Make Sure That You Sound Like Y-O-U

Members of my career mentoring site know that I am a big fan of The Muse.  They consistently and constantly provide lots of great life and career success advice.  The other day, they posted an article that highlighted many mistakes that young professionals make in their branding. You can see it here.

I think that all of the advice in the article is right on.  But I particularly like this piece of advice…

“Put down the thesaurus, and write in your natural voice, free of stiff phrasing. You’ll actually seem smarter by making your communication clear, relatable, and easy to digest. Seasoned professionals explain what they do in plain English and in their own words.”

This is so important.  The other day, I did an exercise with my students in which I asked them to create their elevator pitch.  One student’s pitch was full of “stiff phrasing.”  I liked what he had to say, but I wasn’t crazy about the way he said it.

I suggested that he shouldn’t be so formal in his pitch – I said, “Write like you speak.”  He said, “This is the way I speak.  I think it’s important to maintain a sense of formality in business communication.”  A couple of the other students who know this guy said, “That’s exactly how he speaks, very formal.”

After class, I asked the student to come to office hours so we could discuss his elevator speech.  He did.  But no matter how hard I tried, he clung to his belief that “business is business and that formal patterns of speech and written communication are the most appropriate.”

He’s a very sharp and driven guy.  I hope that once he gets into the workforce someone is going to tell him to loosen up.  I also hope that he’ll heed this advice.

I have a pretty good vocabulary, and I think it’s important to use the word that most precisely communicates the information you want to get across.  However, sometimes words – even if they’re accurate, can get in the way of communication.

Several years ago, I wrote a book called An Uncle’s Advice to His Niece on Her College Graduation.  I gave it to my niece when she graduated from Florida State.  When I gave it to her, I said that I was trying for an “avuncular hip” style, and I would be interested in her feedback.

She looked at me and said, “What does that mean?”  I told her that avuncular means uncle-like.  I was trying to sound like a hip uncle in the book.  She said, “Why didn’t you just say so?”

Good question – I was probably just showing off my vocabulary.  In this case, I didn’t communicate.   Worse yet, I came off as a bit of pompous a**hole.

Let me close be reiterating what my friends at The Muse have to say.  “Put down the thesaurus and write in your natural voice.”  You’ll come across as more authentic.  You’ll also find that it’s much easier to write this way.  The words will flow better.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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