The world would be a very different place if we had to carefully review our thoughts, statements and written words before putting them out for the public to see or hear and eventually react.
While this practice is routine for many professionals, it’s imperative for litigators like Jack Greiner, attorney at Graydon and First Amendment specialist. Greiner, who serves on Vehr’s Board of Advisors, joined us in the office over lunch to catch up and field our team’s questions about communications law.
Of Greiner’s many words of wisdom, one came in the form of a reminder from a new perspective: “Prosecute the story,” he said.
It doesn’t have to be a story (and you certainly don’t have to go to court) but Greiner’s advice is a refreshing take on a key principle for communicators on any level. Grammar and punctuation are important, sure, but the real focus should be on understanding the overall message, its audience and what’s at stake. Next time you’re unsure about submitting a draft of any kind and want to make sure you get it right, put your work on trial like Greiner and ask yourself these questions:
- What’s my source? The one fundamental more important than grammar is fact-checking. If you don’t have your facts straight, the rest of your work means that much less and is often jeopardized completely. Always make sure to check for spelling of all names and proper nouns, as well as any quotes and numerical figures, one sentence or fact at a time. If using online tools, ensure they are credible and unbiased.
- Could this be interpreted another way? You can never be too careful with your wording because someone could disagree or have some sort of predisposition. You must look at it from all perspectives to fully comprehend what you want to say and how others may respond. This keeps you honest and neutral, leaving little chance for any confused or disgruntled readers.
- How can I improve or build on this? It’s always safe to express an idea in the simplest terms possible, especially when familiarity around a subject is lacking. At Vehr, we often share our messaging or content with colleagues who don’t have background on a particular topic to ensure they understand the point we’re trying to make. If confidentiality isn’t an issue, we’ve even been known to get opinions from friends or family members. Feedback can be helpful in deciding what can be trimmed or cut completely, and what needs a more extensive explanation to avoid conflict in your writing.
- Is this a story I should be telling? Depending on what’s happening in the world, the community or within an organization, it may not be in your best interest to tell a particular story you have in mind. Perhaps you’re not the right messenger or the timing is all wrong. Or maybe it could damage your reputation. Before going to press, think about the potential outcomes of sharing your story.
Even when you’re confident in what you’ve drafted, it’s always helpful to walk through this process and maximize your work’s potential.