Writing for Results

Does your organizational role include writing? Emails, reports, marketing materials, proposals, performance evaluations…the answer is almost certainly yes.

Are you getting the responses and results you want when you send a document or email to your audience? Here are some tips you can use to get the results you want and need.

Tip 1: Identify your intended, likely, and actual audiences before you write anything. Then write down these audiences and what you need, want, or expect from them after they read your material. Keep in mind the audience is probably not you or your manager, yet so many documents and emails are written for the two of you.

Tip 2: Make a list of the top 3-4 points you want to cover. Now, put these points into a logical order, from most to least critical. For short written communications, these key points form the theme of a paragraph—at least one paragraph per point. For longer documents such as proposals and reports, these points form the basis of an outline and subsequent document section headings.

Tip 3: Expand your list from Tip 2. Reorganize your expanded list into a logically organized outline. Add 2-4 key topics under each of these outline points. You now have a top-level outline you can annotate with roles, dates, page counts, and more. There are three great outcomes:

  • It is easy to move outline headings and key points around when there is not yet any text.
  • You can identify where everything goes and avoid the urge to repeat information in multiple sections.
  • Managing the managers and reviewers becomes feasible since the annotated outline shows them you have a plan and assures them everything will be covered.

Tip 4: Employ the principles of “plain language.” Make sure you:

  • Write in sentences averaging 10-15 words.
  • Keep paragraphs between 2-6 sentences.
  • Use bullets to call out key information and avoid long lists inside sentences.
  • Write clearly, concisely, and considerately.
  • Use active voice and first/second person.
  • Eliminate unnecessary adjectives, nouns, and adverbs.
  • Reduce your use of words ending in “-ly.”
  • Remove and/or replace multi-syllable words with shorter words.
  • Minimize introductory clauses.
  • Avoid repetition.
  • Install “readability”—it is part of spell- and grammar-check—and use it as a revision tool to ensure you are writing to the audience’s level and needs.
  • Ask someone less familiar with your topic to read what you wrote.

A Remember, if you liked it the first time you wrote it, you will like it even better the next time—but any errors and problems will still be there.

By: Janet Arrowood

The Write Source, Inc.

Janet Arrowood is the President of The Write Source, Inc. She can be reached at janet.arrowood@thewritesourceinc.com.