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Writing Yoga: Power and Respect
Anne Janzer -- Membership Expert Anne Janzer -- Membership Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Luis Obispo, CA
Tuesday, June 4, 2024


This month’s writing video is about how power and respect flow through our words to the reader.

This exercise applies to almost any kind of writing that you do: emails to colleagues or friends, reports, blog posts—anything in which you’re giving advice or directions to the reader. Let’s look at two simple cases.

Making a request over email

When we need to ask someone for a favor or action over email, many of us start like this:

I’m doing [my project] and ran into a problem, so I need you to do [requested action] for me.

Look at where power resides in that request: with me, the one requesting.

What if we start with granting the reader power? The request might look like this:

Can you please do [requested action] for me? Here’s why I need your help: I ran into this problem….

It’s the same content, but now the reader has the power to make a judgment and act on it, while understanding the reason why. This gives the reader agency, which shows respect.

Offering “important” advice

We also need to pay attention to power and respect when offering advice, whether in an email or a nonfiction book.

When I work with authors of business advice books, their first drafts are often filled with phrases like “It’s important to do this thing,” or “This is critical.” As a reader, this feels a bit like lecturing, as if the writer doesn’t really trust me to absorb why these things are important.

Grant the reader agency and involvement by giving them the chance to recognize importance when they see it.

As an example, imagine you’re leaving a note for house guests.

It’s really important that you lock the door because of thefts in the neighborhood.

You could write it that way. But you make a stronger impact by simply writing:

Lock the door, please. There are a lot of thefts in the area.

They have the reason, so they know it’s important. And if that sounds too dictatorial, you could try this:

Check that the door is locked when you leave because we’ve had a lot of thefts in the area.

Instead of lecturing guests on the importance of locking the door, you’re assuming they’ll do the right thing and pinging them to check.

Check the flow of power

This month, look at emails or posts you write for other people and pay attention to whether your words demonstrate respect and trust. Where should you look? Check places that you write about me and I versus you. Look for words like important and critical, and see if you can show the reader more respect as you write.

Also, notice power and respect in the emails, blogs and books you read as well. How do these different things make you feel as a recipient or reader?

Want to dive deeper?

This yoga exercise was partly inspired by Erin Lebacqz’ wonderful new High Value Writing Workbook, in which she offers a lot of practical exercises for understanding power and authority in your writing. So I suggest you check that out if you found this exercise useful.

Find earlier Writing Yoga exercises here.

Cuesta Park Consulting & Publishing publishes books and online courses for writers and marketing professionals. Books are available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats from a wide range of retailers. For more information, visit AnneJanzer.com.

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Name: Anne Janzer
Group: Cuesta Park Consulting
Dateline: San Luis Obispo, CA United States
Direct Phone: 4155176592
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