Why You Should Not Use Nominalisations When You Write

According to About Grammar, a nominalisation is a word formation in which a verb (or other part of speech) is used as (or transformed into) a noun. It is also called nouning. For example, 'argument' is a nominalisation of 'argue'. They are often used in academic and corporate writing.

The endings of nominalisations vary, but most of them end in one of these: 
Here are some examples:

Why are they bad for your writing? 

A nominalisation is a type of abstract noun. An abstract noun denotes an idea, quality, emotion, or state. It is something that is not concrete. It takes the power away from the original verb.

When we write in plain language, we try to avoid nominalisations, because they make sentences unclear. If we use them, we have to use more words in our sentences. They drain the life out of our writing.  

In fact, nominalisations are often used in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) to induce a light trance. 'If we use lots of nominalisations together, the mind is not sure exactly what is being said and so it drifts off and gets distracted...' (source

When they are used instead of verbs, it sounds as if nothing is happening in the sentence. Here are some examples:
The distribution of the resources was set for inclusion in the discussion
is weaker than
We discussed how we would distribute the resources. 

The results from the gathering of the data were used for the formulation of questions.
is weaker than
We gathered data to formulate questions.

The implementation of the method allowed for the stoppage of waste. 
is weaker than
The team implemented the method to stop the waste.
If you want people to pay attention to your writing, do not use too many nominalisations.

Resource: Purdue OWL

If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme

 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Pinterest,  Google+,  LinkedIn,  and on Twitter:  @amandaonwriting

If you enjoyed this article, read:


Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

From Passive Voice To Active Voice - How To Spot It & How To Change It

We live in a country that has 11 official languages. There is a good chance that either the writer or the reader of any given document is a second language English speaker. This makes the use of Plain Language even more valuable.

The advantages of being bilingual, or even multilingual, are endless. Your brain actually works differently, but it does mean you have to work hard to use the correct grammar.  

Plain language guidelines encourage the use of active voice, simpler words, and shorter sentences and paragraphs. 

You need to simplify your message, and you can only do that if you understand exactly what you want to say. There is no room for ambiguity with plain language. 

Plain language is almost the opposite of academic writing and that is where the challenge lies. You are so used to writing and reading in this style that it makes passive voice hard to spot. Remember that it is the word order you want to change. 

Subject-Verb-Object = Active  
The CEO made the announcement. 

Object-Verb-Subject = Passive 
The announcement was made by the CEO. 

Object-Verb = Passive 
The announcement was made. 

How to change passive voice to active voice: 
  1. Check sentence length. The longer your sentences are, the more likely you are to lapse into the passive voice. Reduce your sentence length. Split them, if necessary.
  2. Identify the subject. Who is the doer in the sentence? The subject should be first. Simply ask: who does what?
  3. Identify the verb. It’ll help you to identify the subject.
  4. Identify the object. If the sentence is passive the object will be first.
  5. Rewrite to follow the subject-verb-object order.
  6. What if there is no subject? At times, we do not know who did what. If there is no subject you might have to leave the sentence in the passive voice, but try to figure out who is responsible.   
Exercise: Change these sentences into the active voice.
The report was written by Mr Jones. 
ACTIVE: Mr Jones wrote the report. 

The annual results were released by the auditors on the 23rd of June and the board was relieved when the markets rallied and the share price increased. 
ACTIVE: The auditors released the annual results on the 23rd of June. The markets rallied and the share price increased, much to the relief of the board. 

The line managers were instructed by the CEO to re-evaluate the evacuation protocols of the factory. 
ACTIVE: The CEO instructed the line managers to re-evaluate the evacuation protocols of the factory. 

The Hemingway App will help to identify passive voice . You can also use readability statistics in Microsoft Word. 

If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. August Writing Prompts
  2. What Writers Can Learn From The Coolest Podcasts On The Web
  3. World-Building For Every Genre: The Ultimate Setting Checklist


    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

    5 Fool Proof Ways To Write Better Emails

    We sent more than 205 billion emails to each other in 2015.  Researchers believe this will increase to 246 billion by 2019.

    To make our lives easier, we need to improve the way we write and respond to emails. We need to save time by asking the correct questions and by giving the right answers. 

    This includes writing a great subject line (if you are unsure of how to write a great subject line, read The 12 Worst Mistakes People Make In Email Subject Lines) and signing off professionally (read Why 'Best' Is The Worst Way To End Your Email). 

    In this post, I want to show you five ways to improve your general email writing skills: 
    1. Keep it simple. Use short sentences and easily understood words. Research shows people respond to shorter emails written with a Grade 3 level on your readability statistics. Do not use texting language. Use proper spelling, punctuation and grammar.
    2. Keep it short. We all avoid long emails and respond to the shorter ones first. Reading a long email is time-consuming and annoying. Get to the point.
    3. Be positively neutral. Tone is important. (Read 155 Words To Describe An Author's Tone.) As I said, get to the point, but you do not have to be abrupt. Be polite, but not overly friendly. Avoid emojis and emoticons. They make you look unprofessional.
    4. Ask/Answer a question. This is the main reason people send business emails. Use the five w’s and the one h (who, what, where, when, why, and how) if you struggle to compose an email. You will usually want to ask or answer one of these questions. Do not ask more than three questions in your email.
    5. Be specific. Start with the most important information. There is no time to build up to it in emails. People skim when they read electronically. Avoid vague timelines and deadlines so that you do not have to write another email.
    Your emails will also improve if you:
    1. Remove qualifiers. Words like ‘very’ and ‘almost’ confuse people.
    2. Remove redundant words and phrases. Follow this link for 50 redundant phrases we should avoid.
    3. Remove apologetic words like ‘just’ and ‘sorry’. These will put business clients off and they sound unprofessional. Examples: I am just sending you this to ask… Sorry to bother you, but…
    4. Leave out ridiculous words and phrases, such as:
    • ‘Honestly.’ – Does this mean you were being anything other than honest before?
    • ‘In my opinion.’ – Unless you are channelling somebody else’s opinion?
    • ‘Please find attached.’ - This is not a treasure hunt. Rather say, ‘I have attached…’
    • ‘Have a good day further.’ - Further than what? I am not sure if this is a uniquely South African phrase, but it does not make sense and it wastes time.
    • ‘Please do not hesitate to contact me’ - Unless we are talking about a matter of life and death. ‘Please contact me’ works.

    If you are interested in learning how to improve your writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme. Send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for details.

     by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

    If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:

    1. But How Did The Email Make You Feel?
    2. 5 Tips To Help You Avoid The Most Annoying Email Pet Peeves
    3. The Top Seven Tips for Writing Emails
    © Amanda Patterson

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    12 Lessons Writers Can Learn From Famous Speeches

    Last week I shared 3 Simple Tips For Delivering A Memorable Speech. Today I am going to show you examples of brilliant speeches and why they work.

    Speech Writing Part Four: Famous Speeches And Why They Work

    Seven Techniques That Make You Remember A Speech

    A good speech usually contains the following: 
    1. Rhetorical questions
    2. Repetition
    3. Lists of three
    4. Contrasts
    5. Emotive language
    6. Direct address - the name of the person or persons being directly spoken to
    7. Evidence (statistics, quotations, examples)
    Look at this example of a speech to a group of students. (From the BBC) The highlighted sections show how the writer uses the techniques from the list above.
    Fellow students, have you ever felt afraid to walk around the school by yourself? (1) 
    In a recent survey carried out by the school council, 70 per cent (7) of us have been bullied at some time in our life at school.
    The bullies are vicious, violent and vindictive (3). Unfortunately, they are getting away with it. (4) 
    Can this be fair? (5)
    We, the victims, are afraid of wearing the wrong trainers. We are afraid of being too smart or too stupid. We are afraid of anything that might draw attention to ourselves. (6)
    The time has come for the fear to stop.
    The bullies terrify other students, and yet they are cowards (4) themselves.
    If we pull together we can fight this fear. Join me and fight this fear (2) today.
    Take the list of seven techniques and see how many have been used in speeches you remember. Include them when you are writing a speech. They work. 

    Five Things Famous Speeches Have In Common

    Great speeches share some similarities. They are part of a process that changes a company's direction, shows the leadership potential of a personality, or forms a nation's destiny. 

    Memorable speeches need to: 
    1. Make people believe – Thabo Mbeki’s ‘I am an African’ speech is widely recognised as one of the most profound and beautiful that has been worded from the continent. This speech inspired people to believe in a prosperous, fair, corruption-free future for all the people of Africa - regardless of their heritage. (Watch part of the speech here)
    2. Be memorable - British prime minister Tony Blair was famous for making a speech that included the phrase 'Education, education, education'. This repetition made the speech memorable and helped his audience identify his key point.
    3. Inspire people – Winston Churchill’s ‘On the beaches’ and ‘Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat’ speeches inspired the people of Great Britain to put up with years of grief, rationing, and bombing during World War II.
    4. Make people notice you – Barack Obama’s keynote address for The 2004 Democratic National Convention is regarded as the speech that made him president. He speaks of the American dream in all its complexity and vision, and shows how it resonates for every person in that conference hall. (Watch part of the speech here) The leader of the opposition in South Africa, Mmusi Maimane, responded to the State of the Nation Address in 2016 with this speech 'Planet Zuma: Somewhere in a galaxy far, far away'. The memorable speech showcased Maimane's ability to get the nation's attention and to show how out of touch with reality the president is. (Watch part of the speech here)  
    5. Make people think - Martin Luther King repeated the phrase 'I have a dream' when he campaigned for equal rights for black Americans. This was a speech designed to inspire and connect with his audience. (Watch part of the speech here)
    Excerpt from Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech
    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
    I have a dream today!
    I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
    I have a dream today!
    Watch out for next week's post, Part Five: A Speech Writer's Checklist

    If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

     by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

    If you enjoyed this post, read:


    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

    3 Top Tips For Delivering A Sensational Speech

    Last week I gave you A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing A Speech. Today I am going to give you three tips that will help you to show a speaker how to deliver a speech.

    Speech Writing Part Three: Delivering The Speech

    Tip One - Say It Out Loud

    You must practice reading your speech out loud, because:
    1. You will find out how long it is. Remember, the shorter it is the better it will be.
    2. You will hear things your eyes do not see. For example, there are sometimes too many influential speakers who tend to utilise phrases and empirical data along with a lot of extraneous ideas and embellishments that they definitely believe add to the integrity and greatly enhance the value of what they are saying, but as you can see from this sentence that goes on forever and makes no sense, this is not a good idea.
    3. You will hear accidental tongue-twisters. For example: 'When you write copy you have the right to copyright the copy you write.' This sentence is difficult to read aloud. 
    Tip Two - Simplify

    After you have read the first draft of your speech aloud, go back and remove unnecessary words. Ask yourself if it sounds interesting. Is it appropriate for your audience? Remove jargon, slang and words that are too difficult for most people to understand.

    Tip Three - Mark Up The Script

    Marking a written speech means actually making marks on the page to help you remember how you want to sound. Professional announcers, newscasters, and actors do this all the time. People who deliver good speeches also do this.
    1. Underline words that you want to emphasise by saying them louder or with more energy. 
    2. Mark places where you want to pause for dramatic effect, or where you need to take a breath.
    3. There are no special marks for this. You need to make up your own. For example, you could use a ‘P’ if you want to pause.

    This is an example of a marked-up script. The words are from a speech by American President John F. Kennedy. Can you tell how it was meant to be said from the marks?

    Four Presentation Tips For The Speaker
    1. Use body language that makes you look comfortable. If you show signs of nervousness, like crossing your arms, or clutching your hands in front of your stomach, your audience will be less open to your message.
    2. Slow down. Try to speak slowly and clearly in a voice that is loud without shouting.
    3. Speak as if you mean it. Speak with enough emotion that people will want to listen. Practise speaking with conviction. Include some pauses and emphasise your key points with your voice. Successful public speakers use passion and emotion. If you are excited, your audience will respond.
    4. Make eye contact. Look up from your paper whenever you can. Your goal is to engage your audience and make them feel as if you are addressing them personally. 

    If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

     by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

    If you enjoyed this post, read:


    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

    The Complete Beginner's Guide To Writing A Speech

    Last week I started my series on speech writing with What People Expect From A Speech. Today I am going to give you a foolproof guide that will help you structure the speech.

    Speech Writing Part Two: How To Write The Speech

    Who Will Deliver The Speech?

    Make sure you write a speech that fits the personality, speech patterns, and competency level of the speaker. If you do not know the person, try to arrange a short interview with them. Find out who they are, what tone suits them, and what they want to communicate.

    Persuade With A Classic Structure

    The classic structure of a persuasive speech is to state a problem and offer a solution.
    • In the first part of your speech you state: 'This is the problem.' 
    • In the second part of your speech you cover: 'This is what we can do to fix it or make things better.' 
    How To Write The Speech - A Step-By-Step Guide
    1. Answer the five W's and the one H about the topic: who, what, where, when, why, and how.
    2. Write your main ideas down, including your research, data and quotations.
    3. Make a linear timeline for the speech, linking the points together making sure that they flow in a smooth, logical progression. Do not move away from this linear format. If you do, you will digress and lose the message.
    4. Write your introduction, including the hook you want to use to get your audience to listen to you.
    5. Write your ending, briefly summarising your main ideas. If you want your audience to do something, end with a call for action. 
    6. Remember the length of a speech, as explained in What People Expect From A Speech is important.
    7. An easy way to explain the process is as follows:

      • Tell them what you're going to tell them (Introduction) 15%
      • Tell them (Body of your speech - the main ideas plus examples) 70%
      • Tell them what you told them (The ending) 15%

    About The Introduction

    Do not waste time. People make the mistake of starting speeches by effusively thanking everybody and telling us how happy they are to be there. It is a good idea to explain quickly what your main point is going to be. That helps the audience know what to listen for. Then start with a statistic, or a question to interact with the audience. 

    All good speeches are only about one thing. Get straight into the story and tell the audience what you’re going to tell them.

    About The Body 

    Nobody likes to be bored. Imagine yourself in your audience's shoes. What would you like to hear from the speaker? Do not put too much information into your speech. If people read a newspaper or a blog, and do not understand something, they read it again. They cannot do this with a speech. Get it right the first time. 

    Avoid abstract ideas. People are interested in concrete details. Do not say: We must improve education standards. Do say: We will upgrade 500 existing schools in 2016. We have asked Minister X to ensure that all school supplies are delivered on time.
    Remember you are not writing a formal essay. People will hear the speech and it should sound conversational. 

    Five Tips To Make Sure You Succeed In The Middle:
    1. Use shorter sentences. It is better to write two simple sentences than one long, complicated sentence.
    2. Use contractions. Say 'I'm' instead of 'I am', and 'we're' instead of 'we are'.
    3. Do not use big words when simple ones do the work for you. 
    4. Never use jargon or acronyms.
    5. You do not have to follow all the rules of written English grammar strictly, for example, you can use fragments.
    About The Ending

    End by answering the question you asked at the beginning. Then tell everybody what you have told them – listeners need you to do this. End your speech on a positive note. This is what they will remember. 

    Watch out for next week's post, Part Three: Delivering The Speech

    If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

     by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

    If you enjoyed this post, read:


    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

    5 Important Things You Need to Know About Writing Speeches

    Are you intimidated when faced with the prospect of writing a speech? The good news is that it is a skill that can be learnt and it is a great addition for writers to have on their resumes. It is also something that other people will pay you to write for them.

    And who knows? You may have to write one for yourself when you finally win that literary award or launch your book.

    I am going to write a series of five posts about speech writing over the next few weeks. I will include what your audience wants from a speech, how to write a speech, how to deliver a speech, examples of brilliant speeches and why they work, and a checklist to tie them all together.

    Speech Writing Part One: What People Expect From A Speech 

    1. What Is Your Intention?
    Why are you writing the speech? Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is so true. When we think about people, the first thing we remember is our emotional response to them.

    Whatever you write, bear in mind that your audience will mostly take away a feeling from the speech, so it is important that you elicit the response you want with the words you choose.
    2. What Does Your Audience Want?
    Audiences expect two things from a speaker: A path and a destination. They want to know where you are going and why they should listen to you. It is a good idea to tell them what you will be covering and why they need to know it at the beginning of the speech. 

    Tip: Focus on structure and simplicity. Remove anything that is confusing, extraneous, and contradictory. If it does not help you get your core message across, remove it.
    3. How Do You Keep It Simple?
    When you write a speech, you have two objectives. You need to make a good impression and you need to leave your audience with two or three points that they will remember.

    Speeches are one of the most inefficient and ineffective forms of communicating. People rarely remember what you say, so you should focus on one message with one theme and a story to illustrate it.
    4. Which Facts Should You Include?
    It helps persuade people if you have statistics or other facts in your speech, but do not use too many. People will become bored if you do. You can also use a quotation from somebody else that the audience likes and respects. Again, one quotation is plenty.
    5. How Long Should It Be?
    An important speech should be no more than 10 minutes long. Five is better. If you are aiming for seven minutes, your prepared speech should be shorter than that so you can factor in time for pauses and audience responses.
    Watch out for next week's post, The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Writing A Speech.

    If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

     by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

    If you enjoyed this post, read:


    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

    33 Creative Ways To Brainstorm Ideas

    We believe in the cult of creativity at Writers Write. It is often the only thing standing between the majority of us and the abyss. 

    We live in a world that is over-populated by consumers and we all need to create to redress this imbalance. Living a creative life helps us to stay sane in an insane world. We can paint, create new recipes, garden, draw, write. These outlets ground us and keep us from mindlessly consuming. 

    I believe that everybody can be creative. Creativity is simply making something that was not there before. Once we embrace creativity, it will spill over into all areas of our lives including business. 

    Anthony Ehlers writes, 'Creativity is about exploring your curiosity, seeing the world with new eyes and finding possibilities all around you. And then, most importantly, writing it down.' (Five Creative Ways To Make Your Story More Powerful)

    Mia Botha writes, 'Creativity is what sets you apart in business. We have been raised in a society that does not value or does not prioritise creativity. Doctors, lawyers and accountants have the same degrees. What makes one better than the other? Passion, dedication, work ethic, and creativity all play a role. Experimentation and the willingness to take risks are part and parcel of a creative mind.' (How Being Creative at Work Improves Your Writing)

    Are you feeling uninspired? Perhaps one of these tips will give you ideas on how to brainstorm ideas.

    Source: Slideshare

    If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

     by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

    If you enjoyed this post, read:


    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

    10 Incredibly Simple Ways To Improve Your Business Writing Style

    We define a writer’s style through his or her word choice and syntax (the order of words in a sentence). In business writing, we should choose words and sentence structures that convey our messages in the most effective way. The best way to do this is by writing simply and professionally. 

    Sometimes, our writing can be too monotonous and it ends up boring the reader. Here are 10 simple ways to improve your business writing style:

    1. Avoid using the same word at the beginning of every sentence.

    If you start every sentence in the same way, the reader will stop paying attention.
    Do not write: I like my colleagues. I enjoy working for my company. I am happy with my job.
    Do write: I am happy with my job. Working for my company, and working with my colleagues, is enjoyable.
    2. Avoid repetitive sentence structures.

    Vary your sentence lengths. Use simple, complex, and compound sentences. If every sentence you write is five words long, your reader will become bored. Read this to see how annoying it can be: The Importance of Varying Sentence Length. Use short sentences and longer sentences to make sure your reader is paying attention.
    Do not write: The directors went to the conference. They met with all their counterparts. They had a busy schedule.
    Do write: The directors went to the conference. Although they had a busy schedule, they enjoyed meeting their counterparts. 
    3. Avoid phrases and words that do not sound like you.

    If you do not say words like ‘preposterous’ and ‘judicious’ when you speak, do not include them in your writing. 

    4. Do not overuse adjectives and adverbs.

    When you pad your writing with unnecessary modifiers and qualifiers, your reader's attention will wander.
    Do not write: He was absolutely, completely and utterly exhausted after the journey.
    Do write: He was exhausted after the journey. 
    5. Avoid slang.

    Only use slang in direct speech, and only if you are reporting exactly what somebody has said. Even then, it is better to avoid it. It puts readers off.
    Do not write: The managers took a break after the director told them to chill at the bar.
    Do write: The director asked the managers to take a break and relax at the bar.
    6. Avoid overused words.

    Create lists of alternative words for the ones you use most in your writing. Warning: Do not swap them for more complicated words. Simply have a user-friendly selection of synonyms. (Have a look at this list for ideas.) The more you write, the more aware you will become of repeating them.

    7. Avoid clichés and jargon.

    Do not use phrases such as 'think outside the box', 'a win-win situation', 'low-hanging fruit', 'touching base', and 'pushing the envelope'. Say what you mean or your readers will become as tired as the expressions you are using. 

    8. Avoid redundancy and tautology.

    Do not use superfluous and unnecessary words or statements.
    Do not write: I thought to myself.
    Do write: I thought.
    Do not write: She said it repeatedly, over and over again.
    Do write: She repeated it.
    Do not write: He was overjoyed and ecstatic to be there.
    Do write: He was overjoyed to be there. 
    9. Avoid wordiness.

    Do not use too many words if you can say the same thing using fewer words. Do not use big words to show off. This shows your inexperience as a writer. Use the simplest word that gets your message across.
    Do not say: Sarah needed to think ahead and plan comprehensively, because she had to make sure of the correctness of every detail, figure and fact, as well as the names of the delegates in order for the conference to run smoothly.
    Do say:  Sarah needed to plan the conference so that everything ran smoothly.

    You may know what COO, B2B, B2C, ERP, and QC mean, but there are many people who have no idea what you are talking about. If you do this, they will waste time looking up the meanings, or they will simply ignore your email.

    If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

     by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  LinkedIn,  Google+,  Tumblr,  and  Twitter.

    If you enjoyed this post, read:


    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

    'I’m Speechless' — What Are The 4 Rs Of Speech Writing?

    ‘It usually takes three weeks to prepare an impromptu speech.’ ~Mark Twain

    What are the four Rs of speech writing?
    1. Research ─ Find out what you’re going to be writing about.
    2. Rapport ─ Pinpoint the common dominator. Make an emotional or intellectual connection with audience.
    3. Reach ─  Involve the audience in the speech. Persuade. Convert. Compel to action.
    4. Resonance ─ Make the words live on after the speech. Echo a theme or key phrase.
    1.  Research
    Before you start to compose a speech, get a brief or do background research. Find pertinent literature or open up good ol’ Google. Let's take these two topics:
    Fact: Gauteng is SA’s smallest province with the biggest population.
    Fact: The first Fashion Week was held in New York in 1943.
    Ask yourself:
    1. Who is the speaker?
    2. What is the purpose of the speech?
    3. How much time do you have to deliver the speech? 
    TIP: Narrow your key message into one salient and punchy sentence. Keep it in front of you as you write.

    2.  Rapport
    It is important to keep your audience in mind when you are writing a speech. The speech has to build a bond with them. The aim is to get them to listen.  Imagine a Joe Dlamini or Jane Winter in the crowd – speak to him directly, engage with her on an emotional level.
    Imagine that Joe is an entrepreneur from Soweto.
    Imagine that Jane is a fashion student from Sandton.
    Ask yourself:
    1. Why is he there to listen to the speech?
    2. What is her socio-economic and educational background?
    TIP: Use words like ‘We’ rather ‘I’. Be inclusive.

    3.  Reach
    The aim of a speech is to reach the audience.  To evoke an emotion or mark a celebration, elicit a response or call-to-action, to educate or inform – or a combination of all three.
    Message to Joe: Sign up for the Gauteng Entrepreneur Award. Win cash and training.
    Message to Jane:  Welcome to SA Fashion Week. Be inspired.
    Ask yourself:
    1. What is the desired outcome of the speech?
    2. What is the tone?
    3. What do you want the audience to do or feel as a result of listening to the speech?
    TIP: Tell the audience what they will get out of the speech up front. Get them excited. Open with a teaser, a bang, a hook.

    4.  Resonance
    A great speech lives in on the minds of the audience long after the speaker has stepped down from the podium. It can be used in other media and PR initiatives. It has the power to reach and influence more than just the audience that was there on the day. Finish with a statement that will carry over like an aftershock or an ‘echo’.
    Joe’s echo: “I want to be the best entrepreneur in Jozi. I’m going to lead the way.”
    Jane’s echo: “I’m home. I belong in the fashion industry. I’m the future.”
    Ask yourself:
    1. How can you create a theme or metaphor?
    2. Can you develop a story the audience can take to friends, social networks etc?
    3. Can you create a catch phrase that will be taken up by others?
    4. How do you merchandise the content of the speech?
    TIP: Use storytelling techniques. Create a metaphor. Repeat key phrases for impact.

    If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

     by Anthony Ehlers

    If you enjoyed this post, read:


    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate