If you don’t grab the reader in the first two seconds, chances are they won’t continue to read.
That’s sound advice by Steven Shepard, Ph.D., author of “Communicating: The Write Way,” and this week’s presenter in one of my favorite webinar series, Business Over Breakfast with Emory Executive Education. This adjunct professor at Emory University discussed ways to improve business writing for better results.
“Anything you can do to make your communications clear, concise and human-friendly will work in your favor,” said Shepard. “Your writing is part of your image and how you’re perceived.”
How do you rise above the noise in a “skip-and-scan” society? What do you need to do to get your message across and compel someone to act? These recommendations by Shepard resonated with this professional writer:
Proofread Everything You Write
Check for errors and then check again. Show respect for your readers. Shepard said he rewrites his manuscripts at least 31 times and reads his work out loud. That way you can see and hear your mistakes. Personally, I’m a big believer in the “Read Aloud” computer application that converts text to speech.
Become a Literary Assassin
Seek out and destroy anything that weakens your message. Avoid verbs that end in “-ing,” prepositions and helper verbs. Resist the urge to use too many adjectives, adverbs and superlatives. Your writing is easier to digest when you remove unnecessary language or empty calories.
Use Email Best Practices
Give people a reason to open your email. Grab their attention with a strong subject line that includes an action verb, time and perhaps a question. Get to the point in the body of your email. Use short paragraphs and bullet lists. End your email with a specific call to action.