Ever hear the saying “Don’t should on yourself”?
Within that cute pun lies a kernel of truth, best paraphrased by Jedi Master Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.” There’s nothing to be gained from telling oneself “I should do X, Y and Z today.” when instead thinking “Today I’ll do X, Y and Z.” sets an affirmative, productive tone.
What does this have to do with a blog on writing advice? Check out this sample below:
“If you’ve never written an e-newsletter, what you should do first is take a deep breath and relax. Then, you should decide how long you want your newsletter to be…”
Eliminating the use of ‘should’ not only tightens the copy, but also subtly refines the message:
“If you’ve never written an e-newsletter, take a deep breath and relax. Then, decide how long you want your newsletter to be…”
First, the phrase ‘what you should do first’ is filler. The same idea can be expressed as a shorter, simpler declaration, leaving the reader to decide for her/himself.
Second, no one likes to be told what s/he ‘should’ do. Removing ‘should’ changes the tone from finger-wagging command to offering a suggestion.
Experiment with the difference.
Then let me know what you think.