“When you persuade people from a perspective of open-minded inquiry your success will be greater and come easier.”- Kevin Eikenberry
A writer recently asked for an evaluation of a pitch letter she was sending to a potential client. This is something we all should do from time-to-time, whether pitching a business, publication, or agent.
Overall, the letter was good. The writer included relevant information about her qualifications. She demonstrated knowledge of the client’s brand. And she offered a specific suggestion as to how she could help take the client’s social media to the next level.
She killed it all with a “but.”
But What’s Wrong With But?
The conjunction, “but,” is used to connect two ideas that are contrasting. That doesn’t sound too offensive. I like cake, but she likes pie. Ok. No biggie.
Except when you are more directly contradicting someone’s opinion. “My husband said he prewashed the dishes before loading them in the dishwasher, but they don’t look like it.” Ouch.
In that sentence, it sounds more like you are entirely negating what your husband said to be true.
It also gives weight to the words that follow. So not only is the first part of the sentence not true, but it’s also less important.
The Fancy Pants But(t)
Some writers, who are aware of the power of “but,” try to get around it. They use fancier words like “however” or “yet.”
“I understand your position on the matter, however…”
We know what you’re saying! Forget my “position on the matter”! You’re obviously the expert!
Bigger words and longer phrases don’t soften the blow; they just exaggerate one of the other qualities of “but.” That of delaying the inevitable. Putting off the final blow. Giving false hope before dashing it all on a craggy conjunction.
Plus, they make you look pompous.
So What Did She Do?
When offering her services, she told the client that she loved their content, “but….”
This writer’s intent was not to offend. She wanted to communicate to the brand that she loved their work. She had ideas that could take it to the next level. And she was the person for the job.
However (See what I did there?), no business owner, editor, or agent wants to hear the psychologically triggering b-word that implies they’ve been doing a crummy job.
Which puts the pitching writer into a bad position. She wants to let the client know there is room for improvement. If there was not, they would have no need for her services. How can she do this tactfully?
And The Winner Is…
Pretty much any time you use the word “but,” you can replace it with “and.” That was my recommendation in this particular scenario.
Once we performed the great word swap, the meaning changed from zero to hero.
Here’s an example:
“I love the blog on your website, but think posting weekly would make it a better resource.”
Loser. Why can’t you get your act together and post weekly?
“I love the blog on your website, and think posting weekly would make it an even better resource!”
You have a great resource! Let’s make it better together by giving people more of what they already like!
Ok, so I threw an “even” in there, too. That makes it clear that you already think it’s better than the rest, and this suggestion is going to make it “even” better.
But the “but” was the biggest offender.
Clear Communication Takeaway
“Communication is the foundation of all human relationship. It facilitates the sharing of information and knowledge and helps develop relationships with others.”
People are more receptive to your ideas when they feel you have their back and are on the same team. The word “but” highlights where you disagree. To better share your knowledge, make people comfortable by deleting “but” and replacing it with “and.”
The one exception to this rule?
When you are using but to emphasize the positive.
“My poor word choice lost me that potential client, but I have learned a great lesson from it.”
Way to look on the bright side.
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