When a friend is sounding off, perhaps about a failed relationship or annoying boss, you may sometimes be tempted to say, “Listen to yourself!” What you mean is, stop and get some perspective on what you’re saying – hear yourself as others hear you.
“Listen to yourself” is good advice if you want to improve your writing, too.
Often writing lacks the freshness and immediacy of spoken communication. For some reason I’ve never been able to understand, we tend to use longer words and more complex constructions when we write. We often bury the most important information in a thick padding of words. Warmth and sense of humour evaporate.
A good antidote is simply to read what you’ve written aloud. Chances are, you’ll be quite surprised by what you hear. But that’s not me, you may think – I’m not a formal, uninteresting person. (Secretly we all believe we’re cool and funky.) Or you may realize that your message is being lost in a thicket of fancy words and complicated sentences.
So how do you fix it? By following that classic piece of writing advice: Write like you talk, only better. Really. It works.