How To Wake Up From Your Field of Dreams
We began this four-part series by exposing our false assumption that “If I write it, they will read it.” We want to write better. So we talked about quickly getting to the point in your written communication in order to serve your people and then we gave you the first of 3 simple tips—move your main point/action to the beginning of the sentence. Next up?…Incorporate Tip #2 into your bulletin announcement, a church-wide email or newsletter, Facebook Page post, City topics, etc.
The 2nd of 3 Simple Tips for Writing Better: Cut it in half.
Write it. Then chop it in half. Such practice demands work, but produces far more diamonds than a heap of coal. Look at your first draft as a two-headed “thing” at a carnival freak show and chop one of the heads off.
Dude, that’s gruesome.
I know, like much of our writing.
But we can prevent freak show writing and give our people diamonds. And here’s how…
1. Use active verbs.
Ugh. Grammer. Give me 30 seconds to polish your tarnished memory. Ready? Verbs carry the action in a sentence. The voice of a verb sets the relationship between subject and action. An active verb = the subject performs the action. Example: Tom hit the ball (Tom does the action). A passive verb = the subject receives the action. Example: Tom was hit by the ball (Tom receives the action). A verb that is neither is a linking verb (form of the verb “to be”). Example: Tom was here. Those are the three options. Not too difficult. One last note—voice has nothing to do with tense. Tense describes when the action happens—past, present, or future. To recap: tense = when/time, and voice = who/relation between subject and action.
Review these common examples. Which sentence arrives first—active or passive?
- Four new folks were baptized last Saturday. (Passive)
- We baptized four folks last Saturday. (Active)
- If you would like to get signed up for one of our discipleship mini-courses, you can do so in the lobby. (Passive)
- Sign up for a discipleship mini-course in the lobby. (Active)
Here is one more example featuring a sermon point.
- I am saved, secured and strengthened by God’s grave even when I’m at my best. (Passive)
- God’s grace saves, secures and strengthens me even when I’m at my best. (Active)
The passive voice produces a lengthier point, placing the emphasis on the individual who receives grace. Alternatively, the active voice emphasizes God as the giver of grace. Choose the best option to match your intent.
Active verbs get your audience there faster. Employ active verbs and you automatically save words by cutting away helpers and qualifiers.
Speaking of helpers and qualifiers…
2. Nix Helpers and Qualifiers
Wave goodbye to: seemed to, kind of, used to, begin to, should have, sort of. Helpers and qualifiers like these are akin to waiters that ask if you’ve saved room for dessert after a $100 steak dinner—unnecessary.
Experience the difference in these examples.
- Several guests will begin to arrive 10 minutes prior to the gathering. (Qualifiers)
- Several guests will arrive 10 minutes prior to the gathering. (Nixed)
- Many of those in our city used to attend a gathering. (Qualifiers)
- Many in our city attended a gathering. (Nixed)
I know what you’re thinking. Hey, that seemed to kind of work, sort of. NO. Now you’re thinking…That works.
Exhort to trim the fat—particularly in written announcements. An exhortation gives your people a clear choice—just like an invitation or question—but does so with expedience.
- We need your help in the nursery. If you would like to love on our babies, contact John after the gathering. (Too long)
- Volunteer to love on our babies in the nursery. Contact John after the gathering. (Exhort)
- Wondering what to do with your end-of-the-year giving? Consider an extra gift to First Church and help our two outreach programs aimed at loving our city. (Too long)
- Direct your end-of-the-year giving to First Church. We love our city with these gifts through our two outreach programs. (Exhort)
Tip Recap: Cut it in half with Active verbs, no qualifiers, and exhortation.
I look down on leaders who write poorly. If you are pro writing, you might too. If you are bro…no writing please, you may have written off the possibility of improving. I’ve given up many times too.
The Father looks at the heart…not the pen. He never slammed Moses for his perceived lack of abilities. Jesus never chastised any of the Twelve in the middle of the list—the ones whose names we can’t recall—to be vocal like Peter. Jesus never looked down on those who failed to match his oratorial skills.
He also refrained from throwing in the towel when it came to growing as a leader. Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. That statement was absent on my 6th grade report card when I was 12. Thankfully, the gospel gives me His report card. He was diligent without despising others. He was faithful to grow without it growing his arrogance or pride. He has come to set me free from giving up on growing as a writer. He took every lash my arrogance deserves. Because of Jesus alone, the Author of my story is not finished writing.
The next installment gives one final tip and a plan to grow in our written communication as leaders.
What Say You
Which of these three ways to trim your writing is most difficult for you? Active verbs, qualifiers, or exhortation?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
What Others Shared
Here are a few thoughts shared by other Church Planter Starter Kit subscribers.
Wow, bro. Great stuff today! That was encouraging and convicting as I am a man of many words. Thanks for applying the gospel!
Love the Gospel perspective on communications.