Mark Twain was one of the most well-known writers of his day, and people are still paying attention to him now. What was his secret? Brevity and conciseness.
Most people in the professional world have a very short attention span and are way too busy for their own good. When writing business communications, don’t underestimate the importance of clarity and conciseness. Get right to it by prefacing your document or e-mail with a brief, objective-oriented introduction and bulleting out your key points for painless consumption.
If you want people to pay attention to what you’re saying instead of skimming the page(s) while in a multi-tasking stupor, offer only the essential information and provide supplemental material via an attachment.
Twain once joked to a friend, “I’m sorry for the long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Though it’s often easier to convey your point using more words, don’t give in to the temptation. Get into the habit of writing a first draft, and then editing it down considerably before sending it! One trick that I use is to write a document, put it away for a day, and then come back to it so that I can catch errors my eyes may have glazed over before.
Finally, whether it’s an official memo or a run-of-the-mill e-mail, don’t forget to include a subject line that summarizes exactly what the communication is about and makes the recipient want to, or at least feel obligated to, read on.