What types of pain resonate with writers?

I delivered my Writing Without Bullshit workshop and seminar this morning to 72 people at the Content Marketing Conference. When you are in front of an audience, you can immediately tell what resonates — you hear laughter, see heads nodding, and hear a warm murmur of sympathy. So what resonated with these writers?

  • “81% of business writers say poorly written material wastes a lot of their time. Luckily, none of you are writing any of this, right?
  • Stephen Elop needed to share important information with his 20,000 direct reports, so he sent an 1100 word email.
  • To help you remember to cut unnecessary words from your text, here is a picture of Chris Pratt with an axe. (Seems to appeal to certain audience members more than others.)
Men’s Fitness
  • Simon Sinek explains everything that’s wrong with millennials . . . as if millennials are all the same. You guys are all the same, right?
  • William Zinsser wrote “We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills, and meaningless jargon.” In 1974. Thank God things are different now.
  • To recognize passive voice, ask if you can put the words “by zombies” after the verb. You know, like “Mistakes were made … by zombies.”
  • When I say “you can make things clearer with a graphic,” I don’t mean a graphic like this:

  • Everyone who writes uses the same three-step process. I call it the three P’s. Here are the three steps. Do you use these?

  • Any piker can be paranoid at the end of a writing process. It takes a professional to be paranoid as soon as you start.
  • Use the four step process. ROAM: Readers, Objective, Action, iMpression. Strictly speaking, that’s ROAI, but I can’t pronounce that so it’s hard to remember.
  • Only 32% of writers said that their process for collecting and combining feedback works well. But that’s not a problem where you work, is it?
  • There’s always one reviewer who is a pain in the ass. Who is it at your workplace? Not your boss, I hope.
  • The whole Ray’s Helicopter story.

What are your go-to bits that audiences love?

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  1. Basic grammar resonates with some readers; see below for an example of failure to QC.

    “What type of pain resonate with writers?”

      1. So what if one word did not get pluralized? I see this a lot in Josh’s writings- where a word gets omitted, or a wrong word similar to one he wanted instead gets used. This should not detract from how funny his conference speech was. He knows- as any good speaker does, that if you start out your talk with jokes or funny stories, then insert more of the same as you go along, you have the attention of your audience. These listeners- after each laugh, are more relaxed and open to what the speaker has to say.

        This presentation was nothing less than hilarious. I wait each day in eager anticipation to what Josh will write about. It’s never not worth reading. Let’s bear in mind that he’s poring over news pieces and blogs from early in the morning and then all day, and sometimes into the evening. He’s allowed to make one little mistake in his post.

        1. Dave, thanks so much for the encouraging words — and especially for the nice things you said about my workshop.

          Regarding Robert’s comment — no defense is necessary. When I make mistakes, I expect people to point them out, and I’m grateful for the chance to correct them. Robert’s comment wasn’t mean-spirited, and he was right — a mistake this obvious in the title indicates that a little more care would be helpful.

          I’ll be writing more about this today.