When we write, we know exactly what we’re trying to communicate. But because that message is so clear to us while we’re writing, we forget to step back and review our words from the point of view of a typical reader. What might they not understand? What might they misconstrue?
Here are three unintentionally funny examples from actual church newsletters:
1. “Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.”
2. “The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.”
3. “Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.”
Before you send or publish or otherwise share anything you’ve written, take a step back. Review it from a reader’s point of view. Try to forget what you meant to communicate and examine what’s actually there on the page. You might be surprised.
During a live TV report this morning, a cable news correspondent said that a certain candidate in the Illinois Senate race has “a ton of support” from his party.
Interesting. I didn’t realize we could measure political support by the pound.
You’ve probably seen these statements in writing many times. Someone writes about using “every ounce of my energy” or about a person trying something “without a drop of experience.” Don’t do this.
Phrases like these undermine the power and even the readability of your writing. That’s because they’re not precise. Most readers won’t even be aware of it consciously, but when they read these statements they lose a little respect for the document and the writer.
We don’t measure experience with a teaspoon. So when you write that a person didn’t have “a drop of experience,” you distract your reader from the point you’re making. Even if it takes only a nanosecond for your reader to realize the phrase you’ve written is actually nonsense and not meant to be taken literally, that’s still a nanosecond you’ve derailed him from following your argument. You want your reader absorbing and being persuaded by the force of your message, not focusing on your choice of words.
Be precise. It’s one more way to ensure your documents have a lot of support (rather than a ton).