Write and Be Seen

Raise your visibility from the comfort of your keyboard

Posted Nov 30, 2014

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You’re not big on telling everyone you meet how great you are? How about raising your visibility by writing—also without bragging? Let’s see what Jack Appleman, author of 10 Steps to Successful Business Writing and a fellow introvert, says about that. As background, over the past few years his book has been required reading for a graduate course I teach on business writing and presentation skills at New York University.

NA: Writing is an often overlooked way for introverts to raise their career visibility. As a business writing author who teaches PR/communication at Manhattan College, you have a lot of tricks up your sleeve in that arena. How can introverts raise their profiles from the comfort of their keyboards and smart phones?

JA: In my business writing workshops, I always tell participants that their emails/documents help define their personal brand, especially when writing to those whom they’ve never met. For an introvert (or any person), crafting text in a certain way can help demonstrate expertise—and even leadership skills—to supervisors, colleagues, clients and others. So the written word can enable introverts to shine in a way that may be difficult for them in a face-to-face encounter. 

NA: Yes. In fact, my favorite thing about writing as an introvert is composing my thoughts before sharing them—often without the pressure to answer on the spot. In your book, you describe how to craft compelling business documents that sound conversational. What are the secrets to that?

JA: Too many people overthink—and overwrite. To illustrate this, I’ll share my typical dialogue with those whom I coach on a one-on-one basis. I tell the individual, “I don’t understand what you’re trying to say in this paragraph,” and he or she replies, “Jack, I’m trying to say x, y and z” Then I say, “Well, go ahead and write x, y and z, exactly as you said it out loud!”

NA: What a great point.

JA: Most people speak much more naturally and succinctly than they write. And good business writing should be conversational. So writers who get stuck on how to clearly express thoughts should imagine how they’d respond out loud if someone asked them a question about that topic. It’s simple, but it works.

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NA: Yes, it does. I use that technique with my students and clients too. What do you like most about writing? The research process that introverts often enjoy? Drafting? Editing? Promoting what you’ve written?

JA: Of the three choices, I enjoy editing the best, where I challenge myself to delete every word or phrase that doesn’t contribute meaning and to ensure that the text flows and comes across exactly as intended.

NA: Some introverts embrace social media as a way to share their expertise while raising their profiles. Others find it overwhelming—too many “friends” to keep track of. As an introvert yourself, how do you relate to social media? What advice do you have for introverts who want to use it to advance in their careers? How can they use their energy wisely when it comes to LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media tools?

JA: I use social media far more for business than for personal matters. To me, it’s an opportunity to share my expertise—such as by tweeting writing tips and perspectives on writing/communication—which will raise my profile as a professional dedicated to my craft. Introverts (and anyone) who want to advance their careers should take the time to write thoughtful LinkedIn profiles that demonstrate what they can bring to the table.


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NA: Indeed. Your LinkedIn profile is a model for that. On a related note, many introverts I know are inveterate wordsmiths. They take the time to write, rewrite, and tweak endlessly—until they express exactly what’s on their minds. In that vein, introverts are often naturals at writing well-crafted e-mails, resumes, cover letters, research reports, proposals, and other business documents. However, the downside is that with all our tweaking we can become bottlenecks in fast paced work environments. What tips can you offer introverts to help them speed up their writing processes?

JA: There’s a fine line between taking the time to review your text and becoming obsessed with it and wasting precious time. Today’s workplace doesn’t afford us the time to edit every document to the nth degree. Part of being an effective writer is developing the confidence to know what works and what doesn’t so you don’t, for example, spend two hours on a three-paragraph email.

NA: Well put, Jack. Looking at a broader horizon, many introverts I know have always dreamed of writing a book. What was it like for you? Is it a good way for introverts to establish themselves as experts in their field?

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JA: Writing a book was overwhelming, challenging and inspiring—depending on my frame of mind during the 16-month process. On the positive side, it forced me to dig deeper into my craft and research all I could about what makes business writing effective. When the book was published, I did gain instant credibility and more confidence that my method of teaching business writing is the best out there. For introverts, writing a book can be an effective confidence builder, as long as they’re committed to all the ups and downs they’ll face.

NA: I’m right there with you about the experience of writing a book. Thank you for sharing that and the rest of your valuable thoughts with my readers.

© Copyright 2014 Nancy Ancowitz