Sprinkle Similes into Your Business Writing

Paul Barton Communications business writing

By Barbara McNichol
Guest Blogger

Teaching a weekly fitness class—like writing weekly business messages— can get repetitious. A good instructor motivates action while guiding people in their exercises. My instructor likes to interject colorful similes to keep us going. And I suspect it’s also her way of staying sharp and engaged, too.

Here’s an example of her colorful use of language. Describing what not to do while on all fours, she said, “Think of an overburdened mule in a spaghetti Western movie and don’t slump your back like that.” Later, while on our tummies, she told us to lift our arms “like you’re jumping out of an airplane.” Great visual!

Her imagery boosts our enjoyment and helps make the point of the exercise stick. And what’s good for fitness is also good for your writing. Sprinkle similes and other figures of speech into your prose so readers can visualize your point more easily.

Examples from a fitness class:

“Drop your head to your shoulder like it’s a 10-pound bowling ball.”

“Flatten your back like you could put a tray of food on it.”

For over 50s who remember typewriters: “Shift your ribs to the side like the carriage on a typewriter.”

Example from a book:

This excerpt is from Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star. I recommend Martha’s books for the sheer delight of seeing how she applies similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech to her points and stories.

If you’re planning to wait for them [your family] to locate your true path, draw you a careful map, pack you a lunch, and drive you to your North Star, you might want to take up needlework. I hear it passes the time.

Similes lead to smiles. Use them in your business writing whenever you can!

ABOUT OUT GUEST BLOGGER

Phoenix Public Speaking Barbara McNicholOn a crusade to boost the quality of business writing, Barbara McNichol conducts Writing Essentials WordShops and edits nonfiction books. Over the past 24 years, she has placed more than 350 books on her editor’s “trophy shelf.” She is the author of Word Trippers: Your Ultimate Source for Choosing the Right Word When It Really Matters.

On an ongoing basis, you’ll gain valuable writing tips by requesting her free monthly ezine Add Power to Your Pen and subscribing to her Word Trippers Tips program (details at www.WordTrippers.com).

Feel free to contact Barbara at 520-615-7910 or editor@BarbaraMcNichol.com and connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

In the Heat of a Crisis, Don’t Forget This Crucial Audience — Your Own Employees

Some organizations are so focused on getting statements out to traditional news media and other external audiences that they forget about what is arguably their most important audience — their own employees.

Overlooking your own employees can waste time and cost you money because it is quite often employees who determine how fast and how fully your organization will recover from a crisis.

Reduce Rumors

We know that rumors are the result of communication voids. If we don’t know what’s going on, we tend to come up with our own narratives. Communicating with your employees early and often can reduce rumors. Your best course: Establish your company as the go-to source for information early on or employees will find another source.

Want more reasons? Communicating with your employees in times of crisis can prevent an even bigger crisis from happening. After all, you don’t want to have a communication crisis on top of the operational crisis you’re already dealing with.

In many organizations, employees are the face of the brand to customers. The last thing you want is for your employees to say to your customers, “Heck, we don’t know what’s going on around here. No one tells us anything.”

Employees Can be Your Greatest Advocate

Employees can be great and credible advocates for your organization – but only if they have the right information.

Well-prepared organizations have templates and key messages developed for ALL of their key audiences, internal and external. They think through policies and procedures when things are calm so that they can respond quickly and effectively when they need to. They establish social media policies for their employees and have them vetted by corporate attorneys when things are calm. They build relationships and trust between the organization leaders and their employees.

When a crisis strikes, these organizations can respond quickly and effectively.

Consistent Messages are Key

Another key to effective crisis communication is consistency. Be sure you’re not telling employees one thing and telling external audiences another. Employees read and listen to external messages. And external audiences can easily become aware of internal messages. Message inconsistency between audiences can cause sink credibility for your organization.

In the Digital Age, when every employee has a smartphone and thus the ability to broadcast live video to the entire world, messages can get out quickly.

Planning Process

It’s been said that a plan is nothing but the planning process is everything. That’s certainly true with a crisis communication plan. A good crisis communication plan should have a robust employee communication component. If you are responsible for internal communications, then you are responsible for thinking through the process before a crisis strikes and bringing forth an action plan if you see areas that are lacking.

By doing so now, you can help take the crisis out of crisis communications and unleash one of your most powerful assets — your employees.

Related Posts

The No. 1 Crisis Communication Mistake

Top 10 Crisis Communication Mistakes to Avoid

Podcast: Taking the Crisis Out of Crisis Communication

Webinar Replay: Internal Communication in Times of Crisis

The Crisis Communication Toolkit

3 Terrific Tips to Reach Digitally Distracted Readers

By Jeff Herrington
Guest Blogger

Today’s readers are more distracted than ever. Thanks to voluminous emails, always-on cellphones, and ubiquitous social media, your audience has more reasons than ever to look away from your newsletter . . . if they look at it in the first place.

Alas, no one is guaranteed an audience these days. But these three tips for writing for today’s more distracted readers will increase the likelihood people check out what you have to say . . . and act on it.

 

1) Keep sentences to less than 25 words

No exceptions. It’s always better to present info in three, 14-word-long sentences than one 38-word-long sentence. Your content contains four more words but is more approachable. Especially in an era when so much content is getting consumed on cellphone screens that make your articles skinnier and longer. So, keep it short. REALLY short.

 

2) Use sentence fragments now and then

Giving every sentence a subject and verb is as antiquated an idea as is using words like “forthwith,” and “heretofore.” We don’t talk that way, so why write that way? In the previous tip, I included THREE sentence fragments (“No exceptions,” the phrase beginning with “especially,” and “REALLY short.”) You understood them, and their brevity helped the section zip along. Which is the point. (Another sentence fragment.) 😊

 

3) Craft tantalizing subheads

Let’s say the topic of your longer article is, “employee benefits.” You could insert subheads like, “Health Insurance,” “Vacation,” and “Special Discounts.” But why settle for the mundane, when you could just as easily craft subheads that say something like, “Your wellness redefined,” “You deserve a break today,” and “Boosting your family’s budget?” Not only are those subheads more alluring to the reader — they also position the company as a true benefactor to the employee in a way the generic subheads do not (you can always place those more generic subheads in parentheses after the creative subheads to help those readers who are scanning the page/screen.)

Respecting the fact your readers have less time than ever to absorb your content puts you two-thirds of the way toward your goal of producing effective newsletter content. Applying the tips above will take you that much closer to the finish line.

 

ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER

Jeff Herrington is a communications consultant and writing coach who helps communication teams write for today’s more distracted reader. Jeff has provided consulting expertise for such companies as Coca-Cola France, Whirlpool, John Deere and Wausau Insurance. His writing and content workshops have been brought on-site multiple times by more than 100 companies in the Fortune 1000, including JPMorgan Chase, American Century Investments, Arizona Public Service, Phillips 66, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

In addition to his consulting, coaching and workshops, Jeff also has composed several crossword puzzles that have been published in The New York Times, and he writes under the name of Jeffrey Eaton as a murder mystery author.

Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn or on his Jeff Herrington Communications website.