business writing skills Posts

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.

 

Writing Tip: Want a Magic Trick to Cut Down on Wordiness?

paul barton communications writing

By Barbara McNichol
Guest Blogger

Ever wonder how to make your sentences less verbose and more direct?

Here’s a trick that works like magic: Change long noun phrases to short verbs.

Consider the differences in these three examples from a nonfiction manuscript I edited:

  • “They remain in contradiction with themselves” vs. “They contradict themselves.”
  • “He made an acknowledgment of her success” vs. “He acknowledged her success.”
  • “We get closer to the implementation of leadership practices” vs. “We get closer to implementing leadership practices.”

Pay attention to these examples. They show how you can increase readability by turning a long-winded “heavy” phrase into an active “lively” verb. What clues do you look for? Nouns ending in “ion” and “ment.”

Whenever you edit your own work, use this “magic” trick often. What a difference this one technique can make! Try it for yourself.

Action: Identify “ion” and “ment” words in your writing, then rewrite them using a lively verb.

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.