29It’s a pie chart that unnerves me every time I see it. When it comes to getting information from other people, only 7% — the smallest percentage – comes from words.


But it’s a 7% over which we have a lot of control. So let’s try to do it well.

No matter how big a cheese you are, most people don’t want to read what you write. (See The World Is Screening Its Calls Theory.) When we are one of the following types of monstrous writers, we give people even more of an excuse to discount our ideas — and us.

MonsterThe Dim Bulb This person thinks his idea is so wonderful that everyone will see its inherent greatness. That means he doesn’t need to pay attention to how he says things. Or correct grammar, style and usage.

I can tell you that the world of former English majors — or those who remember key lessons from high school English teachers — is vast. Their reaction is swift and merciless. “He obviously slopped through this and didn’t bother to correct these mistakes. Since he didn’t spend any time on it, I won’t, either.”

Into the virtual or actual trash it goes.

The Center of the Universe This person loves the sound of her own voice. She (mistakenly) thinks others are just as fascinated by it. So she expects people have all the time in the world to read what she wrote.

We are all starved for time. If we don’t get the point in the first few sentences, our brains already have moved on — no matter how elegant the prose. We sigh, “This is the difference between taking the local versus the express train.” We won’t learn enough to agree with what she’s proposing, let alone be there for any call to action.

Delete is our favorite key.

The Robot This one comes in two flavors: timid or overly analytical. So he relies on clichés and bloodless terms. The timid write too much because they are defensive about proving their point. The overly analytical write too much because they believe detail is equally important to the rest of us. The result is technically correct but mind-numbingly dull.

Even when we appreciate the content and effort, we don’t have the time or the mental toughness to stick with this. We mumble, “Why didn’t he give us an executive summary?”

We run away, because we’d prefer watching paint dry.

The Snob This person uses large words and jargon. While there may be a reason for some of this, it’s also clear that she purposely chooses $100 words when 25-centers would do.

“Whenever I read her stuff, I need to have an online dictionary bookmarked to decode it,” we grumble. We also have the sneaking suspicion she’s doing this to make herself look smart — at our expense. That makes it highly unlikely we’ll want to agree with her ideas, no matter how sound.

So we fling it into the circular file with great abandon.

Who Are You?

We’ve all been crushingly bad at developing messages: mostly from ignorance, self-absorption or overwhelm. Hopefully, we learned our lesson when what we did failed to persuade anyone.

The next time you need to create good messages, keep these ideas in mind:

1) Identify the goal for your communication

2) Understand what your readers want

3) Present your ideas concisely

4) Know grammar, punctuation, usage and spelling — or where to get that information

5) Edit mercilessly

6) Proof everything.

The results can be scary good!