1. Keep it Simple
Unfortunately, lots of business people think: If it's writing, it's
got to be wordy and complicated. The truth is just the opposite:
If it's writing, it's best to be simple and straightforward.
In other words…
2. Think of Your Writing as "Talking" on Paper
The more your writing sounds like talking, the easier it will be to
write - and to read. In contrast, consider this interoffice memo from
the director of employee relations at a major corporation. His memo
Good attendance to include being at work on time is expected
as well as a condition of employment.
This is the language of lawyers, bureaucrats and windbags. It may look
like English but it's Greek to you and me. Surprisingly, the memo continues
in fairly simple language:
Our hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
We understand that there will be times when you need to be absent, late,
or leave early. When this happens, it is your responsibility to notify
your immediate supervisor and inform him as far in advance as possible.
This is the difference between "writing" (Good attendance
to include being at work on time…) and "talking" on paper.
With the first sentence, you can barely translate it; as for the rest,
it almost sounds human.
Remember: The more you "talk" on paper, the better they'll
3. Keep Your Reader in Mind
I recently received a letter
from my internet provider, reproduced below word-for-word. To protect
myself from litigation, I've changed their name to Acme Cable. Also,
I've added in brackets [like this] my "internal monologue"
- what I was thinking as I read each line. The letter reads:
Dear Acme Cable Customer:
As the final part of the transition to the Acme Power Plus high-speed
Internet access network, you will need to exchange your current LANcity
modem for a new DOCIS modem. [That's
a drag.] There is no fee or change in your cost to exchange
your modem. [Why would
there be?] However, please be advised that your modem
will need to be replaced in the next couple of weeks or your service
will be interrupted. [What!?
That's not right.]
Replacing your current model with our new DOCSIS compliant modem and
dynamic IP will not only improve your service reliability and function,
but allows for upgrade capabilities in the future at no cost or inconvenience
to you. [That sounds
right.] Please see the options below on making this change
and decide which will suit your needs. [Finally,
someone's thinking about my needs!]
Visit any of our lobbies at the locations listed below and we will accept
your old modem and replace it with a new one free of charge. [Of
course there's no charge! ] Customers who bring in the
LANcity modem to exchange will receive a coupon for a free month of
Power Plus service that may redeemed immediately for credit on next
month's bill. [I don't
believe it: They saved the good news for last - after they made me really
4. Don't Bury Your Lead
If you've got good
news - or can put a "good news" spin on things - don't be
shy. Get it out in the open ASAP. For example, what if the letter above
started with the headline:
How to Get a FREE MONTH of Power Plus Service
Imagine how differently the reader would feel. Instead of outrage and
anger, you could score points by creating a positive, feel good, reaction
[What a great opportunity for me to save some money!].
Finally, remember this: Whether
you're working to craft a winning headline or struggling with your body
5. Writing is Rewriting
No one gets it right the first time out. No one. Not you. Not me. Not
anyone whose work you've read and admired.
Having finished his first draft of A Farewell to Arms, Ernest
Hemingway wrote to his editor, Max Perkins: "Would like to put
it away for a couple or three months and then re-write it. The re-writing
doesn't take more than six weeks or two months once it is done. But
it is pretty important for me to let it cool off well before re-writing."
What you need is objectivity - the ability to read what you've written
as if you were the reader, not the writer.
How long will it take to become objective about your work? The longer
you stay away from that first draft, the more objectivity you'll gain
- though try not to wait so long your boss starts screaming, "I
don't care what Saltzman says, we need it now!"
As a rule, waiting just an hour or two can make a major difference in
your ability to see things more clearly. Even better is waiting overnight,
returning to your work in the clear light of day. Suddenly, you'll be
so objective you'll be able to read your work as if it were, well, someone
else's. You'll see what works, what doesn't and just how much work that
other person has in front of him.
is a speaker, facilitator and consultant who teaches people in business
Shake That Brain!® and discover solutions for maximum profit.
He’s also the author of the best selling book, If You Can Talk, You Can Write.
Joel can be reached Toll Free at 877-Shake It! (877-742-5348).