Friday, May 02, 2008


One of the more difficult tasks in writing is tone. I'm working on a column now for an executive who is worried about how the piece will sound in the minds of his target audience. Concepts in the column are right, but implications are wrong. Several people have taken a shot at its tonality. None of us have captured the elusive feeling yet. We're at the point now where no one is sure a right tone can be captured, but we keep plugging. A word change here, an adjective there, a dropped sentence replaced by another.

Tone requires an inner ear that is tuned to the mind of the individual for whom one is writing. In this case, no one seems to have dialed the frequency yet. This is not the first such column where I've run into trouble like this. I wrote another column recently for a different CEO that was dropped for the same reason. The column used verbatims from the CEO, but no one liked it. How is it a piece can reflect exactly what a CEO said but still be wrong?

There are times when tonality leaves one lost. There isn't a direction to an end. There are only possibilities. When this happens, it is best to sit with the individual for whom one is writing and to hammer out a final piece. Unfortunately, that is rarely possible. CEOs are busy people. So, one tries and tries again and hopes he doesn't exhaust the CEO's patience before finding the right nuance. These are the hours when writing is no fun at all.


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