With the advent of smart phones, social media, and texting, we’re writing more—not less—than five years ago. And more people write more. We used to pick up the phone for day-to-day tasks. But so many people screen their calls with voicemail that we’ve found it faster and easier to get through by writing than calling. It’s just words on screen rather than words on paper.
In either case, if you’re finding it more difficult to get your message across above the noise, keep these top 10 writing tips in mind:
1. Think before you write. Plan what you want to say and summarize your point to yourself in a sentence. If you make this rule a practice, you’ll eliminate the first draft of most documents.
2. Use the “So what?” prompt to turn information into communication. Imagine your reader asking, “So what?” about the situation or information you’re sending. Then provide a summary answer.
3. Make your writing actionable. What do you want your reader to do, buy, consider, approve, feel, think, decide, support. Say it directly and specifically.
4. Distinguish between a purpose statement and a message statement. A purpose statement promises to tell—later. A message statement actually informs.
5. Tune in to the tone of directives, apologies, complaints, and sales documents. Brief is good. Blunt is not.
6. Consider eye appeal and quick access to what you write. Provide informative headings, ample white space, short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and consistent layout to help readers skim and find what they need quickly.
7. Beware of unsupported generalizations. Take care that you don’t write your “facts” rather than research them. Prefer understatement to overstatement.
8. Add authority. Consider where data, expert commentary, industry research, or test results will make your point stronger than your own opinion statements.
9. Avoid adjective and adverb clutter. Nouns and verbs bear the weight of your message. Adjectives and adverbs add opinion and weaken otherwise factual-sounding comments.
10. Vary sentence and length. Variety in sentence pattern and length is to writing what voice inflection is to speech. A steady diet of any one construction makes for a pitter-pat, pitter-pat, pitter-pat rhythm that puts a reader to sleep.
Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 46 books. Her work has been translated into 23 languages. Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised and Expanded Edition. National media such as Good Morning America, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg, Forbes.com, CNN International, NPR,Success, and Entrepreneur have interviewed her for opinions on critical workplace communication issues. As CEO of Booher Consultants and as a high-caliber keynote speaker, Dianna and her staff travel worldwide to deliver focused speeches and training to address specific communication challenges and increase effectiveness in writing skills, presentation skills, interpersonal communication, and organizational communication. Clients include 22 of the top Fortune 50 companies. www.booher.com 1-800-342-6621
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