The 4-Letter Word that Weakens Your Writing

It's hard to believe that one four-letter can suck the wind out of your writing, but it can. And it's probably not one of the 4-letter words you're thinking about.

It's W-I-L-L.

I'd never thought much about it till my friend Phil Holcomb gave me feedback on a series of workshops I'd developed. The content was great, but he didn't care for the write-ups. Too many "wills". From Phil's perspective, will was wishy-washy, somewhat conditional.

I went through the piece and the lightbulb went off. Each will sent a subtle signal that lowered credibility and authority. When I used a lot of wills that impact added up.

Here's one of the sentences Phil balked at. Notice the difference in how each sounds and feels:

Participants in this class will learn

Participants in this class learn

Clearer. More authoritative. Stronger.

Now, I'm not suggesting you never use will, or that you do a wholesale striking of will from your vocabulary. There certainly are time when it makes perfect sense to use it--like when future tense is actually required. But I do recommend doing a specific edit pass for all conditional language, including will, should, would, could, may and might.

Reducing your use of these terms gives your writing more punch and more impact.

Your New Year's Writing Resolution: Reduce future tense and conditional language!