“Get it down in writing so everything will be clear.” How many times have you said, heard, or thought that? Sometimes written communication clarifies things, and sometimes it does just the opposite. People can misunderstand a written message when they don’t hear your tone of voice or see your facial expression. Yet, written communications play a necessary and important role in our interactions.
We can enhance the clarity of what we write by seeing or experiencing it in a different way before sending it to the recipient.
For example, if you’ve been reading what you’ve drafted on the screen of your computer or other electronic device, print it out and read it on paper. I can’t count the number of times I thought I had a letter, blog, or other draft perfected, and was tempted not to read it in print. Yet, without fail, when I print the draft and work on the printout, I find several ways to improve my work.
Another technique is to temporarily change the font, type size or margins, whether you’re reading on screen or from print. This is especially helpful when working on an important document that you’ve already revised and reread several times. Your eyes and your mind have become used to the way the words look and fall on the page. You think you’re reading with full attention, but you may be mentally reciting text you’ve already memorized while your mind shifts into low gear. Changing the appearance of the text changes your perspective on the writing.
You can also read what you’ve written aloud. This goes beyond seeing the draft in a different way and engages a different sense, that of hearing.
Whichever technique or techniques you choose, you can bump the effects up a notch using the method I described in my blog a few weeks ago. Move into a different room, or at least a different part of the room, before you reading your draft a different way.
You’ll also find more inspiration for improvement if you take a break and get your mind on something else for a while before rereading your draft aloud or in a new form or format. Your unconscious mind will have worked on it in the interim. Plus, you return to the draft with “fresh eyes.”
Try this challenge: the next time you feel convinced that something you’ve drafted and read on screen is perfectly clear, sufficiently engaging to the reader, or the like, invest in the time to try one of the above techniques. Then let me know what happens. I’m betting you will be glad you took the time to experience your work in a different manner when you see or hear the improvements that occur to you.
It happened for me with this very blog when I took a break, then read a print out (twice) in another room.
I think that this is a great post, though all too often E-mail is the most common time that people (at least the people I deal with) hit send before re-reading their words. For work, I started deleting the recipient’s email address before I composed my reply such that I couldn’t accidentally hit “Send” in my haste before reading what I had written. I can’t tell you how beneficial this has been for me and, now that I have trained myself to read before sending, I don’t have to delete the email addresses like I used to.
That’s a great idea, Christy. Thanks for sharing it.
PS: We should also bear Christy’s comment in mind when posting to social media, especially Linkedin, where we present our professional images.