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4 Ways to Become a More Compelling Writer with Scott Keyser, The Writing Guy: Show Notes & Transcript

Post | Mar 14, 2023

Welcome back to Marketing Smarts! From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini (that’s us) comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. We deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from our combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. We tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

In this episode, we’re talking compelling writing with Scott Keyser, The Writing Guy. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and your other favorite podcast spots – follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re exercising your Marketing Smarts!

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Marketing Smarts: 4 Ways to Become a More Compelling Writer with Scott Keyser, The Writing Guy

Writing is an endlessly useful skill in the business world. It can greatly help your ability to persuade, influence, and gain advocacy. Become a compelling writer by writing for your reader, finding your voice, focusing on structure, and proofreading. We wanted you to learn from the best of the best when it comes to business writing, so we welcomed on Scott Keyser. He’s The Writing Guy and the Author of Winner Takes All and Rhetorica. This episode covers everything from business writing to proofreading. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • How do you become a more compelling writer?
  • Why should you write for your reader?
  • How do you find your voice?
  • Why is structure important?
  • What’s the best way to proofread?
  • Who is Peter Elbow?
  • What does emotional intelligence have to do with writing?
  • Why are topic sentences key?

And as always, if you need help in building your Marketing Smarts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at:

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below:

Show Notes

What is Marketing Smarts?

From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. They deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from their combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. They tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

How do I exercise my Marketing Smarts?

Thanks for listening to Marketing Smarts. Get in touch here to become a savvier marketer. 


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Anne Candido 0:02
This is Marketing Smarts – a podcast committed to helping you become a savvier marketing leader, no matter your level. In each episode, we will dive into a relevant topic or challenge that marketing leaders are currently facing. We will also give you practical tools and applications that will help you put what you learn into practice today. And if you missed anything, don’t worry, we put worksheets on our website that summarize the key points. Now, let’s get to it. Welcome to Marketing Smarts. I am Anne Candido and I am April Martini. And today we’re gonna talk about how to become a more compelling writer. Now, from the business email to authoring a book learning how to become a compelling writer can greatly help your ability to persuade, influence and gained advocacy. And today we’re gonna focus more on the business writing for this episode, because that’s where a lot of you guys are coming from. So we’re gonna be specifically talking about how to become a more compelling business writer. But if you want an episode on tips for becoming a more literary writer, we actually have that one as well. Yes, and no matter what business you do, writing is always, always

April Martini 1:08
needed in some form, and you have to be at least competent at it. This is especially the case in this highly virtual world where a large part of communication now is over email or channels like Slack, or Teams or others. And sometimes we in fact, get really lazy on these channels, because they’re perceived to be a little bit more informal. But really, you need to keep in mind that these do represent your voice, and then your cumulative reputation or personal brand. Of course, compelling writing is also important for things like proposals, recommendations, reports, all of these are really, really critical when we talk about business correspondence.

Anne Candido 1:45
Yes. And today, we have a special guest to join us in discussing this topic. And that is Scott Keyser, The Writing Guy. Scott, would you like to introduce yourself? And tell us a little bit about Yeah,

Scott Keyser 1:54
sure. Yeah. Happy to and, you know, can I just say thank you for for hosting me on this on this podcast. It’s great to be here. So yeah, a few words about me. By way of introduction, I’m Scott Keyser of The Writing Guy. What I do is I work predominantly in professional services, with what I call technical professionals, lawyers, accountants, engineers, consultants, architects, even scientists. And the thing about professional services is that everybody writes, but not everybody’s a writer. In their words, their writing lets them down. So what I do is I help them to find their voice, right Human with a capital H, and get the results they want from the words that they write, whether that’s a bit of a blog, or a book. And I’ve been doing this since 2004. So 19 years. And in that time, I’ve worked with the likes of The Economist group, I trained staff with the economist for a decade, I’ve worked with all of the big four accountancy firms or KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young that now ie Why, of course, Accenture I’ve worked with, I’ve worked with a number of international law firms with three barristers chambers, I think you guys call them attorneys, and a host of smaller organizations. And what I’ve done is, in that time, I built a persuasive writing system called rhetorical, which is also the title of my second book. And in fact, in the last year, I finally nailed what I consider is the sort of final iteration of my persuasive writing system, which I’m calling rhetorical 2.0. And that comprises 15, persuasive writing techniques, five, planning, five drafting, five editing, and I’m basically going global with that are looking to JV and partner with international organizations to help me spread the word. So that’s a few words about me.

Anne Candido 4:04
Well, that’s amazing. I’m sure we’re gonna get lots of awesome points from that book. And please feel free to sprinkle those through here because I think that’d be a huge interest to our listeners. And frankly, if you can make accountants and engineers and lawyers be good writers, I mean, everybody.

Scott Keyser 4:22
Hope for all of us, right?

Anne Candido 4:26
Let’s jump into how to become a more compelling business writer. So first, write for your reader. Now this requires you to extend your reader well enough to craft your writing accordingly and then when you have like the tough audiences, like Scott was just talking about just becomes even more important and the reason why this is so super critical is because you really need to tap into something they care about and really in order to grab their and hold their attention. And this is like the human nature of communication. I know you’re gonna get into discus I’m not gonna belabor that point. But while you may want to believe that everything that you have To say, and you’ve been the person who’s like so brilliant that everybody’s going to want to hear what you have to say at every moment. And every day, that’s just not the case. And the fact of the matter is, is there’s a whole lot other brilliant people out there who are also competing for that ear space, if you will, to that target. So you really need to tap into something that your target cares about in order to really break through with your communications. And that becomes the really the art of writing for your reader. This really means that you want to write more about what they’re interested in more versus what you want them to know about you or your point of view. And what becomes the art. And what becomes a way that you actually make this compelling is that you can listen to what they need to hear. And you can craft your point of view, whatever your story or your narrative is, in order to make it appealing in that way. Now, the other way around, because people are like, Well, why is it so bad, just to kind of just tell them what I want them to know. And that’s really the reason why we’re talking about this. Because otherwise, it sounds like more like an autobiography or a story about your origin, which are all important for in different contexts. But when you’re writing to be compelling, your art is in combining those two in order to come up with something that is abuse and value for both. So Scott, I know you have a lot of tips on this. So I’m just going to turn this over to you and have you give those tips to the audience.

Scott Keyser 6:27
Sure. Yeah. I mean, you know what you’re talking about, and really, really goes to the very heart of great writing. And the the irony for me is that this is not so much about writing style, as about mindset and attitude. So in my training, I taught it very early on in the workshop, you know, I set the tenor of the workshop by talking about, we need to make the emotional shift. And this really has to do with emotional intelligence, I talked about making it making the emotional shift from being writer centric, where we’re talking about ourselves to being reader centric. And that, as I say, is is less about writing style, and your ability to write as a skill, and much more about mindset, and attitude. And what I say to the people that come my training is that when you get this, when you really understand the power of this, then you’re halfway home, because everything will then flow from that. So on a kind of lighter note, I refer to what you’ve just described as weighing all over your reader. We’re great at this, we want you to know that we can do this. And we can do that. And we’ve done this and we’ve done that. It’s all about you know, we all the way home, if you’re familiar with that as a kind of lullaby or something. It’s so Absolutely, it’s so common, particularly in bed writing, I work on a lot of bids, tenders, pitches and proposals. And you know, the beaches weaves all over the climb from start to finish. And one great way of working out, it’s very, very simple for your listeners. One great way of working out is you know, whether you are weighing all over your reader or not, is to count the number of times you use the word we or words we asked for an hour, or the name of your organization, as opposed to the number of times you use you your and their name or the name of their organization. And if you are if you are using we asked an hour more than the opposite than the you’re, then you can that indicates to me immediately that you’re weighing all over them. And that’s bad news. This goes back to a very fundamental psychological principle, which is the idea of implicit egotism. And what I mean by that it sounds very fancy, but it’s actually really simple. That we tend to be more interested in ourselves in the and in our own agenda, more than in the other person’s. So therefore if we start reading something, and they are talking exclusively about themselves, we’re going to turn off, we’re going to feel alienated we are not we’re going to disengage and that’s, that’s failure. We’ve failed as communicators when when we’ve done that. So the single best way to write compellingly to use your word, which is the lovely word because it’s about driving the reader to a destination that you want them to arrive at. The single best way of doing that is show the showing them through the written word that you really get them and you understand them and you understand their needs and their pain. It’s really about understanding their pain. Because for me, if you can articulate the pain and the headaches and the the trouble they’re going through, then they that will resonate. with them. And that’s a great way the best way I know of engaging with them getting their engagement. And then when you show them the benefits to them of removing that pain or removing that headache, then that that’s how we motivate them. So it’s got to be all about them and not about us. And it’s fundamental.

April Martini 10:21
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s such a good point. I mean, in our duo, I come from the agency side of the world. And exactly what you said is what historically we would do, right, we would put together RFPs, or proposals or pitches or presentations, and the first 20 minutes was all about us. Right? That’s right. And I finally got to a point where I’m like, guys, you know what, they’re vetting five or six of us in one day, the last thing they want to see or hear is the same thing in different words about exactly all agencies are the same. And so very fundamental to an in my you know, our business right now is flipping that discussion and getting very quickly into what keeps you up at night. Why do you think you need that thing? Yeah, you asked us to propose a website, why the website and really probing there and getting them to open up? So flipping the conversation, exactly what you just said. It’s unbelievable the power that that has, because everybody likes to talk about themselves. Yeah, but it you start asking, it’s like, then they just start talking.

Scott Keyser 11:24
Absolutely. But there’s a social analogy here, isn’t it? You know, we we’ve all been sitting, we’ve gone to a dinner party. And we’ve all been sitting next to somebody who just talks only about themselves. They’re really boring. Yeah. And it’s weird. There’s an inverse correlation that the more interested somebody is in us, the more we perceive them to be interesting. Yes. Business. Yes, exactly the same. It’s so fundamental. And yet, you know, when I, as I mentioned, I work on a lot of bids and tenders and proposals, I find that a lot of the companies that I work with who are bidding for a major contract, they either haven’t gone to the trouble of, or they haven’t been able to get access to the decision makers pre submission. And as a result, they don’t know what the pain points are. And therefore they have to talk about themselves. We can because they simply don’t have the, you know, the raw material, the data or the understanding to be able to talk about the client or the decision making.

Anne Candido 12:26
Yeah, I think that’s a huge point. And that’s the essence of what we talked about brand love and writing is one avenue with regards to being able to make that connection. And that’s the human connection, of being able to tap into something that’s emotionally charged for that person. Yeah, she’s ultimately what they care about it they care about at the end of the day is making life better for themselves. So figure out how you’re going to write in order to make sure that they get that you get how they feel, and how you’re going to make them feel differently, because that’s the ultimate state that you’re trying to reach. Yeah.

Scott Keyser 12:59
I love the way you put that actually. Yeah, and that they are emotionally charged by the pain that they’re going through that they want your help in removing. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Anne Candido 13:14
Awesome. So now we’ll move on to the next point for becoming a more compelling business writer. And that’s to find your voice. And we’ve kind of alluded to this a little bit. But let’s put a sharper point on this. Because it’s much easier said than done. Because what it necessitates is you really defining your brand character in your tone of voice as it relates to the style of your writing, right? So the first point was more about that mindset shift that you were talking about, Scott, the second point is more about, okay, how are you going to write in a way that feels like you that’s authentically you, that also is going to engage your your reader. So we’re we’re going to just call this writing character and tone of voice to avoid confusion from brand. But as we’ve been talking about, there’s a ton of parallels between the two. And we’re going to continue to make some of those parallels. So your writing character is how your writing shows up as perceived by the reader. So in other words, we call it kind of your writing personality. So what we really would you want the person to believe about you, or believe about the work you’re doing believe about whatever you’re trying to convey, is really the essence of the personality that you want to define. If you want to flip it, what I found helpful is to say, hey, like if somebody was writing a review of your work, and I know this sounds a little silly to say, when you’re talking about maybe business email, but seriously, like, a bunch of business email starts looking like a body of work, it starts to build a reputation or credibility. So what would you want somebody to say about your quote, unquote, body of work? And that becomes the essence of how you want to cultivate your style. So do you want people to think you’re smart and articulate? Or do you want them to think you’re clever and entertaining? So those are elements that you need to think about? Because then what that does is starts transcending into your tone of voice and tone of voice becomes more specific choices around how you’re going to sound in order to deliver that character. and deliver it in a very consistent way. Because that is super important that if your tone starts sounding all over the place, people have a really hard time internalizing what they’re supposed to get from you. And therefore can they trust you or not? Are you a person that is is going to really follow through with what you’re you’re writing about or writing in response to. So for example, if you want to sound articulate, you better be thinking about some tone of voice principles that are going to convey that to whatever your reader internalizes or interprets, articulate to be. So maybe it’s in your sophistication of writing, maybe it’s in your word choices, maybe it’s in the formality of your sentences, it’s definitely not in being very informal, slinky, colloquial, right. So that may not be articulate, or it might be depending on your audience, if that’s what you needed to find. Sure, your writing character and tone of voice is, like we said, a very big reflection of your personal brand. So if you’re struggling with how that it should sound or what you want it to sound like, start there, because that could be the essence for those characteristics that kind of helped define your writing. So what’s your thoughts here on this?

Scott Keyser 16:11
So you you’ve, you’ve raised a kind of jamboree of different of different issues.

Like pick well, okay, so there, there are a couple of things that come to mind here. First of all, tone of voice. And I’m presenting these in no particular order, but tone of voice is, is interesting, my definition of tone of voice, is how your writing sounds to the reader and makes them feel. And we need to be clear about how we want to make our readers feel who do we, in most cases, and you use an interesting word earlier on, which is connection. You know, in in when I’m writing or when I’m training clients to write with greater impact. In most cases, you know, they want to, they want to make the reader feel connected with them through the written word. So for me, it’s about building rapport in a way that they know like and trust you, even if they’ve never met you in person, but that, you know, you’ve built that rapport through the written word. So we need we need to be very careful about the choke how we’re coming across to the reader, you know, are we coming across? Are we sounding overly chummy and informal? On the one hand, or are we sounding a bit sort of superior and arrogant and high handed? Or are we sound, collegial and collaborative? You know, we need to be clear about that. So that’s tone of voice. And, and the feeling bit, as far as the reader goes is, for me really key. So just say, again, for me tone of voice is how our writing sounds to the reader and makes them feel. And one of the ways of assessing your tone of voice, or our tone of voice, because we’re all writers is to do a very simple thing, which is one of my 15 techniques, which is read your writing out loud, yes. Or you send it so incredibly effective. Yes, it is. Elegantly effective technique. And yet nobody does it. I say nobody does it, professional writers do it. Because they know that it that it’s it is worth its weight in gold. But non professional writers tend to get very self conscious about hearing their voice. But it’s such a simple and effective way of judging and assessing the tone of voice of your writing. So that’s one thing. Now tone of voice has the very important word voice in it. And for me, whether we call it personality or character, or disposition, I mean, I tend I like the word voice. Because it’s very human. And it has a connotation of vocalizing what we’ve written there’s something very powerful about about voice. So how do I how do I help my clients to find their voice? It’s really simple. And it hit me like, like a freight train just well, on September the ninth 2020, I was running a workshop. I tell you tell you a story. It was a whole bunch of graduates, very bright, lovely people. And one of the graduates I think there are about 12 of them in the room. And in the afternoon, I run a basically the workshop culminates in a longer writing exercise, where having shared my 15 Writing tanks techniques with them. I then invite them to apply those techniques to a piece of their own writing. and it can be a case of them rewriting or editing something they’ve already produced or to start from scratch. And in this case, there was a graduate called, let’s call her Debbie. And she was writing, he was actually rewriting a blog. It was about a technical subject. And she was in the front row. And I just sort of saw I let them I briefed them on the exercise, and I let them start. And within about five or 10 minutes, I could just see that he was really agitated and struggling, and she was getting a bit upset and kind of frustrated. And I just went up to her and I said, Debbie, you know, is there something wrong? She said, she were her face was the picture of frustration. And she said, You know, I just can’t find the right words. It’s not, it’s not coming for me. And I said, Well, what are you trying to say? And tell me as if you were explaining it to your mom, or your dad, or your significant other, or your brother or your sister. And she just turned to me, and she said, what I’m really trying to say Yatta, Yatta, yatta, Yatta, yatta, Yatta, yatta yatta, which was just fantastically clear and forgotten an article and I said, there you go, write that that’s your first draft, just capture what you’ve written vocally. That is your first draft. And she turned in a really brilliant piece of writing, which was not only clear, and I’ll come back to what I mean by clarity in a minute, which may sound a bit odd, but I’ll come back to that. But it sounded like Debbie, it was human. And it sounded like her. It wasn’t full of kind of, excuse my French kind of bullshit, bingo jargon, you know, business jargon. And it was just a really clear, crystal clear piece of writing. And she’d found her voice. And essentially, she’d given herself permission to write more as she speaks to sound more like Debbie. Because so often when I when I run my workshops, and somebody asked me to review a piece of writing, and he just doesn’t sound like them. And I say, Jim, you don’t you don’t speak like that you don’t sound like that. Write more as you speak. A lot of that has to do with confidence, having the confidence to use plain English, what I call middle register language. So neither informal or colloquial law for formal, but good old fashioned, everyday conversation in plain English, is generally where the human voice sounds best.

Anne Candido 22:40
And are we talking American English or British English?

Scott Keyser 22:44
Well, either if you’re American, and then you’d like, plain plain American English. I don’t know what that means for you. But I’ll give you some examples, actually. So rather than using the word purchase, just say buy. Yeah, rather than saying request, just say ask, rather than saying terminate, just say end, or finish or kill depending on the context. Rather than saying depart from the French patios to say leave. You know, it’s as simple as that. It’s really easy. This stuff is really easy. People have to have the confidence to give themselves permission to write planing. And use their voice.

April Martini 23:25
Yeah, I mean, it is such a an interesting and important technique. I mean, when we do our branding work, actually, and we do we get to brand story and tone of voice, we read it to the audience. And every time I go to do it, I always say this is gonna sound stupid or awkward or whatever. But just give me a minute. If you hear me read it out loud, you will get a feeling one way or another. If it is right. It’s very different than just looking at the words on Ah, yeah. And then consequently, I got that fed right back to me the other day, because we did some brand character work for one of our clients. And as much as I try very hard, some of our marketing and branding speak, may have snuck its way in there. And there was, I mean, I was mortified POV was actually in their POV, not even point of view POV really. And I looked at the highlights that came back from her. And immediately I went back and I said, Jessica, I’m so sorry, I did not follow my own advice and read this out loud, or here’s the revision, right? But I mean, our of that is just tremendous. And it is the other thing that I think helps with saying it out loud is it gets you over the hump of starting. I feel like you know, you hear the word assignment, right? Or I have to write this proposal or I have to write a blog post and you get almost like paralysis of what you do and age,

Scott Keyser 24:53
right. Yeah.

April Martini 24:55
Exactly. And so whether it’s you know, it’s speaking it out loud or you know, I’m seeing in the neighborhood having conversations with myself, quite frankly, because I’m trying to work out. Right, that can be a tremendous starting point to get you over that hump to actually put the thing to paper, as opposed to sitting there and doing nothing.

Scott Keyser 25:16
I think you make a very good point. And and every writer, every professional writer I’ve ever met, admits that when he or she is writing that they speak to themselves a lot. I mean, when I’m doing some copywriting and trying to figure out it’s on the literally sale, Scott, what do you what are you trying to say here what what I really mean is and out loud, but there’s something very powerful about verbalizing and vocalizing what we’re trying to convey in words. And Peter Elbow, I don’t know if you know a guy called Peter Elbow. kind of slightly amusing name, but a brilliant, a brilliant, a brilliant writer on writing, he put it beautifully he in one of his books. So my bookshelf over there, he said, we must use the skill that we find easiest speech to help us with the skill that we find hardest writing. Though it was beautifully put. It is about vocalizing out loud what we’re trying to write in black and white on the page or on the screen.

Anne Candido 26:22
Yeah, I love that point. Because I think so many people, like you said get page fright or just paralyzed by writing because they feel like they need to write in a certain way in order to be the the acclaimed writer or the respective writer, the credible writer that they want to be. And I’ve had this conversation with a couple of our coachees frankly, where they’re like I really like to write, but I’m like, I just don’t like I’m not a very like, again, I’ll use the word articulate, or I don’t use sophisticated language or my language is very plain and simple. It’s like I love what you said about, it’s okay to use that language. And in fact, it could help your writing being easily received, that report that you talked about being built, is more relatable. So not everybody has to sound very ariddek where it’s like, oh, we have to sound like you know, we’re professor to have five PhDs in order to be about speaking in a manner again, that your reader is going to be able to relate to and internalize. It’s right, you used to believe which sometimes that’s the beauty of people’s like, ability to communicate, like it’s the simplicity of the language, just not necessarily use big words. And I had that kind of data, that conversation with her. And once she got over that, she’s like, Oh, I can just like write how I you know, Speaker how I write my get loves writing, right? And then everything

Scott Keyser 27:42
to kind of epiphany for her. Yeah, yeah. Like,

Anne Candido 27:47
I can write, I can write like this. Yeah, I mean, what’s wrong with your writing? Well, I always thought it had to be something else, something different, you know.

Scott Keyser 27:55
So, so this is this is a fundamental issue that that I that I bumped up against all the time, in professional services, and the key word there is professional. So I think when you and I spoke on the screening call, and I mentioned that a number of years ago, and in my book, I refer to the Myth of Professionalism, capital M, capital P. And the myth of professionalism sort of brings with it a number of sort of mini myths if I can use that terminology. And in no particular order one is in order to be a professional, whatever that means. I must show how clever I am. And how clever I am, I must use fancy Uber for more sophisticated language. And that means that the more the more formal language, the higher register language you use, the harder you’re making your reader work to get your message, right, because the more we’re using for more fancy, polysyllabic, complicated words, the more barriers we’re putting up between us and the reader. The more processing power we’re the reader will need in order to decode and decipher your meaning. So that’s one thing that’s one mini myth with the compulsion to show off and show how clever we are using formal language. The other sort of mini myth of professionalism is that which really comes from a place of fear and anxiety and risk which is and this is what goes on in the in the writers head, which says the more detail I throw into this writing, the more I de risk this communication visa me my visa vie my organization. So as a result, they end up throwing everything including the kitchen sink into the content and overwhelming the reader. There is no clear thinking about what to omit and what to include. And you’ll end up with a piece of turgid writing. And then the other sort of mini metallurgist made a note of earlier on. Yeah, I mean, I touched on it really, which is that we need to be formal that somehow there’s this equation, people equate professionalism with formal writing. And that is going to result in complicated, needlessly complicated language. And in fact, a number of years ago, professor at Princeton University, did a study among his, I think, second year students, and he’s surveyed, I can’t remember the size of the sample, it was quite a big sample. And he surveyed his students and 94% of them, I think, admitted to using needlessly formal language in their assignments in order to impress the reader. What was interesting, in other words, their professor, what was interesting, though, was that the average conclusion was the average reader when they realize that you’re neat, using needlessly formal language to impress them. That reduces their perception of you as an articulate and intellectual person. So there’s an inverse correlation between the two. So what I just wanted to sort of close this particular segment with by saying is that this myth of professional professionalism is really insidious. And it undermines a lot of great writing. Because, you know, if you if you are writing a technical piece, you know, I said, I work with a lot of lawyers and accountants, a lot of them are writing, you know, about the latest sort of legislation or regulation, you know, necessarily technical, if you are using sophisticated language, formal language to convey technical content, you are going to make your reader work extremely, extremely hard. They don’t realize that the best possible combination is intellectually rigorous world class content conveyed so clearly using planing English, that your reader gets it in one go. And that’s my definition of clarity. I often say to my delegates, what do we mean by clarity? They said, Well, it’s obviously clear writing. But for me clear writing is writing that’s so clear. Your reader, your reader gets it in one reading in one go. And that is so rare. You know, you it’s rarer than hen’s teeth, as we say. So I hope that was a bit of a rant, but I hope for your listeners that makes sense to you about the myth of profession is very insidious.

Anne Candido 32:54
No, I think that is really well said. And I think it actually segues very nicely into the next point, especially as we’re talking about clarity, and that’s in the structure. And here’s where I’ll say for the third point is that structure is important. And I will put a little bit of props on the on the p&g site for a second when I talk about our P&G 1-pager. And that was like the core of how most people would write business correspondences at P&G, and actually, it’s taught at Harvard and everything else was very, very prolific. And honestly, it’s one of the only trainings that I’ve very useful. And I might have kept some of the materials, I might just have done that. But I’m not going to like go into exactly what that one pager is, if you or anybody is interested in it, you can Google the P&G 1-pager and everything comes up. But whether or not you use that format, or not, the whole point is, is that you need to organize the thinking in a way that your reader is going to be able to internalize their processing. So that is then developing a structure then that can marry the two. And that’s, frankly, what the P&G 1-pager does very well in the way that it outlines how do you organize your POV, your recommendation, your your proposal, whatever it is in a way that your actual listener is going to be able to process through. And as they’re processing through, and they’re generating questions in their head, or writing is answering those questions as they’re reading along. So it kind of pulls them through which to the point of like, if you want them to read it once, then you have to be able to be able to really get into their heads and figure out how are they going to process through whatever you’re trying to say? Yeah, so now we see people making some mistakes here. And so I was gonna point out a few of these and I know you have plenty that you can also pull out and exemplify. But one one that we see that really hurts to be able to translate your thoughts into their processing is by burying the lede, right? So in a lot of cases, whatever you want your reader or to take away whatever your objective that correspondence is, it needs to be upfront clearly and concisely communicated. A lot of times we’ll spend the first paragraph if you will, like providing a lot of context and in rationale, and really that does is that’s important. But it has to come a little bit later, initially with the person’s like, why are you even communicating with me? What do I even need to understand about what you’re telling me? Tell me that right at the very beginning. Yeah, another one we, we hear people do and we see people do is ramble. And that’s a really big one. And I think it comes back to what you were saying about being very, very specific, and what information you actually need to have in this correspondence and not have it be everything underneath the sun that you think that your reader needs to know. And I would even say it’s really, really helpful to bullet point, those points. I think that helps people to really internalize where the key point to this and helps the actual writing being broken up a little bit. Now, depending on format, I mean, okay, fine. Yeah, give me a little bit of liberties when it comes to format, but bullet points helps people understand the key points, what they’re supposed to take away what you want them to address, specifically. Yeah. And I think feel like if it’s hidden in a paragraph, you start losing that clarity of thought and clarity of communication. Yeah. And which is why you shouldn’t want it to be too long either. Because if it starts getting too long, you start getting the reader to be fatigued, there’s more than in my mouth attention. Now, the more compelling you’re writing, the more your reader will go down the funnel with you. But that is also an art in a in the structure, we’re going to help you do that. And I know, April, you have a few two that you want to build on. Yeah, I mean,

April Martini 36:37
the couple and then Scott will definitely turn it over to you as the grow in this stuff. But I think that part of what happens with the ramble is that you aren’t using the filter of relevancy. And so therefore, there’s a bunch of stuff in there that’s causing confusion. And really, it comes from being choice full and whatever your point of view is, and then making sure that everything you’re including ties back to that because and made a really important point that it’s one page. So you only have so much space. And okay, that’s not always the structure, and there may be multiples and all of that. But I think if you can be really clear in what your point of view is that you want them to take away, and then adding only what’s relevant against that, that can really make sure that you are clear in your communication. Sure. What are your thoughts?

Scott Keyser 37:29
This reminds me of a famous saying by Oscar Wilde, the British writer who said he’d written a letter to a friend, he said, I’m sorry, I’ve written you a long letter. I didn’t have time to write your short one. Yeah, exactly. As you say, writing something where you’ve chosen judiciously, what to include, and what to leave out takes time and energy. Yeah. This is fundamental structure. I think structure is more important than language personally. And the reason for that is that no matter how beautifully you write, if your reader doesn’t know where you’re taking them, where you’ve taken them, or where they are at the moment, they’re going to give up, they’re going to stop reading. So structure is more important than than language. Here’s, here’s a three letter acronym, a tip that hopefully will be a value to your to your listeners. And that is when I talk in the planning section of my system about about structuring planning includes structure. And to use your word, the purpose of your communication, which is really the sort of, it’s your Route north, it’s your magnetic north through your writing. I encourage them to think about the three dimensions of the behavior they’re trying to change in the reader. And I expressed that very simply as FFA facts, feelings and action. In other words, in that one pager, what do you want the reader to know? What do you want them to feel? What emotion Do you want them to feel? And then the A is action, what do you want them to do? Which is usually just one thing. You want them to respond in some way you want them to sign a contract or give you information or call you are poor. So that’s FFA. And that helps guide the writer through well it gives you it helps you define your purpose, which in turn will help you to adopt a really clear structure. So in terms of structure for me, structure breaks down into three distinct pieces or components. The first and most important, as you quite rightly said, and is for the organization and the arrangement of the content, so what order? Are you going to be? First of all, what are you going to say? What’s the content? And then what is the logical order in which you are going to present that content. So that’s the first thing. The second element of structure is navigation. If your reader upon opening, the email or the document, is just greeted by this dense slab, this wall of text, there’s no navigation, there’s no signposting. They’re going to give up. So one of the one of the essential elements of navigation for me is subheadings. I’m less convinced about bullets. I don’t know about you guys. But over here on this side of the pond, bullets bullets are way overused. What I what I do prefer, we talk about you know, dead death by by bullets death by PowerPoint. What I do prefer a kind of small bite sized paragraphs, preceded or prefaced with subheadings, or with topic sentences and a topic sentence, you probably know what that is, which is, which is a sentence that both introduces and summarizes the paragraph to which it belongs. I mean, subheadings are great, because if they’re in bold, and then they stand out from the text, and if they’re informative and descriptive enough, just by scanning those subheadings should give the reader the gist of what your document is about. So the second element of structure is navigation or signposting. And then the third element of structure is design. It’s literally the the look and feel the visual interest of the page on the screen, or on the printed page. And that people may think that that’s not part of structure. But for me, it’s all part of making reading your text a pleasurable, enjoyable experience, because it’s, it’s clear, it’s navigable, it looks nice. You know, you’re not, you’re not using 15 different typefaces is on the same page, there’s visual interest, may there’s graphics there breaking up the text, it’s all about for me, it’s all about making it engaging for your reader, such that the harder we work as the writer, then the easier it is, and the less of the reader has to work to get our meaning. So structure is absolutely fundamental, more important than language.

April Martini 42:34
Yeah, as you were talking, I was thinking about the way we used to teach account management folks, the structure of emails, right? The first thing we would say is that if it doesn’t fit the structure, then you better pick up the phone and call because it doesn’t belong in an email. So it’s the wrong forum. But all of the things you said are exactly right. And it’s so ingrained in me after all these years that I inherently do exactly what you just said, it’s in service to our clients to make it enjoyable and easy so that they can do what we want. But it is and I do use bullets over here. But for the sake of it, you know, it’s the intro. It’s the what are we talking about here, and then exactly bolded subtitles, either a couple sentences or a couple bullets underneath. And then the next thing and then the next thing, it’s very easy for them to get a top line of what I’m asking for and delve into the specific asks, and then you how to respond. And I know it’s working, when they go into each of the points and just kind of type their response in a different color. You can tell you’ve made it easy for them to answer versus we’ve all gotten those communications and emails a vehicle that it happens where you just get that brick of text, like you said, That’s right. I just look at it. And I go, I can’t even I can’t even go there. Right. That’s just an example. I think that shows why structure and the way in which you’re choosing to communicate to that format, that vehicle, whatever it is, they all have different structures that you have to then in turn learn and use based on that vehicle.

Scott Keyser 44:00
Sure. The other thing that we we need to bear in mind, and you know, for your listeners as well, is that when we’re writing something, because you know, it’s something that we’re giving single minded attention to. And we assume that the readers are going to engage with our words with the same level of brain power. Yeah, that’s a very dangerous assumption. Yes. Most of our readers were in my humble opinion. Most of our readers were lucky if we get 75% of their brain power engaging with our words. And so therefore, the easier and the simpler, we make it for them, the better off we’re all going to be, you know, hope that makes sense. Yeah.

Anne Candido 44:43
Yeah. And I love what you have to say about design too, because that’s a lot. Sometimes the pushback we get when we’re scoping something like an info sheet, or you know, another piece of marketing collateral, and that I feel like the design sometimes it’s undervalued for the purpose. have a copy, right? So they’re like, oh, we’ll just, you know, put a header and some visuals here. But there’s something to be said about the the combination of the design, the visual appearance of it all in the copy and how it works together to make it more readable in order to make it easier to be internalized all of those things that we’ve been talking about. So I heard you say loud and clear, Scott about that design. And I hope everybody else is hearing that, that that’s not something to be undermined. And when you’re trying to put together marketing collateral, in your in your visual appearance of the communication, so yeah,

Scott Keyser 45:35
yeah, love that. Sorry, just just to close on structure. The other thing I’d say again, I, I talk about this a lot in my training, which is if you take nothing else away from the structural piece, for me, it’s about, you know, referring to your phrase burying the lede. The key element of structure is we need to lead to use your word with what most matters to the reader, whether that’s answering their question, or giving the major finding from a survey, or articulating the major benefit to them of working with us, whatever most is of most value to them, that’s what we lead with. And so for me string structure term that’s about getting to the value to the reader as soon as possible. And don’t delay it, don’t put it off till the end. Because they might have left by then.

Anne Candido 46:35
So Right. Yeah. All right. Our fourth point about how to become a more compelling writer is to proofread and sounds like we’re supposed to proofread out loud.

Scott Keyser 46:48
That I certainly one technique, yes, yeah,

Anne Candido 46:51
I think we can all agree that Nothing ruins your credibility more than making silly spelling, punctuation, word choice mistakes. All this can be avoided if you just do a simple proofread, even on quick emails. And the reason why is because it’s sometimes we get, we get stuck in this like informality of the channel, right? We think, Oh, if it’s just a quick email, or if it’s just a quick text, it’s okay, if not everything is spelled right, or the punctuation is wrong, or something’s not capitalized. What I said before place here is that just becomes a body of work. So if you’re consistently like that, then people start to expect that from you. And that starts reflecting back on your credibility, your reputation, your your personal brand. Sure. So it’s really, really important that you do that little proofread. And it also gives you a chance to double check that your thoughts are clear and concise, to the points that you were making before Scott is that if you can read it from the point of view of your reader, your eventual reader, it allows you to kind of make sure that you’ve answered the critical questions that you haven’t over indulged in just kind of like word vomiting all over the page about what you want to talk about. Now, it may not necessarily like, again, you might say, Well, I didn’t really cover this point in my writing, and that’s fine. You may and hold that and hold that as a q&a in anticipation that they’re gonna come back with that question. So that sets you up for the next communication, whether it’s writing or verbal communication. But also, proofreading allows you to address blind spots. And I think this is a really important one, because for me, I tend to be a kind of like a straightforward communicator, like I’ll say, I’m an engineer by background. So it’s like, if you want a then you need b and a plus b equals c. And then okay, I’m done with my email, right. And I forget, like, sometimes I need to acknowledge the team, I need to thank them for their good work, I need to ask them how they’re doing and those sorts of things. So it allows me to go back and make sure that I haven’t inadvertently forgotten some of the important things that make my communication relatable, make my communication better received, make sure the tone is right on make sure the character is there, make sure when I read it out loud I sound than any other way that I want somebody to internalize it when they read it. So all of those important things. So Scott, what other points do you have here with regards to proofreading?

Scott Keyser 49:02
Yeah, probably, you know, as you say, proofreading is vital. I mean, in my writing system, it’s the it’s the final p of the the technique, you know, is proofread. And that’s the very last thing that we do. Before we press the send button or publish or broadcast whatever we’ve we’ve written. I would just distinguish, though, between checking that your content includes everything you wanted to include, to your point and about have I thank the team and you know, all that kind of thing, which for me, is covered under our oh well reading out loud and we need to be doing that throughout the writing process. As opposed to proofreading which is really picking up those very annoying little typos, those typographical mistakes where something is misspelled or Well, as I, as I witnessed recently in some of these document numbers, had miraculously inserted themselves into the middle of words, which was very, very odd or double punctuation marks or double spacing. So I think for your listeners, we need to, we need to distinguish between checking that our content is on message and is including everything we need, which we should do throughout the writing process and proofreading which is spotting those those often tiny typographical errors. Those typos, obviously, reading out loud can help. But I’ve got another well, it is the professional proofreading technique, which your listeners are probably going to hate me for. But basically, basically what it is, is, and I know this, because I personally know a professional proofreader, and she does this. So folks, what you have to do is if you want to proofread a document, you print it out, to proofread on screen, and it’s going to be very tiring for your eyes. You print it out, and you go to the very last page. And you go to the last word on the last page, and you read backwards from right to left. And from the bottom line to the top of the page backwards from the end of the document to the very beginning. And the reason why that is professional proofreading technique, and you use exactly the right word and earlier, which is it helps make sure that you don’t you don’t miss the blind spot, so you don’t get sucked into the blind spots. Because as a technique, it forces you to consider one word at a time. Because it already assumes and presupposes that your content, you know your content is there. And the you broadly want to say what you want it to say where you catch things like sign where you meant sing, sighs sing where you men sign from where you end form and vice versa form where you men from. And little by little mistakes. As I was saying early, you know type of graph typos, because you have enough of context from the rest of the line to know which it should be whether it’s single sign or Form or Form. But as I say, force, it’s a technique that forces you to consider one word at a time. very laborious, but very, very effective. Yeah, brutal. Yeah.

April Martini 52:42
What is you started that I had completely blocked that out of my mind, you took me right back to being a baby at my very first agency and watching the professional proofreader do this. And I remember I didn’t, it didn’t click as as to why this works. But it stuck with me ever since now that I’m remembering this idea that it doesn’t allow you to get sucked into the content. Absolutely. Yeah. And therefore you are hyper focused, because you’re going against the grain of what you actually typically do. Because that’s how so many of us miss things when we’re writing is we get almost like lulled into the message. Yeah, versus going against that green turns on something different in the brain.

Scott Keyser 53:26
Absolutely. And it’s you put it in a very good way for which is we don’t get sucked into the content. It’s a brilliant way of putting it. Yeah. Yeah, actually, I’ll tell you a story. I mean, for just very briefly. So I’ve written two books. And my second book rhetorical is about writing persuasive writing, is called rhetorical, a toolkit of 21. Everyday writing techniques, a book on writing. And when it when I finished my manuscript, I said to my designer, I’m going to proofread it myself. And he said, You called proofread your own work. No, you can’t. And I find myself was a bit of a proofreader. So I prefer and I said, Listen, there are no mistakes. And he said, He’s a lovely guy, Phil. He said, Please, please, please send it to Tamsin to get it professionally proofread. And thank goodness I did, yes. In a book on writing. That manuscript would have been published with she found 47 typos published, and it would have been fine, thank goodness for terms and it was brand there are no typos in my book. Yeah. That is though.

April Martini 54:37
I mean, I will say and I know it’s a personal rubber pet peeve of mine, but when I read anything, and it could be like a several 100 page book, even one typo, I leave with a different impression. Yeah,

Scott Keyser 54:49
sure. Sure. No, absolutely. The analogy I make is the good right. He was like a clear window. You’re not aware of the glass You only see the view beyond the typo acts as a smudge on the glass. it diverts attention to the window, not the view away from the view. Yeah, yeah.

Anne Candido 55:12
That’s brilliant. All right, our next segment is a brand that we use this when we’re usually talking about when it’s just April and I that’s doing their Marketing Smarts well or not so well. But we have a guest. Obviously, our guest is doing our Marketing Smarts, very well. So, Scott, what we’d love for you to do is just kind of like, bring us home, wrap us up. Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you feel is really critical to mention here too, for our listeners, as well as your where can people find you? Where can people find your book? Give us all?

Scott Keyser 55:44
Okay, great. And so in terms of where to find me, I’m fairly active on LinkedIn. If you just put Scott Keyser The Writing Guy into the search bar, you’ll find me, I wouldn’t normally give you my web web address. But I’m I’m redoing my website at the moment. So that’s for later in the year. In terms of my two books, I’ve written two books one on how to double your tender win rate. In other words, to business development to win more bids and tenders that’s called Winner Takes All. And my second book is called Rhetorica, which I mentioned, both my books are available on Amazon. So again, if any of your listeners go into Amazon and just put Scott Keyser, you don’t even need to put the writing, I just got keys in the search bar, both my books will come up. That will be great. Very proud of my books. My second book rhetorical is the best thing I’ve ever done. It has only five star reviews. But there you go. So oh, all those all those plain brown paper envelopes, and I gave to my friends have obviously worked. In terms of wrapping up, we’ve covered we’ve covered some really fundamental issues around structure, around design, about making it in making reading an enjoyable experience for your reader, about defining your route north in terms of your purpose, visual interest, being reader centric, which is a form of emotional intelligence, structure more important than language. We talked a bit about the benefits of plain English, in other words, what I call middle register language, so neither informal or colloquial down in the bottom of the register, nor needlessly formula, the top. One thing I would like to add that we haven’t really talked about, and it’s very, it’s very easily dispensed with, is this issue of conciseness. So many years ago, I ran a survey amongst my clients, asking them what the single biggest writing issue for them was. And 94% of them said it’s conciseness. In other words, the ability to write succinctly and to get your point across in as few words as possible. So this is one of my systems 15 writing techniques. I didn’t invent it. It was actually if you’re if your listeners are genuinely interested in improving their writing, besides buying my second book, rhetorical. They should also buy a wonderful book called The Elements of Style that was written in 1919 and is sold over a million copies, affectionately known as Strunk and White. So it’s written by a professor at Cornell University, called Professor Strunk. And one of his pupils was Elwyn Brooks White who wrote Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. And together they wrote this gem of a book called The Elements of Style. And obviously, it’s been reprinted and modernized since 1919. But even in 1919, the one single guaranteed way of writing concisely, which is I believe there are techniques 17, which I use in my system, and I credit them I give credit words do. It’s not my invention is to omit needless words. So by omitting redundant, superfluous or needless words, we bake basically tighten our writing up, and we make it tight and taut and concise, and it’s so simple and so effective. And let me give your listeners one very simple, probably the most common example of needless words. Instead of saying in order to further my career, you could just say, to further my career there Those two little words in order to add no value. They don’t belong in your writing and therefore we must put them to the sword. We must remove them and just say to further my career, yeah, simple.

Anne Candido 1:00:12
My mom did that when I was writing my book, and she would send it back. I’ve always read lines like, don’t need that word. Don’t need that word. Oh, lordy. It’s the hardest thing to internalize. Uh, once you can nail it. It is probably the biggest opportunities transformative,

April Martini 1:00:30
you’re writing much more

Scott Keyser 1:00:33
omit needless words. Yeah.

Anne Candido 1:00:35
Love it. All right, so just to recap how to become a more compelling writer. First write for your reader. This requires you to understand your reader well enough to craft your writing accordingly. Second is find your voice. This requires you to define your writing, character and tone of voice to determine your style. Third, structure is important you need to think about how your reader a process through what you are saying in order to write in a structure that will pull them down your funnel, and fourth, proofread. Nothing ruins your credibility more than making silly spelling, punctuation or word choice mistakes. But it is also an opportunity to check for clarity and consistency with your brand character and tone. But with that we will say go and exercise your Marketing Smarts!

April Martini 1:01:13
Still need help in growing your Marketing Smarts? Contact us through our website: We can help you become a savvier marketer through coaching or training you and your team or doing the work on your behalf. Please also help us grow the podcast by rating and reviewing on your player of choice and sharing with at least one person. Now go show off your Marketing Smarts!