Professional writers freely admit that their biggest challenge is writing communications that are actually read and acted upon. Granted, reader apathy is a universal problem, but it is also one that haunts even the most accomplished writers.
Obviously, content plays a part in this, but the bigger reason lies in the fact that readers in the Business World are constantly inundated by print and electronic messages from all corners of their organizations. That said, it should not be surprising that many important communications are routinely ignored or lost in this deluge.
The problem with Information Overload in business offices has become so pervasive that many professional essay writers find themselves resorting to gimmicks in order to make their communications stand out. (The increasing use of non-standard fonts and quirky formatting is testament to this).
Granted, this kind of gimmickry may be eye-catching, but whether it actually enhances readability is debatable at best. In light of this, the best strategy is to stick with the basics and compose letters, memos, and reports that are written clearly, succinctly, and with a single purpose.
These basic elements of effective writing may seem quaint and irrelevant in our modern “multi-tasking” world, but nothing can be further from the truth. Simply put, the sharper the focus of your writing, the better are its chances of being read and understood.
Conversely, when readers are forced to “mine” through lines of copy just to extract information that is germane to them, most individuals will quit reading the communication long before they get to the relevant “stuff”.
With this in mind, here are ten tips to consider when drafting any Business Communication:
1. “Market” Your Subject
Capitalize the Subject Line and use enticing language, e.g., “New Vacation Policy” will grab more attention than “Benefits Update”.
2. Economize Your Language
Jargon and boilerplate may make the communication “sound” official,but these also tend to unnecessarily lengthen and obscure the message.
3. Stay On Message
Resist mixing topics unless there is a reason to do so. While it may be useful at times to link related topics in one communication, e.g., Sales & Marketing, mixing unrelated topics will more than likely leave readers confused over the true purpose of the communication.
4. Be Specific
Clearly state the purpose of the communication. If dates and deadlines are part of the communication, highlight and announce these in the first paragraph.
5. Use A Conversational Tone
Keep in mind that overly formal language is a turnoff. Conversely, communications filled with slang and colloquialisms will not be taken seriously.
6. Keep It Simple
General communications should be written for a broad readership. Technical Communications should be reserved for a specific audience.
7. Keep It Short
Limit most letters, memos, and general announcements to a page or two. For more substantive communications, such as reports, include a summary page.
8. Make It Easy On The Eyes
Break up text blocks with paragraphs and bullet points. Few readers will tolerate “slogging” through unbroken text.
9. Be Logical
Organize information or points in descending order of importance. Don’t leave it up to readers to prioritize things.
10. Reality Test
Have others critique the communication before publishing. Your writing may seem clear and understandable to you, but it’s usually a good idea to have others verify this for you.
In the end, be mindful that even the best-crafted communications can get lost in the Sea of Information Overload. However, writers who compose communications that are brief, focused and easy to read will stand out as something worth reading and, more importantly, acted upon.