Effective communication requires structure. Be it in print or spoken formats, if you can’t communicate well, you won’t receive the desired results of your efforts, even if all you want is to be understood. And to that point, please allow me to offer some thoughts on communication.
Lead clearly and with your best stuff
If it’s email, make your subject line crisp and clear. If it’s a blog, same thing. In a conversation, start with the point, and then go from there. ALWAYS make the first thing the “identifier” of what’s to follow. Mystery only works nicely in fiction.
From the subject line or title or first sentence (let’s stick with a blog post analogy to save my sanity), make the first paragraph a good strong lead with the MOST IMPORTANT information up front. Why? Because people might be skimming. They might be deciding if the information is worthy of their time. They have too much to do, just like you.
Break things up. Keep it chunked and conversational
I don’t care WHAT you were taught when writing essays in college or learning formal business letter writing, or learning how to write fiction. Big long, flowy sentences SUCK as a way to keep someone’s attention. Make a plan today: go get the book THE SHIPPING NEWS by E. Annie Proulx. Look at a professional at sparse text. Learn a little minimalism.
Keep paragraphs as short as possible. Remember to start new paragraphs for each new theme (that’s how they’re broken up, by the way- by the first sentence being the lead of the paragraph’s theme).
If you have bulleted lists and the like, use them sparingly, and not as big fat streams of poorly formatted text.
Finish with a strong close
The end of your piece might be just a conclusion, but more often than not, communication (in blogs, email, or conversations) involves some kind of a close, maybe with what’s often termed a “call to action.” In those cases, it’s a matter of making sure the person understands what you want them to do.
In my blog posts, I almost always end with something asking you what YOU’D do. Why? Because I don’t write this for myself. I write for you. I write with the hope that you will come out with even better stuff in comments than I made up in the post. But that’s a call-to-action.
In other cases, a close means asking someone to do something. Compelling them to take an action. In sales, this is a purchase. In business, this is making a deal happen. Closing means ensuring that you’ve ended your communication in such a way that a little fine tuning might come next, but that everything is lined up so that the next actions are obvious.
(personal note: I’m a crappy closer. That’s why I’m a community guy. I like the interaction more than the goal).
From top to bottom
Lead with a strong, crisp, understandable subject line. Follow with your best stuff first. Support it. And then close it. It’s just like that, no matter the medium. If the point is a conversation, the same elements should be there, just with other people supplying the middles and with the close being somewhat flexible.
What’s your take? Does this resonate? Can you see this in your own communication?
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