Write Concisely and Be Heard

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.

Tagged as , career tips, , , , transferable skills, writing.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. A former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a current contributor for Fortune and Metro US, Alexandra has authored several books, including the bestselling They Don't Teach Corporate in College, How'd You Score That Gig?, Success for Hire, MillennialTweet, and New Job, New You. Her book on the top myths of business success is due out from Penguin/Berkley in the fall of 2011. Since serving as a member of Business Roundtable's Springboard Project, which advised the Obama administration on current workplace issues, Alexandra produced the critically acclaimed JobSTART 101 (www.jobstart101.org), a free online course that better prepares college students and graduates for the challenges of the workplace. She is a frequent national media spokesperson and has been featured in thousands of outlets including the New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, ABC News, Fox News, CNBC, the Associated Press, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. In 2010, she was named Money Magazine's Online Career Expert of the Year and the author of one of Forbes' best websites for women. Known as one of the premiere spokespeople of her generation, Alexandra regularly speaks at conferences, universities, and corporations around the world including the American Society for Training and Development, Campbell's Soup, McDonalds, and Whirlpool — on issues facing modern employees such as how to communicate effectively between generations.

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