Making sense of what we write through better formatting.
Up to 50% of our working week is taken up by emails and we communicate across many platforms. So how we write is vital. It’s vital for influencing others, gaining co-operation, sharing information, building relationships and getting jobs done faster.
So here are 5 simple hints to get written words across:
1. Less is more.
If we reduce each sentence by 25% we give the reader more time to do what we’re asking of them. When stated simply, the task or response may seem shorter and simpler.
2. Bullets give way for imperfect grammar
We can omit plenty of words when making a list e.g. transforming this:
Tasks for the project:
- Someone needs to prepare the milestone chart.
- We need to have the budget signed off.
- The agenda for the project meeting needs to be circulated to invite additional agenda items.
Next Project Tasks:
- Preparing the milestone chart.
- Getting the budget signed off.
- Circulating forthcoming project meeting agenda, inviting additional items.
It didn’t change the meaning but it’s faster to read. There are 12 fewer syllables 2nd time. With 33% less, it could shave a third off reading time. For grammar sticklers, we need to choose between brevity and grammar to reach our readers.
3. Use lower case
(1) Most of us have seen CAPITALS, especially in emails, that read as if someone’s yelling.
(2) Grab a piece of paper and cover up the bottom half of this sentence! You can still read it. That’s because, in English, we read the top half of letters.
That’s 2 good reasons for lower case, even in titles – the pleasantries and speed.
4. Being friendly
Formal doesn’t mean unfriendly. But is friendly important? If someone easily distinguishes between those who enter the office saying “good morning” and those who don’t, it probably is!
Work can be serious enough. Lightening it up may improve a reader’s mood, helping them to be open to take what we say on board.
5. Using sub-titles as sign-posts
Even in a brief email sub-titles help by drawing in the eye and preparing the mind for what’s next. A “block” of text, whilst more wordy, may be faster to understand with sub-titles.
These tactics may seem blindingly obvious. But blind is being “head down” and missing a trick. Given a typical email versus one using the above points, which will reap responses?
Writing is an extension of our work presence. Next time, hammering away at our next missive, perhaps we should take a moment to see how to smooth, crop and structure our writing? It may just have an impact!
Soon this writing style becomes our own, so it saves us construction time too. Hope it works for you!
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