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How To Boost Your Career By Saying What You Mean

Every day at work, you write. Are you writing to stand out, or writing to fit in?

Joss Bernoff, author Don't Write Bullshit -TotalPicture interviewJosh Bernoff

Please Note: This episode of TotalPicture Radio is not appropriate for children, and those offended by salty language. Especially the word bullshit.

The average person who writes for work, even a little, spends 46 hours per week on reading and writing. And most of us do the majority of our reading on a screen.

I'm going tell you a little story about the interview I did a number of years ago with Bob Sutton who is a professor at Stanford University. Bob wrote a bestselling book titled, The No Asshole Rule. inspired by an article he wrote for Harvard Business Review, based on hiring practices at Stanford University, that were very successful. The basic premise: "I don't care if you won a MacArthur Genius Grant, if you're an asshole we don't want to work with you!" Bob didn't want to show up everyday to have to deal with an arrogant asshole. Harvard would not publish his book because he refused to take asshole out of the title. At the time, my show was sponsored by Deloitte, and The No Asshole Rule was the title of my podcast and effectively blocked by Deloitte's firewall. However, It remains one of the most popular episodes EVER on TotalPicture Radio.

I'm telling you all of this because my guest today, Josh Bernoff, wrote a wonderful book titled Writing Without Bullshit. I'm fairly certain your corporate firewall would block this podcast if I used it as the tite of the show, so as a public service I'm using the subtitle so it won't get blocked.

Welcome to a Career Strategy Channel podcast, this is Peter Clayton.

Now, you'll notice a whole bunch of words are crossed out in the intro. His mission is to get all of us to write better, write shorter, kill the filler, the weasel words, the corporate-speak bullshit. That's what we're going to discuss today. How to write to stand out and be noticed!


Josh, welcome to TotalPicture -- tell us about your background and how you became a business writer.

Throughout Writing Without Bullshit, you have what's called the Iron Imperative: "Treat the reader's time as more valuable than you own." How did you come up with this and why do you think it's effective?

In my lede, I state the obvious -- most of us spend our time reading on-screen. How has that changed business writing?

Should you change your approach when writing for different mediums? For instance a blog post, or an email?

While reading your book, I've made a conscious decision to edit everything I write -- emails, blog posts, even stuff on Facebook. Which means, Josh, I'm spending considerably more time on everything I'm writing. How can you convince overworked, time-starved and people always-on-a-deadline listening to this podcast that the extra effort spent editing what they write is worth it?

Many of the people listening to my podcast work in talent acquisition and HR, and they are constantly writing reports. A frequent rant I get is, "I've got 25 open reqs on my desk, my performance is based on time-to-fill metrics, and I'm drowning in paperwork." What advice can you share with them?

On this same track. Have you ever read a job req?

A callout in your chapter Move Beyond Fear - "For Women Especially Bold Writing Can Make a Difference." Recently I learned about a Gmail plug-in, Just Not Sorry. It was devised after a discussion at a networking event. The women present all admitted they had a tendency to use the words "just" and "sorry" when they didn't really mean them. What response did you get, Josh when you reached out to women reading your blog?

In a previous lifetime, I made corporate sales, marketing, and employee motivational films. So I personally have seen a staggering amount of corporate-speak bullshit. However, there's an email in your book written by Steven Elop, at the time CEO of Nokia, to all of Nokia's employees, post Microsoft merger, that takes bullshit into a new orbit. Spoiler alert it begins "Hello There," and is intended to announce that 12,500 Nokians are about to lose their jobs. Can you share with us why this was such a... killer?

In your opinion, what is the most important takeaway from your book?

What was left out of our conversation that you would like to share?

How can listeners connect with you?

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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