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Write for the reader

We all write summaries, reports and messages for busy people but are we getting our message across effectively? This blog highlights some useful tips I learnt from a TFPL training course ‘Write clearer summaries and sharper reports’- recommended and very useful, please visit!! (http://courses.tfpl.com/services/course-calendar.cfm)

The biggest writing-problem is over-formal language. We’re taught to write this way at school and university. Your boss was taught that way too. So we say ‘the OED comprises five discipline teams of specialist engineers’, rather than the less formal, ’We have five engineering teams and each team specialises in one area’. Newspapers like The Economist and The Financial Times don’t use this kind of language. They don’t need to and neither do you.

Tips when writing for busy people

  1. Use a longer headline; a complete thought, not just a topic. A longer headline can cover the most important point and help clients make the ‘to read’ decision.
  2. Use ‘message’ subheadings – They tell readers what’s coming next, and give skim-readers your main messages.
  3. Think like the reader and answer questions they might have. 
  4. Write what you would like from the reader at the top or early on in your message-no one enjoys reading blocks of texts and finding what you want at the end = Less time wasted = Happier readers
  5. Facts. Cut down on adjectives and don’t over claim – add facts instead.
  6. Use short words and short sentences: sprinkle full-stops onto your text, and use bullet points for lists. We want to present information that is easy to read.
  7. Over-formal language has a number of features that make it harder to read
  • Flat language. No lively words (shorter, punchier, less formal). Long words slow readers down.
  • Longer sentences with complex constructions and multi-syllable words. This makes the text harder to read and understand.
  • Similar sentence lengths, this creates a lulling murmur, and readers drift off. Add a few short-sentence jolts (and ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ to keep readers on their toes).

So these are quick tips you can use every day when communicating and doing business. We want our messages, reports and articles to be a success so let’s start thinking like the reader and we will triumph.

– Hamza

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