Our favorite effective business writing tips for 2017 are all about achieving one goal: reaching readers more effectively. Reaching readers more effectively—getting them to consume, understand, and be persuaded by our content—is how we as writers achieve what we want.
Two factors make reaching readers more challenging today:
- Readers face an ongoing, ever-increasing barrage of written content. They’re forced to make near-instantaneous decisions about what to read and what not to read. As a result, just getting them to begin reading your content is a challenge.
- Readers are easily distracted by smartphones, social media, and other media. They’re quick to abandon content they don’t find highly valuable or appealing. So once they’ve started reading our content, don’t assume they’ll keep reading.
With these two factors in mind, we present our 10 favorite writing tips for 2017.
1. Write Engaging Titles and Email Subject Lines
Writing great titles may be even more important than ever. The title is the part of your document that’s read first, so it’s critical. Whether a technical report, whitepaper, or article, the title should clearly indicate the subject and give readers a clear idea of how the subject is addressed and what readers can expect.
Subject lines play the same role for emails as titles do for documents. With people’s inboxes flooded, a precise subject line that tells readers exactly what the email contains, or what action they should take, helps ensure that your email is opened and addressed quickly.
2. Write Reader-Focused Documents
What do readers want? Content that helps them. That tells them what they need, what they’re looking for, or where they can find it. If readers find your content—whether an article, document, or an email—helpful, they’re much more likely to keep reading. That was true 15 years ago, and it’s still true today.
3. Focus on Readability
Making your content easy to read and understand is critical both for convincing today’s readers to keep reading and for comprehension. This is true whether the content is for general, technical, or scientific audiences. No matter the topic or audience, good writing is well organized, coherent, and emphasizes key points.
On a related note, follow Mark Twain’s advice: don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do. Unnecessarily complicating your content does nothing to enhance its credibility.
4. Organization, Organization, Organization
Good writing is well organized. We know, we mentioned it in the last item, but far too often writing isn’t organized appropriately for your readers and the topic, which makes it impossible to have a successful document. For instance, are you using a chronological organizational strategy when your readers are skimmers? If so, your reader may miss valuable information. Before writing, consider the various organizational strategies available to you and use the one(s) that will meet your readers’ needs. .
5. Ensure the Introduction Does What It’s Supposed to Do
The introduction is one of the most-read sections of any document, so it needs to do its job: tell readers what they can expect, how the document is organized or laid out, and/or what the problem and solution are. In other words, the introduction is your reader’s roadmap to the document and thus should guide them in reading,
6. Get to Your Main Point Quickly
Readers today are impatient. You may love your creative preamble, but if you take more than a few paragraphs to get to the point, readers may move on Even when readers consume the bulk of your content, taking too long to get to the point by including unnecessary information can mean that they don’t understand your main point. And if your readers fail to understand your point, you’ve lost. .
Bonus tip for longer documents: include an executive summary. Condensing key findings into an executive summary helps readers understand your key messages and helps them determine if they want to read all or portions of the entire document.
7. Use Short Paragraphs to Emphasize
When making a key point, consider using short, even one sentence, paragraphs. Shorter paragraphs draw the eye and you can use them to make key points; just be sure that you reserve shorter paragraphs for the most impactful information. .
On a related note, put key points in the first or last sentences of paragraphs instead of the middle. Many readers are skimmers, meaning they only read a paragraph’s first and last sentences.
Be sure to use a variety of paragraph lengths to keep reader interest, but reserve longer paragraphs for detail and description.
8. Pay Attention to Your Content’s Visual Appeal
Today’s readers expect a quality visual experience when they read. Researchers have found that colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%. In addition, adequate white space and ragged right edge spacing enhance readability.
9. Use Bullets When Appropriate
Many writers will use bullets whenever they have a list; however, since bullets draw the eye, they should be used only when we want readers to focus on that information. Therefore, use them sparingly and only to highlight impactful information.
10. Write Descriptive Headings/Subheadings
In addition to adding to content’s visual appeal, headings and subheadings help organize content. To make your document more scannable, state the main topic in your headings and subheadings. Ensure that your headings and subheadings describe exactly what each section contains and that they work together to form the skeleton of the document.
Does your team need help developing its writing skills? If so, we can help! Contact us today to learn more about professional writing techniques and training!