The Tyra Banks approach to writing: 3 reasons to work from models

Plus: What to do if your client has bad taste

Do you have a supermodel you can consult with? Headline notwithstanding, I don’t mean Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell or even that inimitable diva Tyra Banks. (I call this column the Tyra Banks approach, because I’m Canadian and irony is in my nature.)

What I’m talking about here is having a writing model that is, a clear example of the kind of text you want to emulate.

This sticky issue came up in a teleseminar I hosted last week. One of the participants described submitting a piece of writing to a European publication. Although her field is highly technical (forestry sustainability), she worked hard to ensure that her text was readable and easy to understand. Both commendable goals.

Trouble is, the client wasn’t totally pleased and asked for rewrites going in the opposite direction. In other words, the client wanted text that was a bit more sophisticated even if it was less easy to understand. “What did I do wrong?” the writer lamented.

I haven’t seen either the original text or the revised text, but I answered from my gut, based on 30 years in the business. “You didn’t have an example—a model—of what they were looking for,” I guessed. (This turned out to be true.)

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