Do You Write the Way You Want to Write – Or the Way They Want to Read?

With today’s 2,586,000,000 email users worldwide, each with an average of 1.7 accounts; 205,600,000,000 emails sent and received every single day – too many either spam or viruses that get through our filters – many of us are left just shaking our heads, and wondering how in the world it could even be possible to break through all this Internet “noise” to reach, and have our correspondents actually read our emails.

Good question.

This is, of course assuming that  the receiver of  an email we may have struggled over will even open it, let alone read it. So the first step is to write a subject line that is either appropriate to, or sufficiently intriguing to our prospective reader that he or she will open it. Of course it helps a great deal to have information the reader really needs, or has requested. As this is not always possible, and trusting that the reader has opened our email, here are some steps you may want to try to get – and keep – the reader reading:

To begin with, start by deciding on your purpose. Why are you writing? Do you want a specific reader, or readers to read what you have written? Or is just writing it enough? Who are you writing for?

While it seems obvious, your best chance of getting your writing read is to write about something your reader wants to read. Second-best is to write something he or she has to read. In the second case, don’t count on that much of it getting through.

Now that you have decided what to write about, ask yourself how your reader prefers to read: Online – in a letter, memo, instructions, report? Or in a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn? On paper? Where are you most likely to find your reader?

Next step: assuming you want your writing read, what is the appropriate tone to use? What is the tone your reader will expect? What is the tone that will best connect with your reader? Should you use a formal, or academic tone? Will your reader be more likely to read and comprehend a less formal tone? Is that appropriate? Does your reader speak a specialized language – “legalese,” “medicalese,” “computerese”?

Much of the business writing done for higher-level co-workers tends to sound almost like a vocabulary test, as staff tends to “write up” for the higher-level reader. And yet, if that higher echelon reader were asked, he or she most likely would prefer to spend less time with a more comfortable, more readable, more easily-understood writing style. After all, that reader probably prefers having a family dinner, and maybe watching a little football, to staying late at work, trying to figure out what that piece of business writing says.

So if you want your writing to be read, write about something your reader wants to read – or present the information in such a way that he or she will want to read it. Use the writing medium your reader prefers, when you can appropriately do so. Write with a comfortable style, and an appropriate tone and language. And by all means, if you do nothing else, make it easy for the reader to get your point quickly, clearly, and concisely.

That last guideline is, and will continue to be, your most essential, most critical tool for cutting through all the “noise” your reader deals with on a day-to-day basis. The one tool you can totally control: Make your point quickly, clearly, and concisely.


Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email to learn more.

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