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SAVE TIME – quick ways to make your communications shorter (and better)

Tags: Be interesting | Presentations | Meetings | Impact | Save time | Do more | Influencing

22nd November

Here’s a very quick, very useful technique:

  1. Find your most recent written communication
  2. Imagine you’d been told “this is too long – remove half of it”, which bits would you take out? (This might take you 2-3 minutes to work out)
  3. Now ask yourself ‘If I had removed these bits before I’d sent it, would my communication still have worked?”
  • If yes, next time you write something, exclude all these bits. You’ve just seen they aren’t needed
  • If no, re-instate as few bits as possible, until the communication would have worked. Then, next time, exclude the bits you now realise aren’t needed

Very quick. Very simple.

But if you want to invest a touch more time (though not much, to be honest), here are other things you can do:

  • Read your communication out loud. When you hear how you write, you realise some bits sound clunky/aren’t needed. This helps you edit it down and make things shorter
  • If you have to take a breath mid-sentence, your sentences are too long. You’re probably, using joining words – ‘and, but, so’ – instead of a full stop
  • Shorten your paragraphs. People skimread what you write. And, the longer the paragraph, the more chance they’ll miss something – especially at the bottom (people pay most attention to the tops). So, a simple rule “four lines max”. Any paragraph longer than that, press the RETURN key more often
  • Good headings. You can do everything in this Tip; but it still might not be enough. Because, if your headings are rubbish, they might not read the document at all. So, don’t use boring headings – ‘FYI’, ‘Background’, ‘Update’ etc. Instead, use slightly longer headings, that draw people in – “Four simple ways to improve your business without trying”, “The easiest, quickest way for us to reduce costs”…

…people are often surprised when they see the last point. But it’s true. Your heading is your document’s first impression. And, like anything else, if it’s boring, people will think the whole thing is.

After all, if Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people” had been called “Communication skills in the workplace”, sales might not have been quite so good.

Action Point

This week’s Action Point is in the Tip. Simply grab a recent communication, and do what I suggest above. This’ll help ensure your next communication is shorter and better.

Also, one communication which often fails is a proposal – customers don’t reply when you send them, they query the price, they take ages, you hate writing them, they hate reading them, and so on.

If you’d like my guide how to write better proposals, join my online video club now. Then, send your purchase confirmation email to me, and I’ll send you my proposal guide, which has been described as “the best guidance on how to write proposals that I’ve ever read”. Here’s the link again.