LIZ COURSEN is the
award-winning author of
Before You Even Open Your
Mouth: Business Writing
for Professional Speakers.
With Gayle Williams, she
Liz blogs about American
English, with a special
focus on speaker-specific
punctuation and grammar, at
Be creative. Use vivid, active language. For
example, instead of saying baldly that you
are a “thought leader” (so ubiquitous), say
that you are an “original thinker”; you offer
a “fresh perspective,” “firsthand insight,” or
a “unique spin.” Instead of being “about to
publish my 13th book,” you are “teetering
on the precipice of being a 13-time author.”
Instead of “exciting,” the experience was
“breathtaking.” Instead of “happy,” the
audience was “delighted.” “Great” might be
appropriate, but how about “terrific”? Would
“splendid” be even better?
Be classy, not cutesy. Unless you are
targeting teens, beware of hackneyed, shoot-me-now buzzwords like hack, craft, on-board,
up-level, and double down, which are so totally,
like, 2007, dude.
Keep it simple. Don’t lard up your prose
with redundancies. For example, the concepts
of “good fit” and “alignment” are so similar
that shoehorning both expressions into one
sentence is a yawn-fest. Ditto “trendy and
clichéd,” “negative and harmful,” “niche and
segment.” We get it. Choose the best word to
express your thought and move on.
Always alliterate. “Punchy, powerful
prose” sounds like prose worth pondering.
“Compelling, correct copy” has a pop, pop,
pop to it, while the phrase “carefully curated
collection” rolls nicely off the tongue.
Play around. Experiment with the order
of the words you use. For example, “punchy,
powerful prose” sounds better than “
powerful, punchy prose,” even though both options
Goose your words. Create excitement by
using italics and exclamation points. “A
Postcard History of Transportation in Florida”
sounds OK, but look how much more fun
this tweaked version sounds: “Zoom! Zoom!
A Postcard History of Planes, Trains, and
Automobiles in Florida.” Which program
would you be more likely to attend?
Keep it short. Always strive to say in six
words what you originally said in 12.
Tweak it. Tweak it ’til it twitches.
Use Word spell check. It’ll catch a lot.
Don’t trust Word spell check. It won’t
Be correct. With respect to punctuation and
grammar: know it or hire it, but get it right.
Your visionary video and transformative
testimonials will be completely for naught
if they are rife with misspellings and riddled
with errant punctuation.
Program titles and descriptions are just
part and parcel of the writing that falls into
the laps of pretty much all speakers. Titles,
descriptions, bios, intros, blogs, website
content, and articles—these are all writing
projects that every speaker should undertake
with care. The selection process, however, is
so very critical to your success because, bottom line: When your writing wows the selection committee, you’ll be standing onstage,
not sitting at home! ■