Kelford Labs Daily: Simple, direct, and real

Write for one, not for everyone.

Kelford Labs Daily: Simple, direct, and real

“There is a story that [Winston Churchill] was once asked to read the draft of a speech written by an American general. He told the general that in his opinion there were ‘too many passives and too many zeds’ (such as ‘systemize’). Asked to explain further, he replied: ‘What if, instead of “We shall fight on the beaches” I had said, “Hostilities will be engaged with our adversary on the coastal perimeter”?’”

— Mary S. Lovell, The Churchills

So much business writing reads like that last example, doesn’t it?

So often, writers write around their subject, not at or about it. They use words with vague meaning and speak in the most passive of voices.

Or they say things like, “We apologize,” instead of “I’m sorry.”

Or, “In the coming days, we plan to…” instead of, “We’re going to do that soon.”

Not because they don’t know how to write, but because they’re afraid to say anything.

But here’s the thing: If we wouldn’t say it to one person’s face, we shouldn’t write it to a broad “audience”. If it’s too vague or unnecessarily wordy to make sense to one person, we shouldn’t publish it for everyone else.

People don’t read things as a group. They read them alone, in their own heads, as if one person is speaking to them.

So why would we write like we’re speaking to a crowd?

Think about your website introduction copy, or your last social media post. Was it written in plain language, in real terms, to one person in particular?

Or was it written to suit “everyone”?

And how could you change it to be simpler, more direct, and more inspiring?

This post contains 100% organic content, no generative AI was used in its creation.