How to Write Your Way Through a Pandemic
We knew there would be masks and homeschooling and fervent hand washing. We were prepared to read apocalyptic headlines and go Kondo on our closets. But nobody warned us about the writing. So much writing.
Social distancing has forced us to put our thoughts into writing more than we ever have had to before. The end of coffee-shop sightings and desk drop-bys means more texts, more emails, more penned arguments that Carole Baskin did, in fact, feed her husband to the tigers. Not to mention all the now utterly irrelevant brand communications from Before that now have to be — lord help us — REwritten.
So what better time, we figured, to share a few of Thread’s writing tricks.
These are the same devices our staff writers use here at the studio. We limited it to three. Yes, there are more, but we are writing this on top of a toilet while hiding from our children, and you are reading this in yesterday’s pajamas, and we are both drinking wine from a box. So three feels right, if not ambitious, under these circumstances.
- Write like you speak.
- Use concrete, tangible words.
- Make your point by telling a story.
- WRITE LIKE YOU SPEAK
Whether you’re writing a company blog post or a text to your neighbor, the person on the receiving end wants to hear from a human person, not a robot person. Not the professional you, but the “you” you.
NO: Practice social distancing.
YES: Stay the f*ck home. Leave only for important stuff like meds and groceries.
(Yes, we stole that example from the Internet. But we thought: hey, why not take this opportunity for a quick, subversive PSA? Also, we bet getting huffy over our plagiarism really got you engaged in this piece.)
2. USE CONCRETE, TANGIBLE WORDS
You know that thing, when you get an email and read half of the first sentence, then hit delete? Don’t be the person who wrote that email. Concrete words are the ones you can see, feel and touch in the real world. They don’t evaporate into the ether as your attention span moves onto the next blip on the horizon. They grab you by the collar and demand to be read, dammit.
NO: People are surprisingly willing to try new things in times of uncertainty.
YES: Watching middle-aged white men do Latin dance cardio in their living rooms is proof that humans can adapt in an emergency.
3. MAKE YOUR POINT BY TELLING A STORY
Here’s the thing: in times of crisis, you can’t afford to be boring. (Or in times of not-crisis either for that matter). There’s just too much else in the world that’s entertaining af: like this and this and this. And here’s the awful truth: your ideas, points and arguments are like so much verbal Ambien. We are so sorry to be the ones to tell you this, but if not us, then who? Instead of saying the thing you want to say, tell a story or give an example of it.
NO: Working from home has been challenging.
YES: I got onto Zoom for a client call at the same time that my daughter logged on for Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems. So the Sophie’s Choice was herky-jerky ‘90s-era wifi or being buttonholed by a feral 5-year-old.
See what we did there? Like singing and washing your hands at the same time, you can do it too. Hey, little known fact: writing is not just for work and torturing middle schoolers. You can use it to help people who are feeling the pain in this crisis.
WRITING FOR GOOD
Now that you’ve got skills, let’s use those superpowers for good. Again, we’re going with three here, which seems like an amount your mom could do blindfolded. Might we suggest attempting this whilst listening to “Earth, Wind and Fire” radio and eating a giant plate of nachos?
- Write a Yelp review for a local small business, a favorite shop or restaurant whose doors are shuttered right now.
- Write a LinkedIn recommendation for a stellar coworker or boss, or past coworker or boss. Start with someone who has been recently laid off or furloughed.
- Write a note of thanks to local nurses and doctors. If you’re lucky, you know one of them personally — start there.
As pretty much anyone who’s written anything since this whole thing began once said: We’re all in this together. But the truth of it is, some of us are in this more than others. Let’s use those keystrokes to show them we’ve got their backs. Thanks, and see you on the other side.
Thanks for reading. These rules are torn straight out of the playbook at Thread, where I’m the creative director. Thread helps brands find their story and use it to make happier employees, better products, more loyal customers, more productive workplaces and generally a better world.