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When Words Speak Louder Than Actions

Do you agree with the statement below?

When it comes to people knowing how well I do my job, my actions speak louder than words.

Last week in a workshop I led, all but one person agreed with it. But the workshop was on communicating in resumes and cover letters (covering letters). And in those communications, actions do not speak at all. Here is why: the reader of your resume (curriculum vitae, CV) and cover letter never observed you and your actions on the job. Your words on the page must do all the speaking.

The same is true if you need to write a business bio, self-appraisal, or proposal. The reader of those documents typically has not seen you in action. Therefore, your words must speak about how effectively and creatively you work, about the special talents you bring to your work, and about what you have accomplished.  The words will suggest to your readers what you are capable of accomplishing for them.

Having your words speak is a challenge if you are shy or hate to brag about yourself–or if you rely on your actions to speak for themselves. Here are some practical resources:

  1. Peggy Klaus, author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, offers some inspiring questions. Here is one of them: What do you like/love about your job/career? The questions help you focus on your strengths and joys at work and in life so that you can express them. By the way, her book is excellent.
  2. Marcia Yudkin, marketing expert and author of lots of books on marketing, has great before-and-after examples on her website. She has excellent tips and “makeovers” of bios, press releases, home pages, brochures, self-introductions, and other pieces.
  3. My post “Writing About Ourselves: Bragging Without Blushing” has plenty of tips on using words to communicate your actions.

If you know of good resources on writing about ourselves (from a business perspective–not journaling), please post a comment here or email me. And feel free to write about yourself in your message!

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

3 comments on “When Words Speak Louder Than Actions”

  • Thanks for the information! I have a hard time describing myself in words. I want to apply for this kitchen remodeling job in Roanoke, so getting my application right is important. I’ll certainly check out those resources!

  • Hello, Khernau. It may be easier for you to find the words to describe yourself and your work this way: Think about how your work would be done if it were done badly. Then compare that with how you would do it.

    For example, the opposite of “sloppy” is “careful” or “professional” or “neat.” The opposite of “unreliable” is “reliable” and “trustworthy.” Use the positive words to describe yourself and your work.

    Good luck!


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