Our parents try to raise us right. They tell us to be kind, smiles will get us further than frowns, and that we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Then we have real life where you really do not have a second chance to make a first impression and people form their first impression of you in less than a second.
So, what do you do when the first impression of you is your writing?
Dazzle them with your brilliance, of course!
My tag line wouldn’t be, “Putting your brilliance on the page” if it were that easy. My 3rd Commandment of Writing wouldn’t be, “Just because you speak brilliantly, doesn’t me you write brilliantly” if it were that easy.
Writing is hard! Writing for yourself is beyond hard!
I frequently talk and write about the difference between speaking and writing. Generally, a person has a preferred form of communication and they do well with that form. However, regardless of preference, when you’re trying to make a good impression speaking and writing take on a whole new level of complexity.
Are You Presenting Yourself Intelligently?
Do you know what you’re talking/writing about, or are you making it up as you go? For the most part, people can tell when you have no clue and you lose impression points the longer you go on.
It is OK to admit you do not know something! In fact, honestly tends to gain you impression points. If you cannot bring yourself to use the words, “I don’t know,” there are alternatives. “I’d have to double check.” “Can I get back to you on that?” Or start off with disclaimers like, “I suspect” or “I believe.”
Presenting yourself as an intelligent human being includes knowing the limits of your knowledge. And, in case you’ve forgotten, facts do not equate intelligence.
Are You Presenting Yourself Like a Snob?
I’ll say it again, facts do not equate intelligence. If you are just spewing facts more people will be annoyed than impressed and you lose points.
The tone of your words has power. While tone of voice can be a very obvious cudgel of snobbishness, word selection can also be abusive. So, while your voice cannot betray you in your writing, your words can. For example, my use of cudgel. Not everyone knows that a cudgel is a bat or club used as specifically as a weapon. So it was sort of snobby of me to use it. And, it fit so well, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Are You Too Smart?
OK, maybe “too smart” isn’t the correct term, it’s the one I’m using though. This goes back to my argument that once a person becomes an expert they lose the ability to coherently discuss the basics. Unless your audience is at a similar level of knowledge on the topic, how you normally write or speak about it is going to be over their heads – losing impression points.
The Nice Thing About Writing
Because writing tends to be a process, you have the time to craft a message that will make a stunning first impression. It’s certainly better than being introduced to the client of your dreams just after shoving a slightly-to-large finger sandwich in your mouth.
There is a balance necessary. You want to demonstrate that you know your stuff without coming off as a know-it-all. Similarly, you must understand your audience so that you can use a vocabulary that will resonate rather than repel.
Another good thing about using your writing to make a first impression, people might just ignore that stain on your shirt when you meet them in person.
Good article. Speaking doesn’t require commas, and writing doesn’t require, or maybe does but how, that pause to let a comment sink in.
The style difference bit in the letter was also a good reminder, Lorrie.