Great business writing isn't just about style. It's about survival. If your sales copy isn't compelling, people won't buy your products. If your inter-office communications are unclear, that will hold back collaboration. No one will invest in your business if you can't articulate why it's going to succeed.
Experts have even identified bloated, jargon-filled writing as a warning sign that a company has deeper strategic or execution problems it's trying to paper over with bloviating prose.
Writing is not about you, your feelings, or your accomplishments. It's about serving the reader.
You're not the star--the reader is. Help them get what they want, as quickly and effectively as possible. They might want to solve a problem. They might want to be persuaded. Give 'em the goods.
If the tweet isn't compelling, the rest isn't compelling.
Whether it’s a succinct declarative statement in an email or a complex argument in a report, your writing has the potential to light up the neural circuitry of your readers’ brains.
Good writing gets the reader’s dopamine flowing in the area of the brain known as the reward circuit. Just like good food or a hug, well-executed writing makes us feel pleasure, which makes us want to keep reading.
The magic happens when your writing has one or more of these characteristics: It’s simple, specific, surprising, stirring, seductive, smart, social, or story-driven.
Simplicity increases what scientists call the brain’s “processing fluency.” Short sentences, familiar words, and clean syntax ensure that the reader doesn’t have to exert too much brainpower to understand your meaning.
By contrast, studies have shown that sentences with clauses nested in the middle take longer to read and cause more comprehension mistakes.
Cutting extraneous words and using the active voice are two ways to keep it simple. Another tactic is to drill down to what’s really salient and scrap tangential details.
Specifics awaken a swath of brain circuits. Think of “pelican” versus “bird.” Or “wipe” versus “clean.” Our neurons actually “embody” what the words mean: When we hear more-specific ones, we “taste,” “feel,” and “see” traces of the real thing.
Using more vivid, palpable language will reward your readers. Another specificity tactic is to give readers a memorable shorthand phrase to help them retain your message.
Professional writers rewrite their sentences over and over and then rewrite what they have rewritten.
"But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.”
"Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing.”
... for establishing what and how you will write:
The first words you write are the first draft. Writing is thinking. You'll rarely know what exactly you want to say when you start writing.
The time you put into editing, reworking and refining turns your first draft into a second draft, and then into a third. If you keep refining it over days or weeks or even years, it eventually becomes something great.
Most writing mistakes are widespread, but good writers just get better at spotting them. Some things you'll learn to watch for are:
When you write something, you get very close to it. It is nearly impossible to distance yourself from it straight away to edit properly.
The longer you can leave a draft before editing, the better. Half an hour to two days is enough of a break to edit well. When you do edit, read your work out loud. You'll catch more problems and get a better feel for how everything flows.
Our coworkers are often not able to read or understand our messages due to the sheer barrage of information already trying to get their attention. There are text messages, emails, document updates and other notifications vying for eyeballs and mindshare.
To be successful in conveying our message, we need to design it in such a way that can grab people’s attention. Marketers are experts in designing words that, based on research and data, make people stop and take action. Their tricks can be applied to our memos, emails, reports and messages so that your teammates actually end up reading them.
The interface designers at Amazon are experts in providing an intuitive, often exciting digital experience. They start with the end goal in mind and ask the following questions:
We can apply these techniques by asking the same questions towards ourselves and our readers.
If we aren’t talking about the important stuff from the word go, people stop paying attention, usually in about 10 seconds.
Newspaper headline stories follow the ‘inverted pyramid’ technique where the most critical information is on the first paragraph. One can organize an article or product interface in such a way that if the reader only reads the first few sentences, the crucial information is still communicated.
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