The First Rule of Effective Writing: It’s Not About YOU

It seems a bit obvious to say, but in this digital age of instant consumption, readers are only becoming more impatient and quitting sooner than you might think. The average reader of this website stays for an average of 12 to 34 seconds before their attention span gets the better of them, and long before they can begin retaining any of the useful information I’ve jam-packed within. You have to take this information into account when writing for a client or even for your own projects.

Fortunately, it’s fairly simple, if not necessarily easy, to get into the head of the client and the reader. With a little bit of patience and practice, you can begin to reach the core of your audience and speak to them like a close friend.

Speak Plainly!

Clear communication with your customers ensures that they remain customers.

Let me say that another way for people that are slightly hard of hearing: simple, clear communication is what will put money in your pocket.

Having good communication skills will also ensure that they won’t complain about you to their friends, neighbor(s), or on Twitter (yikes). Have you ever been part of the direct campaign and noticed that the phone line really doesn’t get red-hot you’ve sent out a mailing? The answer is simple: the text wasn’t as clear as you thought it was and you need to improve it. Clear texts contribute significantly to the well-being of the organization you work for as well as your own efforts to attract more clients. It’s high time for some training in this area.

Effective Writing: Structure and Style

Have you ever gotten lost in your own words? After typing 1,000, 2,000 or even more words, you suddenly lose the meaning and the point of what you wrote? Trust me, if you don’t get why you wrote something, neither will your readers. Here’s something that you must keep in mind:

Effective writing boils down to creating accessible writing with a clear structure.

I have found that in my experience, the time-tested “Pyramid Style” of writing is one of the most effective ways of writing. Start at the very top of the pyramid. What is the most important bit of information you would like to convey? It has to be simple and easily conveyed in one short sentence. Let’s say you’re selling toothpicks. In my pyramid, I would have “Buy my toothpicks because they help prevent gum disease” as the main idea.

What would be below that? How toothpicks prevent gum disease, why my toothpicks are special, etc…

What’s below that level? What is gum disease, how are my toothpicks made, etc…

That way, it’s like having an outline, except instead of spending hours upon hours coming up with an ineffective sheet that you’ll constantly change anyway, you would simply be working with the core ideas of your content. So in summary, your pyramid would help you write effectively by giving you obvious topics to discuss:

How Toothpicks are Made –> Why My toothpicks are Special —-> Buy my toothpicks.

What is gum disease –> How my toothpicks prevent gum disease –> Buy my toothpicks.

You can literally come up with dozens of different examples from the simple exercise we just did. Keep in mind, you should always elaborate on the most important communication.

Share What the Reader Wants to Know, not What You Think the Reader Should Know

I get it, you’re the master of your niche. You know everything there is to know about a given topic and you can speak endlessly about it.

Nobody cares.

I’m sorry if I’m being harsh, that’s just the simple reality. Even if you’re trying to genuinely help someone with a problem they are specifically looking for, anything you add is going to be automatically filtered by their brain at best. In a worst case scenario, they will stop listening to you entirely.

Readers drop out after the first paragraph if they don’t know why they are reading a certain bit of information.

Please don’t forget that. If they see four paragraphs and after paragraph one, they still don’t know why they are reading the text, they will quit. People are impatient and reading comprehension is at an all time low thanks to information overload. So give them exactly what they want.

You Don’t Have To Be Fancy

In addition to the structure, your writing style is also relevant. It is a misunderstanding to think that you have to write much more solemnly and complexly in communications to boards of directors than to clients who are an average member of society. Directors or other people with high positions are just people like you and me who prefer to have a readable text in their busy program. The sooner they understand what is written, the sooner they can move on.

Conclusion

Ultimately, effective writing is more of an art than a science. It requires a lot of practice and everyone approaches it differently. However, there are some overarching themes to keep in mind. If you can just learn how to write plainly and get straight to the point, you’ll see reader retention, comprehension and audience scores go up through the roof. That will directly affect you or your clients’ sales. I hope you gained some clarity from this short article, please feel free to comment below or contact me for comments, opinions and thoughts.

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