Mark Twain is supposed to have said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Every Tuesday I look forward to the New York Times’s weekly section on science. But a recent edition stopped me cold, because it pointed to some serious communication challenges about our understanding of health and disease.
With social and traditional media burning up with all kinds of questionable information and messages, it’s a good time to make sure you’re targeting your communications to the people you want to reach. Can you visualize that person, understand his or her needs and frustrations, and address them? If so, you’ll have a much better chance to connect and they’ll be willing to listen.
But in today’s hyped-up media world, you also have to address and overcome the fine art of baloney detection, a term coined by the late, great public scientist Carl Sagan, who shared his thoughts about upholding reason in the face of shameless untruths and propaganda.
If every product change or new idea is amazing, epic, and disruptive, what happens when something really significant takes place? Yes, iTunes truly disrupted the music business… but how often do these kinds of revolutions really come along?
If you’ve ever thought about how fast our language – and therefore our culture – is changing, you only need a handful of random examples to prove the point. Writers, especially, must be keenly sensitive to these changes to remain relevant, or risk being dismissed outright.
Each new year brings resolutions. But instead of the familiar ones (you know, more exercise, better eating), how about a commitment to lose clichés and unnecessary words, so your writing and speaking are as smooth and clear as a mountain stream?