Have you ever read something that you’ve had to read several times over to understand? Or figure out what you think it means? Have you all too often, needed to refer to your e-dictionary to understand the meaning of words used in a business context?
According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, if you work too hard to make business content sound smart, chances are, it isn’t. The article notes that “the best writing is so transparent that it doesn’t obscure the underlying message.” To achieve this transparency, invest in great content and strip away anything that detracts from it.
Whether writing a business proposal, blog on the latest trends in healthcare IT, or something as simple as an email, you can make your content more interesting and receptive to readers by following these tips as your guide:
- Before you start to write, think about what you want the purpose and outcome of your communication to be. What do you want your audience to feel after they’ve read your content?
- Once you’ve established this, consider how you want your audience to feel by reading your content. What emotions do you want to evoke to drive action? This is a bit tricky because communications can be interpreted differently on an emotional level depending on who the reader is, so choose your words wisely.
- Does your message have a purpose? Do you want to drive action or have readers do something differently? Clearly call this out in your content.
- Review your content to determine if you’ve communicated the knowledge, perceptions and emotions you want to. If not, either add to or modify your message.
Notes author Liane Davey, “if you’ve crafted a message with a clear outcome in mind and baked in all the components to support that outcome, you’re way ahead of most people.” Otherwise, she suggests going back over what you’ve written, focusing on your language and grammar, and finding ways to simplify and tighten up anything that detracts from your core message.
Other tips include:
- Eliminate fancy words – As Davey notes, communicating effectively reduces the distance between you and the reader. Using fancy words your reader may not understand creates distance.
- Be careful not to use words incorrectly – Choose words that strengthen the connection between you and the reader. If you use words to impress, you’ll weaken this connection.
- When using bulleted lists, make them flow – Keep writing succinct and help the reader hone-in on information that is the most important. Davey recommends creating a rhythm for readers, where each bullet point has the same grammatical form.
- Use an active voice – This also helps establish a connection with the reader without sounding pompous.
Don’t assume that everyone will understand what you write. Instead, focus on writing that has a clear purpose from the start and drives readers to action when necessary. As novelist Elmore Leonard said, “If it sounds like writing, re-write it.”