Do you spend a lot of time trying to sound smarter than you really are?
The art of writing is a lot like the art of refereeing. You know it’s good when it goes unnoticed. Unfortunately, many professionals today are spending more time trying to figure out how to sound smart instead of working on being intelligent.
Whether you’re writing a blog post, a grant letter, or a basic email, your goal should be to drive an outcome with every word offered. There must be a purpose to what is being written that goes beyond trying to establish a better reputation.
I know that I’ve really struggled with this in the past. I used to think that if I sounded smart, then those who read my content would feel that I was intelligent. That would make everyone want to read more of what I had. Now I work on checking these things before posting or sending anything.
#1. Eliminate jargon or unusual words. I love strange words in the English language. It used to be fun for me to talk about my lamprophony within my content. Using words that people have to use a Google search to figure out is a fast way to drive them away from what you’ve written. The goal of writing isn’t just to communicate. It must also establish a relationship.
#2. Use your words correctly. Buzzwords are fine when they’re used properly. The only problem is that you don’t sound intelligent or smart if you use those buzzwords incorrectly. My biggest pet peeve is the use of “empathetic” and “empathic.” If you’re empathetic, then you are able to share another person’s feelings. Empathic can mean the same thing, but it is only supposed to be used in non-scientific writing.
So in this instance, where we’re discussing how to write better, we would actually say that an individual is an empathic listener. If we were talking about a research study about listening, then they would be an empathetic listener.
Or we could just describe someone as a good listener who can sense the feelings of others and avoid misuse altogether.
#3. Include bullet points when they make sense. Bullet points can really help a bit of content stand out. The structure naturally draws the reader to the key points you’re trying to make. The only problem is that when the bullet points don’t flow together well, the reader becomes disengaged from the content. Each bullet point must have the same form of grammar in order for it to be effective.
#4. Stay out of the passive voice whenever possible. “I will write this content today.” That’s active voice. “This content will be completed by the end of the day by me.” That’s passive voice. Active writing creates confidence. It inspires accountability. That’s not to say that passive voice is bad. It’s just a way to offer yourself a method of escape as a writer if someone happens to disagree with what you’ve written.
Being intelligent with your writing means that you are writing for your reader. Sounding smart with your writing means that you’re writing for yourself. So think about what the reader needs, provide that, and your writing will improve.
How do you avoid the traps of sounding smart when you write? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.