Writing tip: Just say what you mean

Somewhere around the year 2006, my writing style was influenced by the CIO of a company I was working with. When trying to get a new project started, a project manager gave me a very vague description of what he wanted, and as a result, the cost estimate and Statement of Work I wrote (so I would get paid) was vague as well.

The CIO called me to her office, and then told me that I didn’t have to write anything fancy, I just had to “say what I mean.” Since then, that simple approach has been a key to my writing style.

In this particular situation I learned that I couldn’t “say what I mean” because I didn’t understand what the project manager wanted me to do. I took that as an opportunity to go back and ask him very specifically what he wanted, which helped not only my text but the project as well.

Similarly, when I’m writing about computer programming and have trouble expressing myself clearly, I always find that it’s because I don’t understand the subject well enough to write about it clearly. Whenever I find myself tap-dancing around a subject I think of that old quote, “Just say what you mean,” and one way or another, it helps to clarify my thinking.