Writing quick tip 6/26/13

by Amy J.V. Atwell

I attended a Local Food Think Tank yesterday, hosted by the Mile High Business Alliance. A half-day session about food might seem to have little to do with writing, but when the first presenter asked the group to help him define the word “food,” this writer’s heart did a little leap.

Food, a simple four-letter word whose definition could be brushed off as obvious, generated a 20-minute brainstorm and some debate among participants. Should food be defined as only edible items that provide some nutritional value? What about beer, milk or juice? Do processing additives render an item as non-food? The group, of course, did not settle on any one answer, and the discussion easily could have gone on for hours.

This anecdote highlights that, as a business writer or communicator, you should never assume that your definition or interpretation of a word or phrase matches your audience’s. You must think about the nuances of language and how they can be interpreted by various individuals or groups.

Of course, you must settle on something eventually and choose your words, but good writing should begin well before pen hits paper or fingers hit keyboard. Good writing always begins with a clear objective: What message are you trying to convey and to whom? Taking the time to assess your communication goals can help lead you to the right format, the right word choices and the right channels. Lack of planning could mean you end up trying to sell a Moon Pie to someone who wants a carrot.

Amy J.V. Atwell is a Denver-based freelance writer and editor. She works with businesses to grow their brands through high-quality copy and content. Read more at www.heirloomcommunications.com.

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