One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain:
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
That’s such a great quote about lazy writers, isn’t it? Those are the writers who simply write too much–not because they have so much to say, but because they write their thoughts down just as they think them and then don’t take the time to revise what they’ve written.
It does take more time to write a short letter (or email or report). A long one takes less time because it’s easier. It’s just a matter of dumping all the data into a document and sending it.
A “data dump” is just what it sounds like. A hard-at-work writer, pressed for time, just writes everything he or she knows about the topic and expects the reader to sort it out. It’s like saying, “Here’s everything I know about this, just select the parts that are important to you.”
But these days, readers don’t have patience for that. Some people have told me they automatically delete an email when they see it’s from someone who always writes too much and doesn’t say enough.
Real writing is all about communicating clearly. A big part of that is taking time to think about your business writing in a different way.
Writing to communicate isn’t just putting a lot of words on the computer screen and then hitting “send.” Writing to communicate is remembering there are living, breathing human beings on the other end of the writing who expect to read something that helps them with their work. It would be a bonus if that writing could be interesting and engaging in the process.
To keep your business writing short:
- Get to the point quickly.
- Don’t automatically start with background information.
- Limit paragraphs to three to five sentences.
- Leave out what your reader already knows.
- Cut what your reader doesn’t need know.
- Be clear about what happens next and when.
Readers appreciate being able to quickly read a document and know exactly what the writer is writing about. That kind of writing takes a little more time, but it will make your business writing stand out from the rest.