Three things you need to be to get your message across – Number 2

My previous blog post talked about what writers need to be in order to cut through the white noise of 2021. These Bs give you not just the skill set, but a mindset to rethink your writing rather than just edit it or reshape it. Plus, these things to “be” will help your writing hit the mark, or muscle its way into your reader’s overcrowded mental state.

The first thing writers need to be is direct. Being direct means you don’t waste your reader’s time, which actually helps your results

So what else could you be? Here’s the second one.

Be… positive

One of the most underrated approaches to writing in 2021 is to be positive.

Tell me what I can do, not what won’t happen if I don’t.  Being positive gives you two advantages as a writer.

  1. It’s easier to read because it’s shorter.

If you went back and re-read this sentence – “Tell me what I can do, not what won’t happen if I don’t” – because it was hard to understand, that’s kind of my point. Writing in a double-negative requires a level of mental gymnastics that takes more time than we have.

And it takes up valuable space.

This is what it looks like:

If you don’t lodge your application by November 1, you won’t be eligible to apply for the grant.

And when your reader has to go back and re-read (if they even do), they’re now in the wrong headspace. They’re trying to work out what you’re talking about.

I see this a lot in Government web sites and collateral, and also organisations which rely on policies. That’s often where the policy mentality bleeds into communication, and they feel they have to put the disclaimers in just in case. Which doesn’t help, or even address the issue. But what it is guaranteed to do is make your material harder to understand.

How about we write that line to be more positive:

Please lodge your application by November.

or

Applications close November 1.

Apart from being easier to understand it is WAY SHORTER. Remember, your readers are scanning, so less it better.

2. It’s easier to understand.

Your reader’s time is valuable (we talked about this in the original blog post), so value it.

Don’t make their job harder by forcing them to re-read or stop and do brain surgery trying to work out what on earth you’re writing about.

So don’t write:

If you do not pay your account on time, we will not be able to provide you with the services you pay for.

Instead try:

If you pay your account on time, we will provide you with the services you pay for.

And that’s just a small edit. I’d go even further.

So that’s number two – be positive, and enjoy the benefits of better reading which will deliver you better results.

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