Sometimes people tell me they can’t write. And, as a professional speechwriter I’m torn when I hear them say that.
On the one hand, I get a momentary surge of pride. Yay, I think. I’m providing a unique service. I’m on a par with astronauts and brain surgeons…
But then reality sets in. And that’s when I tell them the truth…
Anyone can write.
Speechwriting is a bit different to most other forms of writing inasmuch as you’re very definitely writing with your audience in mind. So you can’t assume that whatever will please you or make you laugh will necessarily have the same effect on other people.
Good writing is partly down to confidence
I think I can’t draw. But then my wife will tell me that’s not true. She says I’ve got a unique style. ‘Unique’ sounds like it should be code for something else, but I know what she means, because it’s just like writing. Everyone can do it. It’s just a matter of confidence.
So why aren’t we all a lot more confident about writing? I blame school. Those of us of a certain generation have had it drummed into us… You must never start a sentence with ‘and’ they’d say. Or ‘but’. (People test me on this at least twice a week.) But of course, it’s absolutely, definitely okay. And you can quote me on that.
The arcane arts of writing speeches
The rules don’t just take the fun out of any form of writing, they make it seem like an arcane art that only highly practised masters of the language can ever hope to master.
But it’s really not.
Good writing channels ideas simply and clearly. Good business writing and speeches may also have some targets to hit too. So if your speeches inspire people to find out more, that makes you a good writer.
Can’t write, won’t write?
I’m lucky enough to meet lots of new people doing this job. And plenty of them tell me they can’t write. While that may be good for professional writers, it still makes me feel a bit sad. After all, I enjoy writing – and I think it’s a shame if other people don’t enjoy it too.
The even sadder thing is that some of the people who tell me they’re not great writers are great talkers. Incredible raconteurs with a wonderful turn of phrase and a unique tone of voice. And with a bit of practise, they’d make great writers too.
So, if you’re one of those people, don’t tell yourself you can’t write. Just think of it as a skill you haven’t fully mastered yet.
Speechwriting skills you can learn
Most of what a professional business writer does can be learnt. For example, you’ll get better at editing your work the more you edit. You’ll get more attuned to writing in ways your audiences will respond to. And in my last blog, I shared ten speechwriting tips to help you get started.
But it’s not at all about learning. A lot of what you need to write a great speech is natural and instinctive.
Business writers are good at working out a tone of voice for your company based on you, your marketplace and your customer expectations. But you can do that too. After all, you are that person, you’re in that marketplace, and it’s you that works most closely with your customers.
Do your own thing
I’m tired of reading business writing that all sound the same, either because it’s too safe, or trying too hard to be zany.
Your customers want better. And the good news is, you can give them better.
If you don’t think you’re a good writer, try this and see if it helps…
When you need to write something for your company – even if it’s just a piece for a newsletter or a new product guide, try and write it just like you’d say it. Say it out loud as you write it down if it helps. But…
- Don’t judge the kinds of words you’re using as you write them
- Don’t try and make it sound artificially formal
- Don’t judge it based on how you think it should sound
- It doesn’t matter if you need to polish it up a bit afterwards, just don’t polish as you’re writing
If you can turn your distinctive speaking voice into an equally distinctive writing voice, you’ll have the basis of some wonderfully compelling speeches.
Better yet, they’ll sound authentic and distinctive. So even if you’re vying with scores of similar service providers, your voice will always stand out.