At first, I thought my Shakespeare professor’s comment a little rude—and I wondered why he wrote a certain comment in the margins of my Shakespeare paper. I still recall his faint penciled words in those margins. Due to what he wrote, I thought he didn’t care about my writing. However, I learned that he cared deeply about what I wrote and that is why he asked the question.
He was on a mission that semester, if not for his entire career. He would have us support our points, and what I learned from him helped me years later.The best question my English college professor ever asked me: “So, what?”
With that one question, I was on my way to becoming a better writer. He taught me about Shakespeare and, through those plays, how to analyze words and sentences. With “so what?” he taught me to think and to critique my own work with the goal of improvement.
The lesson he taught me helped me with academic papers and business presentations. If you need to persuade a senior executive or your tribe, you have to think about:
1) why they care,
2) what proof you have to support your claims.
In my Write the Book workshop, I teach people to create a roadmap for their book. Part of that process involves gathering the materials to support what we’re saying. Writing is one thing. Persuading people is quite another.
This blog post won’t go into all the ways to persuade people. That could be a book. Instead, I want to show you how you can you take these two words and use them to improve your writing projects. The step-by-step process is straightforward and brief.
1. Write a draft
2. Review the draft and mark the “thought chunks” (a colorful marker or pen helps).
3. Ask so what? (If your written piece is short, you might be able to ask the question about individual sentences instead.)
This process will take time—more time than you think— yet it’ll help you consider why you are writing the message and what additional information your audience may need to understand the material.
I’m finalizing a presentation for two upcoming speaking events, and I’m asking “so what?” every step of the way. Need some practice? Join me in a writing class you can take from the cozy comfort of your home.