Storytelling Tip: Listen to What You Write
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s Tips for Telling Your Story on the Experience Pros Radio Show
Listen to the Radio Version
By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
Listen to what you write. Good writing, like good music, has a natural rhythm. If it doesn’t sound right, start editing.
Some poetry follows a specific pattern of rhyme and meter. So, it’s easy to tell when a line is off even if you don’t know why. You can hear the problem. For the same reason, you don’t have to be a musician to tell when a singer hits the wrong note. It doesn’t sound right.
I’m not suggesting you become a poet, using rhymes and iambic pentameter — or whatever. I am suggesting you listen to what you write. And change it if it doesn’t sound right.
What are you listening for? One place to start is punctuation. Do your periods, commas and dashes provide natural breathing spaces for someone reading out loud? If not, it’s time to consider whether your writing is out of rhythm.
Short sentences are usually better than long ones for a lot of reasons. One reason is rhythm. Many times, long sentences are undisciplined sentences. When reading out loud, do you need to breathe more than once per sentence? Then your sentences are too long. Consider breaking some of them into two or three sentences instead.
Short or long, don’t make all your sentences the same length. That’s boring. Short sentences are easier to read. But too many of them lined up back to back can sound a bit abrupt.
One more thought about rhythm and writing. It’s a little trick I learned as a speechwriter before I knew it had a name: The Rule of Threes. Truth, Justice and the American Way. Red, white and blue. For some reason, listing things in threes usually sounds better than listing them in twos or groups of four or more. And lists of three are easier to understand and remember. Why? I don’t know. But it works.
That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?
Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.
Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros radio show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet.