The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M., for distribution to ISM affiliate newsletters


Write to ME

Many of us learned to write under duress in the 6th grade. We were supposed to learn sentence structure, grammar and composition. A wonderful idea, but impractical in effective business communication. In business communication, the object is not to get an "A" for good vocabulary, but to get the message across in a clear and concise manner.

We were taught to be proud of our prose and adventuresome with adjectives. Well forget it! If the person reading the message doesn't understand the meaning, why write it in the first place.

Here is a great example:

I was struck by the following headline on Techweb: DiCarta Automates Contract Negotiations. The headline caught my attention primarily because I consider Contract Negotiation to be my job. I was very curious to see how someone could get a software program to be like me. (I also may have felt a little threatened). I dug down to the company web site http://www.dicarta.com/ and started to read about the new software application. After reading many pages of confusing text, articles and news releases, I gave up. I never did get to the point and have never been back.

Even after reading enlightening articles like this one: Leading ASP Provider Helps E-Businesses Reduce Financial and Legal Risk, Improving the Efficiency of Managing Contracts by More Than 30% I found it nearly impossible to determine what the software does and what kind of "contracts" it manages. I feel less threatened now because I doubt anyone would want a piece of software that says more and is more confusing than I am.

My point: By not considering that other people would have to read and understand the message, this person has wasted a lot of time writing. In business we need to take time to consider who will be reading the finished product.

Here are some other ideas:

  1. Unless your intent is to obfuscate, leave out the big words
  2. Short sentences sell
  3. Bullets work best for very short lists - use numbers for longer lists
  4.  Say what you mean first then add some glitz at the bottom if it makes you feel better
  5. Craft a careful message but don't make it crafty
  6. Use numbered bullets so even people who can't count will know you are talking about bullet number 3
  7. Lawyers write the way they do to give other lawyers something to read
  8. I like writing in the first person. Some writers are prone to preparing correspondence in the 3rd person passive tense which leaves many readers uncertain about the true meaning or intent
  9. If I can't read it, why did you write it?
  10.  Impress me with your message not your vocabulary
  11. We eat a big steaks in small bites. Feed me your thoughts in bite-sized paragraphs

The bottom line: Write for the reader not the writer.


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