Less can be more

By Shae Lalor

I recently heard a client remark that many of her staff were really good writers. She noted that they were able to present the same argument or outcome in many different ways; to fill pages and pages with details and findings.

But a problem lingered. Very few people were reading those pages. And those who did manage to get through the document were left confused: what were the key messages, what were the overall findings?

Sure, many of us are capable of filling pages to hit that word limit. We can include quotes, statistics, discussions and findings. The gold is in there, but it is buried deep within page 16.

Why should we make our readers wade through pages (or even paragraphs) to find the gold? Can't we offer them more for less?

These are some of the best ways to extract the gold in your writing:

  • Highlight the gold early. Don't wait until the end to come to a conclusion. State the result, the grab or the offer up front.
  • Write in a pyramid. Work your way down to the detail so people can start with the bling, then if they really want to know more, they can delve into the nitty-gritty.
  • Answer the question. What do your readers want to know? What is the submission asking for? What is the question? Stay focused on providing an answer. Try mapping out some keywords first so you don't lose sight of the end goal.
  • Avoid jargon and waffle. Unless your audience understands the jargon, leave it out. And while telling stories is a fabulous technique, consider if this is the best way to deliver your message. Perhaps a short analogy will maintain attention more than a two-page story will.
  • Make it easy. Offer links to more information or use a funky infographic to present the details visually.
  • Use emotion and personality. Authenticity takes your writing from solid to convincing. It takes a reader to a feeling of engagement. Hopefully it makes your reader laugh out loud, shed a tear or click the share button.

 

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