… and one long trek.

1. Know what you want to say.
This sounds obvious but it’s easy to overlook. What you want to say is your message, the content of your words. Do you want to tell people about your iguana? What? What it eats; how to train it; how it waits for you at your front door? What aspect of it floats your boat? What, precisely, do you want your audience to understand about your iguana?

Without a clear understanding of your message, you can’t properly achieve the next steps.

2. Know who you’re saying it to.
This is your audience. Who are they? Age, sex, race, marital status, cultural influences, social values, economic standing? Who your audience is affects the words you choose. For example:
a. ‘Hello.’
b. ‘Good morning’.
c. ‘How’s it going.’
d. ‘Hi George.’
e. ‘Whattup dog.’
f. ‘A good morrow to thee, fair damsel.’

A is a formal, face-to-face greeting – now rarely heard except over the ‘phone. The only exception is introducing oneself to a potential love/ sex interest.
B is the new formal, face-to-face greeting. Only heard when both people meet in an official capacity.
C is used in informal, face-to-face situations, such as when you greet a person in passing. It isn’t a question.
D. is used when informally greeting a friend or other familiar. Substitute ‘George’ for ‘John’, ‘Vanessa’, or ‘Asclepius’ as appropriate.
E. ?
F. Only used by Shakespeare or the pretentious.

3. Know the effect you want to create.
Do you want them to laugh, learn, think, send you money, change their opinion, or be entertained? Do you want them to be amused by your stories of iguanic hubris, or learn to properly care for a domesticated iguana?

4. Choose the words that you think will achieve that effect.
This is the difficult part. Unless you’re a linguistic genius, you’re going to have to do this – rewrite the text – several times. For me it’s somewhere between four to ten: I tend to rewrite as I’m writing. It seems that the longer and more complex your message is, the more rewriting you’ll do (surprise!).

Finally, my Golden Rule of writing: KISS – Keep It Short and Simple. Your readers will thank you for it.

copyright Troy Grisgonelle 2007.