“The biggest single problem in communications is the illusion that it has taken place.” Read that last week and cheered.
The notion that the simple act of delivering a press release or conference speech means “communication” can be struck off the To Do list is as common as it’s deadly. It’s why outputs (number of releases/ size of events) are often used to measure success when it’s outcomes (changing behaviour/ converting enquiries into sales) which matter. I’ve written before about how difficult proper evaluation is, but without it you don’t know if you’re actually communicating or just talking to yourself.
Discussing the shortcomings of the Star Wars films over breakfast (we’re a cultured family) my husband claimed that Harrison Ford once waved his script at George Lucas snarling: “you know George, you can type this stuff, but you sure as hell can’t say it.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is as good a definition of bad writing as I’ve heard. It’s stuff you can’t say when you read it out. Dense and knotty, sprouting jargon in every dangling clause, bad writing defeats good actors and casual readers alike.
Write it. Cut it. Cut it again. Read it aloud. You’ll be amazed.
From recent personal experience – as the disgruntled supplier – I suggest:
If they owe you
- Be reasonable. Times are tough, people generally do the decent thing. Anyway hitting hurricane force immediately leaves nowhere to go.
- Be persistent.
- Know your rights.
If you owe them:
- Don’t hide. Ignoring email, phone messages or carrier pigeons sent to chase the debt won’t work. Like Arnie, they’ll be back. Keeping people in the dark infuriates them. There’s good advice here.
- Be honest, explain, offer to pay a bit at a time to show good will.
- Get help.
- Remember, no-one believes “the cheque’s in the post”.