Writing For SuccessThe best style is the style you don't notice.
-- Somerset Maugham
The great novelist had it right. The world of business communications is no different. Effective writers get their points across concisely without calling attention to the way they write. The reader understands what the writer is conveying -- questions, answers to questions, a call to action, a persuasive point -- in one reading.
Getting there starts with three foundations of successful writing, whether a project report, a technical evaluation, a follow-up sales pitch or a brief e-mail:
- Writing is thinking. It should be viewed as an opportunity, a gift of time to show how smart you are.
- Know and respect your readers. Good writers use inclusive language, not pompous, jargon-laden language that excludes. They write to edify, not to impress.
- Edit/revise. The first two foundations are meaningless if you don't check your work carefully. Sloppy or nonexistent editing can make you look foolish.
In future newsletters, I'll expand on those points and others that have occurred to me in 35-plus years of writing for newspapers and magazines and teaching. I welcome your comments. The same goes for:
When a dog bites a man that is not news, but when a man bites a dog that is news.
-- Charles Dana, 19th century newspaper editor
That attitude is timeless, whether you're dealing with the New York Times or a local "If it bleeds, it leads," ratings-obsessed TV station. People who get paid to ask questions and write -- or speak into a mike -- about the answers live by Dana's credo. They do so because their readers and listeners and viewers want to know the same thing: What's new and different?There's a popular misconception out there that reporters and their editors and producers bring some sort of political bias, or "agenda," to their work. Yes, they do bring a bias, but for most of them it's not political. It's personal. Their agenda is themselves. They satisfy their egos and earn peer recognition and promotions when they get the news ahead of their equally driven competitors. Understand that and you're sure to benefit from almost any media encounter.
I'll be in touch. I'll keep these newsletters brief and to the point. I know you're busy.
In the meantime, please have a look at my new website. The designer did a fine job.