The main purpose of any communication is not to sound impressive or to use long words that no-one can understand! The main purpose is to communicate clearly, be understood and be effective – and that means to achieve results from your writing. How can you achieve this?
1. Structure your documents logically
Use fully-blocked style and open punctuation in all your letters, faxes, reports, etc.
Structure all your documents logically using my 4-point plan – make sure there is an introduction setting the scene, a central section stating all the details, and then draw it all together with a response/action section and finally a simple close.
2. Organise your points visually
Use display appropriately to help get your message across. Numbered points and bullets are very helpful, and side headings can be useful when you have to include things like date/time/venue (but please don’t include a long line of colons, which are totally unnecessary and a waste of time!)
3. Keep trim
Long sentences may confuse your reader. They will get to the end of a sentence and then have to go back to the beginning because the can’t remember what you said. Keep sentences short, 7-20/25 words maximum.
4. Give your reader a break
Poor formatting is a common complaint from readers, especially email. There is nothing worse than seeing 10-12 lines of words with no paragraphs. Use new paragraph for each separate issue of the main theme, with each paragraph about 4-5 lines.
5. Eradicate jargon
Avoid acronyms and specialist language unless you are sure it will be understood. KISS means keep it short and simple – that means simple words instead of long ones, and simple phrases instead of long sentences.
6. Use familiar terms
If the reader doesn’t understand the words you use, they will not look them up in a dictionary – they just won’t be impressed and they will stop reading! Ditch the dinosaur language, cut out the commonly-used clichés that were made up by Great-Grandfather. Remember the golden rule of business writing in the 21st Century: WRITE AS YOU SPEAK!