for a strong, fast pick-me-up
How these techniques really work in making business writing more engaging and insightful.
Here’s how tweaking tense will have a huge impact and improve YOUR writing.
In related posts (links below) I share how I help serious financial organisations and super-smart analysts improve their reports – by tweaking their tense.
I also fly to Singapore to help big global banks make their writing sound more insightful and stand out from competitors’ offerings.
I show these super-smart financial experts how to write with a future angle – but they are timid and cautious. What happens if they are wrong?
Do you ever work with similar types? (I used to write in this cautious way when I was a lawyer. The passive and wordy style is drummed into you!)
These professionals don’t want to risk a prediction. They prefer to stick to the old safe “this has happened’ style of writing that sounds like “old news” without any insight for future impact guidance for the reader. As a former lawyer – I understand caution and how you need to qualify everything you say or write. Writing about the past is safe – it has happened – it’s known- it’s certain!
But there’s a solution!
I share the old journalism technique – as you have seen in earlier posts on how reporters naturally write in more engaging and more urgent tenses.
Imagine this said in a nasal Get Smart voice. (I hope you know who Get Smart is!) Most of my senior clients are of the vintage generational cohort that is familiar with Get Smart!
“The old “future tense as a question” trick!”
So instead of something like:
Japan has printED more money (old news)
write something like:
Australia’s car industry to fold?
Will Japanese cash splash kill off Holden?
YOU can explore the future impact and “protect” with a question mark.
It’s not a statement of fact – it’s a question!
You’re not guaranteeing it will happen – you are posing it as a possibility. We will have to wait and see if it happens.
Reporters can often be dramatic and use urgent expressions like KILL OFF and pose it as a question.
In a future post I’ll write about how business professions can be too dull and “annoyingly accurate” in their writing.
But, don’t you have to be accurate? Here’s what I mean by “annoyingly accurate”
For example, annoyingly accurate types say:
Holden is a corporate entity and thus cannot be “killed” as a person can be killed. That is the whole purpose of the legal concept of incorpration and the legal benefits of the “corporate veil”. Interestingly, the word corporation is derived from the Latin “corpus” which means body – but a corporation has no body and the cannot be killed. The original Latin meaning was not a human body but a body of people coming together … (and on and on and on)
I encourage these sorts of people to loosen up and use more dramatic and human expressions like KILL OFF. These type can get great comfort in the “future tense as a question” trick!
I encourage you to pay more attention to how the media uses present and future tense and the old “Future tense as a question” trick!
Here are links to the other 3 parts of this tense “series”
More tense examples in this background information about:
So who is writing this? (I’ve already written it – but I write in a present tense. Old “reporter habit”!)
Hi, I’m Tony Biancotti and I’m a lawyer turned journalist and business communication consultant. (You’ll note that I don’t say I WAS a lawyer or used to be a lawyer – I AM a lawyer turned journalist…)
Sure, I’m a bit of a “nerd” when it comes to business communication – but I get (present tense ) lots of feedback that people like my enthusiastic knowledge of and passion for the power of words and images and techniques of engaging people.