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Unraveling Charlotte’s Web

My love affair with E.B White began early.  My first literary tears were shed reading Charlotte’s Web and I subsequently delighted in reading it aloud to my children. I have experienced profound connection reading White’s essays and books. When I read The Elements of Style, I was amazed that a style manual could be both entertaining and instructional. And I was equally amazed at how much of the writing advice correlates directly to public speakers. Here are some choice examples:

1. “Vigorous writing is concise.”

So is a great presentation. We rarely wish people spoke longer and in fact usually wish they had been more to the point.

2. “Make definite assertions.”

How often do we feel unclear about where a presentation is going or what the main message is?

Say it clearly and often.

3. “Use definite, specific, concrete language.”

Good speakers embellish their messages with colorful, specific examples and stories to enliven our interest and retention.  No vague generalities, please.

4. “Write in a way that comes naturally”

Speak as yourself, in your own voice.  Lack of authenticity undermines a speaker’s credibility.

5. “Avoid fancy words.”

My own personal pet peeve. Say it plainly for everyone to understand. Simple does notmean simplistic.

6. “Use the active voice.”

If you are going to ask me to listen to you, then I expect you to speak both in the active voice and with energy.

I would love to hear from you about:

1)      Your thoughts on E.B. White and/or

2)      Have you read The Elements of Style?

– Charlotte

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