious.” The other asks what pretentious means.

What simple, everyday word(s) would you use to simplify the first character’s statement?