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Tips & Techniques for Writing to Today’s Busy Reader

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1 Tips & Techniques for Writing to Today’s Busy Reader
“People do not want to be less informed. They want to be more informed with less information!” To move forward, backward or to a specific slide, move your cursor over the hidden arrows/menu in the bottom left corner of each slide and make a selection. You can also use your space bar (forward); or your Page Up/Page Dn keys (backward/forward).

2 Table of Contents Orientation Making Your Message Usable
Making Your Message Understandable Making Your Message Acceptable Making Your Message Scannable Click on any colored bullet found on the Content pages to jump to a specific section.

3 Orientation This material was developed to help you improve your business writing. As you work through the slides, you will gain tips and techniques for writing messages that get to the point; help move projects along efficiently; and foster productive business relationships. Consider the Benefits of Good Writing Avoid 8 Common Mistakes Help Your Reader Return to main Table of Contents

4 Consider the Benefits of Good Writing
When people in an organization adopt good writing practices, they reap a host of benefits: Projects are completed more quickly. Information and knowledge is shared more efficiently. Productive relationships are formed and maintained. Miscommunications are minimized. In short, good business writing gives you and your company a competitive edge. Orientation

5 Avoid 8 Common Mistakes To improve your business writing, avoid the eight most common mistakes business writers make: The message is writer focused (not reader focused). There is no clear purpose. There is too much or not enough detail. The information is unorganized. The message is written in a complicated style. The writer used poor tone. The message contains typos and poor grammar. The message is poorly laid out/presented. Orientation

6 Help Your Reader Use these eight tips to help your reader:
Think about what your reader needs to know – not what you want to say. State your purpose for writing early in your message. Provide just the right amount of information to answer the reader’s questions. Organize information so your message is easy to skim. Write sentences the reader can read quickly. Use a positive, professional tone to connect with your reader. Eliminate typos and poor grammar. Make your message look good on screen or on paper. Orientation

7 Making Your Message Usable
In this section, you will learn to plan and organize your message. You will find out how to determine the level of detail your reader needs. “Why” We Write Know Your Reader IWCC’s Five Cs Writing Template Return to main Table of Contents

8 “Why” We Write Good writers are always clear about what they want to achieve in their message. The first step to making your message usable for your reader is to decide on the General Objective of your message. Your message will fall into one of the following five categories: To get action from your reader. To influence the feelings of your reader about the topic. To educate your reader about the topic. To instruct or teach your reader about the topic. To inform your reader about the topic. Making Your Message Usable

9 What do I want my reader to do / feel / understand / learn / know?
“Why” We Write After you have identified your General Objective, you will need to clarify your Specific Objective. Ask yourself… What do I want my reader to do / feel / understand / learn / know? Making Your Message Usable

10 Know Your Reader The second step is to know your reader. Who you are writing to will influence how you start your message, what details you include and what type of message you send. Consider the following questions: Who is your primary reader? What is their role in the company? What is their background? What is the reader’s attitude about the topic likely to be? Are they generally in support of the topic? Are they absolutely against it? Do they even care? Making Your Message Usable

11 Know Your Reader What characteristics of your reader will you need to take into account when you write your message? Does the reader tend to scan a document and prefer an overview to details? Does the reader tend to read every word and/or expect supporting details? What is the reader’s first language? What is their educational background/experience? What content decisions will you make based on you reader analysis? What does the reader know about the topic? What questions will the reader have about the topic? Making Your Message Usable

12 Introducing IWCC’s Five Cs
In grade school, you learned that every letter has an Opening, a Body and a Close. IWCC has created Five Cs to help you ensure that you include the right information in the right order: Capture Connect Clarify Convey Confirm IWCC’s Five Cs Template, on the next page, will help you integrate the Five Cs into your writing. Making Your Message Usable

13 IWCC’s Five Cs Template
Opening: Capture…the reader’s attention by stating the topic and the urgency. (Subject Line in ) Connect…with the reader by briefly explaining the context and topic; include an interest statement. Clarify…your purpose (Specific Objective) for writing. Body: Convey…your message (explain, demonstrate, illustrate). Close: Confirm…with your reader (restate the main point, clarify action required and summarize next steps). Making Your Message Usable

14 Convey... What Your Reader Needs
Rather than asking yourself, “What do I want to tell the reader?” give your reader the specific information he or she needs. Use the Reader’s Questions Technique and ask: “What does my reader need to know to be able to do / feel / know what I want them to do / feel / know?” Hint: Brainstorm your reader’s questions and put them in the order the reader wants the information. Making Your Message Usable

15 How the Five Cs Help You When you plan and write your document based on the Five Cs and your reader’s questions, you achieve three goals: You write more quickly. You include the right information with the right amount of detail for your reader. You gain a reputation as a professional who communicates clearly. Making Your Message Usable

16 Making Your Message Understandable
In this section, you will learn to write sentences that are clear and easy to understand. You will also learn techniques to help your reader find information easily. High Impact Style High Impact Sentence Techniques (picture nouns, active/linking verbs) Packaging & Labeling Techniques (label sentences, bridging words, bullet points, headings) Return to main Table of Contents

17 Two Styles of Writing Low Impact High Impact
Only one of these two styles meets the needs of the business reader – High Impact. The characteristics of both low and high impact styles are compared below. Which style do you prefer? Low Impact High Impact vague muddy bureaucratic difficult concise to-the-point clear easy Making Your Message Understandable

18 High Impact Style High Impact Sentence Techniques
Good business writers write in a High Impact Style. To make your written messages understandable, use the High Impact Writing Strategies below: High Impact Sentence Techniques Packaging & Labeling Techniques Making Your Message Understandable

19 High Impact Sentence Techniques
The first step to writing in a High Impact Style is to use High Impact Sentence Techniques. When you craft High Impact sentences, you write messages that are clear and easy to understand. Let’s look at the two High Impact Sentence Techniques that will help you to write High Impact sentences. #1. Picture Nouns #2. Active/Linking Verbs Making Your Message Understandable

20 #1: Picture Nouns By using picture nouns in your writing, you will write sentences that are clear and easy for the reader to read. The next few slides will provide you with examples of helpful and less helpful nouns and pronouns. Making Your Message Understandable

21 Helpful Nouns Picture Nouns
High Impact picture nouns and pronouns create pictures in the mind of your reader. Picture Nouns management department procedure I, we, you equipment policy money computer he, she, they software Making Your Message Understandable

22 Less Helpful Nouns Vague Nouns
Low Impact nouns and pronouns force your reader to analyze an abstract concept or idea. Vague Nouns involvement viability optimization development modification this, it aspect probability renewal illustration Making Your Message Understandable

23 Vague Pronouns When you use a vague pronoun as the subject of your sentence, you completely confuse your reader. As well, vague pronouns can make you sound old-fashioned or pompous. Rather than: It has been noted... Try: We have noticed… I have seen… We reported… Rather than: There is only one reason why the policy will not be accepted. Try: Management will not accept the policy because… Rather than: The side effects are minimal. This means patients will not suffer. Try: Patients will not suffer because the side effects are minimal. Or: The side effects are minimal; therefore patients will not suffer. Making Your Message Understandable

24 Verb Nouns Some nouns are really verbs masquerading as nouns. High Impact writers take care to replace the verb noun with a picture noun and use the verb noun as – guess what – a verb! The following examples show you how you can transform verb nouns back to the verbs they were derived from. Rather than: The introduction of the speaker will be made by the Chairman. Try: The Chairman will introduce the speaker. Rather than: The utilization of the new financial reporting process is mandatory for everyone. Try: Everyone must use the new financial reporting process. Making Your Message Understandable

25 Describer Nouns Some nouns are really adjectives masquerading as nouns. High Impact writers take care to replace a describer noun with a picture noun and use the describer noun as an adjective. The following examples show you how you can transform describer nouns back to the adjectives they were derived from. Rather than: The effectiveness of the testing was an area of doubt for the manager. Try: The manager doubted that the testing was effective. Rather than: The viability of the procedure’s timely completion is questionable. Try: We are not sure if the procedure’s completion date is viable. Making Your Message Understandable

26 #2: Active/Linking Verbs
Some verbs work harder than others; that is, they give the reader information in the natural order of: Actor » Action » Acted-Upon. By using active/linking verbs and the Actor » Action » Acted-Upon format in your writing, you will write sentences that will help your reader grasp the message easily and quickly. The next few slides provide you with examples of active/passive/linking verbs while introducing you to the Actor » Action » Acted-Upon format. Making Your Message Understandable

27 Active Verbs Actor Action Acted-Upon
Use active verbs when the subject or actor in the sentence is taking/going to take/or took action. Sentences with active verbs have High Impact because the actor comes before the verb. Actor Action Acted-Upon (Subject) (Active Verb) (Object) The manager is writing the report. (present tense) The controller will prepare the statements. (future tense) The doctor prescribed the drug. (past tense) Making Your Message Understandable

28 Passive Verbs Acted-Upon Action Actor
When you use passive verbs to show an action is being/will be/has been done to the subject of a sentence, you make the sentence more difficult to read. Sentences with passive verbs have less impact because they stray from the natural order of Actor » Action » Acted-Upon…and sometimes the Actor is completely absent. Acted-Upon Action Actor (Subject) (Verb) The project is being carried out by the consultant. (present tense) The report will be completed by the manager. (future tense) The project has been approved. (past tense) (Studies show that people read sentences with passive verbs 14-17% more slowly than they read sentences with active verbs.) Making Your Message Understandable

29 Linking Verbs Actor Action Acted-Upon
Use linking verbs in a sentence where no action is taking place. They are called linking verbs because they simply link the Actor (Subject) and the Acted-Upon (Completer). Actor Action Acted-Upon (Subject) (Linking Verb) (Completer) The report is long. Management seems to be satisfied. Making Your Message Understandable

30 Summing up High Impact Sentences
To write High Impact sentences that are clear and easy for your reader to understand: Use Actor, Action, Acted-Upon format. Use PICTURE nouns. Use ACTIVE/LINKING verbs. Making Your Message Understandable

31 Packaging & Labeling Techniques
The second step to writing in a High Impact Style is to use the four Packaging & Labeling Techniques. When you apply these techniques, you present information in a way that helps the reader grasp the key points quickly and easily, and you lower the possibility of miscommunication. #1. Label sentences #2. Bridging words & phrases #3. Bullet points #4. Active/descriptive headings Making Your Message Understandable

32 #1. Label Sentences The human brain likes to receive information in chunks. By using Label Sentences, you will easily organize information into coherent paragraphs or packages of related information. Label sentences also help you guide a busy reader to key information as they skim through a long message or document. Making Your Message Understandable

33 Packaging Information
Think of your document as a series of packages of information; for example, these moving boxes: Each package begins with a label that tells the reader what is inside the package. Then, when you look inside the package you find out more (ex. cutlery or platters; kitchen or bar glasses; blender or microwave oven). You will find an example on the next two slides showing how one writer planned then wrote a paragraph using this technique. kitchen appliances drinking glasses silverware Making Your Message Understandable

34 Example: The Plan for the Paragraph
Reader’s Question: How will this type of system benefit my company? Label Sentence: By introducing one of these systems, you will see immediate benefits in three areas. Supporting Detail: improved employee morale lower wage costs less absenteeism Making Your Message Understandable

35 Example: The Finished Paragraph
By introducing one of these systems, you will see immediate benefits in three areas. First, because the job will be easier, job stress will be reduced and employees will have improved morale. Second, your employees will be more productive and will take fewer sick days, so absenteeism will be reduced. Finally, with less absenteeism, you will see the cost of wages decrease as you will need fewer temporary employees. Making Your Message Understandable

36 Make Your Point, Then Support It
Each time you start a new package (paragraph), you need to signal the reader by using a label sentence which states your main point. Then, you follow the label sentence with several sentences that provide the supporting details. Remember that you can help your reader read more quickly and find the information they need by: Chunking related information into paragraphs. Making your point in each paragraph with a label sentence. Providing the supporting details. Making Your Message Understandable

37 #2. Bridging Words & Phrases
When your writing sounds choppy, or when ideas are simply set down one after another with no apparent connection, your reader has to work harder to get the message. You can help your reader connect ideas and information by using bridging words and phrases. Bridging words and phrases help your writing flow cohesively for your reader. They add variety and build meaning; and, they connect one thought or idea to the next. Making Your Message Understandable

38 Examples: Bridging Words & Tasks
Connect Ideas Get Specific Present Results Also For instance Therefore In addition To explain So And For example Consequently Compare Ideas Emphasize Ideas Show Timing In comparison In addition First, Second, Third In contrast Moreover Before In the same way Furthermore Then Making Your Message Understandable

39 #3. Bullet Points You can help your reader by using bullet points to:
list things describe a series of ideas write instructions highlight important points describe short sequences/processes create variety on a page. Keep in mind that bullet points are not helpful to your reader when you list more than seven items, or when you are trying to persuade or build an argument. Making Your Message Understandable

40 Tips for Effective Bullet Points
When you decide to use bullet points, please use these simple guidelines: Begin each group of points with a descriptive label sentence or heading. Cluster points into groups of seven or fewer. Begin each point with the same kind of word (e.g. a verb or noun). Use a number (1, 2, 3) or letter (a, b, c) if you want to show sequence or refer to a specific point later. Use a symbol to differentiate each point in a list that does not have a specific sequence. Making Your Message Understandable

41 #4. Active/Descriptive Headings
Today’s reader is busy and often overloaded with information. Well- written headings are therefore essential when you write a longer document. When you use active/descriptive headings, you: Help the reader find key information easily. Signal to the reader what information they can expect to find under each heading. Help the reader follow the structure of the document (major sections, sub-sections, sub- subsections). Express information clearly. You will find some tips to help you write active/descriptive headings on the next three slides. Making Your Message Understandable

42 Heading Tip #1 Do your headings lack impact? Include an action verb to make your heading more descriptive. For example: Generic/Static Active/Descriptive Objective What We Need to Achieve Instructions Finding Help Making Your Message Understandable

43 Heading Tip #2 Are you forced to use a template with generic/static heading? Add a subheading to make your heading more descriptive. For example: Generic/Static Active/Descriptive Overview Our project’s objectives Assumptions Key information you need to know Making Your Message Understandable

44 Heading Tip #3 Do you find writing headings to be difficult? Try pulling key words from your reader’s questions. For example: Reader’s Question Heading How can I be sure that Why this Solution will Work your solution will work? Who will be responsible Managers from Delivery for these changes? will Handle These Changes Making Your Message Understandable

45 Making Your Message Acceptable
In this section, you will learn how to sound positive and professional when you write. You will explore techniques to add personal touch to your writing to build relationships and produce results. Use Positive Tone Apply IWCC’s P-Touch Technique Return to main Table of Contents

46 Use Positive Tone Your writing can affect your credibility either positively or negatively. What you say…but more importantly…how you say it can affect the outcome of entire projects, customer relationships, and sometimes, your career. Positive tone is more than just being nice. It can: Help you get things done. Encourage people to buy your ideas. Establish a good relationship for the future. Enhance your personal credibility. Make you sound professional. Making Your Message Acceptable

47 You can choose to sound like this…
We hope you will choose to renew your contract with our company. In order to process the renewal, we will need to hear from you by November 30. Our team has identified some serious problems. Nevertheless, we believe you will be able to quickly resolve them. Positive Making Your Message Acceptable

48 Or like this… If a response is not received by November 30, the assumption will be made that no contract renewal is desired. There are some obstacles standing in the way of a resolution to the problems identified. Negative tone leaves a “bad taste”. It can: Detract from your professional image. Make your reader angry or defensive. Lead to compliance…but rarely cooperation. Negative Making Your Message Acceptable

49 Or like this… We need to know by November 30, if you are renewing your contract. Our team has identified some serious problems and we need to remove some barriers to solve the problems. Neutral tone has no feeling, just facts. It can: Make you sound like a “cold fish”. Send a chilling message. Be interpreted as negative. Neutral Making Your Message Acceptable

50 Apply IWCC’s P-Touch Technique
You can project a positive, professional image in your writing by using IWCC’s Personal Touch (P-Touch) Technique. Please be polite. Talk person-to-person. Offer specifics. Use reader-friendly language. Cut out clichés and legal language. Handle things constructively. Making Your Message Acceptable

51 Personal or Impersonal?
When you use person-to-person pronouns (I, we, you) in your writing, you add personality. Your writing projects a professional image and helps you build relationships. If you want to project a friendly, professional image, avoid impersonal tone. Instead, write using a personal tone. Example: Impersonal: If a response is not received by November 30 the assumption will be made that no contract renewal is desired. Personal: We hope you will choose to renew your contract with our company. In order to process the renewal, we will need to hear from you by November 30. Making Your Message Acceptable

52 Using “You” When you use the pronoun “you” as the actor in the sentence, you relate to the reader on their level. Use the “you” voice when you want to involve your reader. The “you” voice can help you convince your reader to cooperate, comply and participate. You will find it particularly helpful when writing instructions or procedures, and sales letters or proposals. Example: Instead of: Our system provides better time management. Try: You will be able to manage your time better with this system. Making Your Message Acceptable

53 Handle Issues Constructively
Even when you have to write about negative issues, you can still choose to present the information in a constructive way. Examples: Instead of: We are unable to address 20% of the criteria documented in the Request for Proposal (RFP). Try: We can address four of the five criteria in the Request for Proposal (RFP). Instead of: We failed to meet our sales call targets twice this week. Try: We met our sales call targets three out of five days this week. Making Your Message Acceptable

54 Making Your Message Scannable
In this section, you will find tips to ensure your electronic and paper messages look good and meet the needs of today’s busy reader. Tips for Formatting Messages Tips for Formatting Messages on Paper Return to main Table of Contents

55 Tips for Formatting E-mail
is a fast-paced message system. Use the following tips to help your reader quickly read and easily understand your intended message. Keep scroll length to no more than two screens. Keep paragraphs to four sentences or less. Use headings and subheadings for long messages. Use plain text to ensure your message looks the same on the reader’s screen as it does on yours. Use acronyms and jargon sparingly; be sure your reader knows what it means. Keep attachments to a reasonable size. Making Your Message Scannable

56 Tips for Formatting on Paper
You can make all your documents look more inviting and much easier on the reader’s eye by following a few simple rules. Use ample white space; don’t overcrowd pages. Use consistent page margins and don’t scrimp on the size. Leave the right margin unjustified – ragged. Say goodbye to underlining; instead, use bold. Choose an easy-to-read font; and use no more than two different fonts in a document. Choose an appropriate type size for your reader. Use upper and lower case letters in the body. Use a clear heading hierarchy. Making Your Message Scannable

57 help move projects along efficiently, and
By applying the tips and techniques you have learned in this slideshow, you will be well on your way to writing messages that: get to the point, help move projects along efficiently, and foster productive business relationships. “People do not want to be less informed. They want to be more informed with less information!”

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