I seem to have spent much of this week trying to decipher other people’s communication. I’ve had students submit assignments that have little connection with English grammar and been sent marketing materials full of acronyms and meaningless slogans. Sometimes we get too close to our own ideas to see wood for the trees.
The art of communication is all about being understood in the manner in which we intended. When writing we have to think about our audience. What do they know already? What will interest them? What else will they be doing when they get our missive? How much effort will they be prepared to invest in understanding our copy? We live life on the run and few of us have the time or inclination to interpret communication which is not clear, so here are a few tips for business communications:
- Give your target a reason to read your message. An engaging, benefit laden headline will help.
- Keep it simple. Use language that your audience will understand without having to think too hard.
- Avoid acronyms and abbreviations
- Don’t assume that your reader has prior knowledge and understanding
- Posing and then answering questions can help your audience relate to your message. This is a trick to engage the brain actively.
- Keep one, or at most two, thoughts per paragraph
- If you are using Word check the readability of your prose (on the spelling & grammar button)
- If you can, write a draft, put it to one side and go back and read it with a fresh pair of eyes before you send it. Alternatively get someone else, preferably not an expert, to read it.
We all need to remember that we are writing to be understood, not to impress. Our communication should have a purpose and our readers should understand that purpose without too much effort. Do yours?