Module: The Writing Craft
Time: 15 minutes

In a nutshell: 

Appearance is the visual characteristics of a person portrayed in writing. Because people are so multifaceted, every individual represented needs more than one dimension. Still, because sight is such an important sense in perceiving others, appearance is an important and powerful tool. In business writing, it makes your anecdotes and examples more vivid and more credible.

Examples

Vision

The consultant – a short man with red, curly, ruffled hair – was wearing jeans, sneakers, and an Armani jacket. As he walked towards the boardroom, the polished leather shoes moving through the office made stops on their way, to turn in the direction of this alien figure that had just entered their realm.   

 

Sound

My team member mumbled throughout the presentation. His voice was a near-whisper; his eyes downshot, fixated on something in the middle of the meeting room table. Given the numbers on the screen behind him and the fact that he’d been chosen to present them, I couldn’t blame him.

 

It’s important to note that appearance isn’t just the things we can see. It’s also the things we can hear, smell and feel. Whether someone mumbles or shouts in a presentation, it has a big impact on how the reader perceives the situation you’re describing to them. In 15 minutes, you’ll learn how to see the details that will give your business writing characters life – and so elicit empathy and interest from your readers.

Workshop goal: You are able to map out effective appearance traits and use them as part of your business writing and online storytelling.

 

Steps 

  1. Think of a topic you’d like to explore in your next piece of content. Now pick an anecdote that matches the theme. 2 mins
  2. Describe one or two people from your story thoroughly, focusing on their appearance. What were they wearing? What did their voices sound like? 4 mins
  3. Now, decide on which traits from your description underpin the personality/ies of these people. Which appearance details will make their character more believable and serve the messaging of your text? 4 mins
  4. Write out the story you’d like to include in your piece of content, and include the character appearance details that you decided on in the previous step. 5 mins

Now you’ve explored appearance in the individuals you’d like to include in a piece of business writing – and identified which details work best for the story you’re telling. When you use this tool of characterisation as part of your professional communications, your writing becomes much more interesting.

The reader will also feel like they’re standing inside the picture you’re painting, and likely be understanding of and empathetic towards the people you decide to present in your storytelling.