More than words

By Shae Lalor

Many of us are easily distracted, so you've got to work hard to keep your reader engaged, and sometimes words aren't enough to hold their attention.

Part of my job is to strip the message back to find the meaning, then look at the best ways to deliver that meaning. In practice, this involves moving text around, rewriting headings and removing repetition. It's also assessing whether words presented in traditional paragraphs is the best way to provide the 'story'. 

These are some of the methods I use to make any message more palatable, more enjoyable, and about more than just the words – regardless of the communication method.

  1. Simplify – use lists or bullets, subheadings and at-a-glance summaries.
  2. Emphasise – use bold, colour or pull-out text to bring attention to the key elements.
  3. Go visual – present the words in a different form: infographic, spreadsheet, graph, image or meme. Break up blocks of text with imagery.A sample infographic
  4. Re-tell – use quotes, case studies or testimonials so someone else is telling the story. You'll also add credibility.
  5. Clarify – consider if the tone is consistent. Delete or rewrite parts that are inconsistent with the overall tone or intent.
  6. Know your audience – always consider your audience. Remove the terms that might confuse, patronise or bore.
  7. Link – cross-reference to other parts of your document (or website) to reach those who like to delve, re-read, or follow a new tangent. Also use tools to help them: an index, footnotes or a table of contents.
  8. Format – inconsistent spacing, font sizes or colours are awfully distracting. Keep the presentation consistent and reflect your brand elements.
  9. Add pictures – you know they tell the story, but choose them well and use relevant and insightful captions (and attribute appropriately). Some readers will only read the captions!
  10. Be helpful – don't leave your reader hanging! After they've read your piece, make it easy for them to find what they need: an email address, a social share button, an option to comment, or somewhere to find out more.
  11. Reconsider the method – perhaps the message would be better delivered in a video, combining scripted voice over with filmed footage, interviews, captions and/or music. Or perhaps it would be better as a poster, speech or as part of an interpretative dance! Text isn't your only option.

Need help formulating your message to make it enjoyable to read or hear? Contact me to find out more.