You can make every email, memo, letter, and report more effective if you follow one basic rule: Use your first sentence to motivate your readers to do what you want by giving them something they want.
You may have run into this statistic:
50% of all documents are not opened
50% of opened document are not read all the way through
50% of all documents that are read, are not completely understood
These numbers mean you have a one in eight chance of your written words getting you what you want. Bad odds!
Dangle the Bait!
The most powerful way to ensure that your document will be read is to give your reader something they value in the very first sentence.
A poor opening focuses on problems and discourages the reader from reading on. The reader immediately feels like the document is one more problem she doesn’t want to face. Here’s an example:
- Six of our seven fax machines are too slow and only handle ten faxes per hour.
An effective opening focuses on something the reader values. It suggests there are positive ways to go forward.
- We can save money on repairs and improve service to customers by adding new fax machines.
Use these Seven Benefit Categories
There are seven basic benefit categories that you can use to motivate your readers. Give your readers what they care about, and you’ll be far more likely to get what you want.
- Economic gain (save/make time or money)
- Personal satisfaction or achievement (gain success)
- More ease or comfort in life (add fun or pleasure)
- Recognition (win approval)
- Support of personal values (share beliefs)
- Companionship or belonging (join a valued group)
- Knowledge or information (share helpful data)
It’s an important list. If you’re serious about making your writing more effective, copy the list on a 3×5 index card and keep it handy. Tack it on the wall of your cubicle or stick it beneath your phone. When you want to convince people to do what you want, check your list and consider what benefit they want. Try it; it works.
Effective Writing Leads to Promotion
Show readers why it is worth their time to read on. You cannot count on your reader to start AND finish your piece just because you think your message is important. You have to give your reader a reason to continue reading.
Use effective writing strategies to demonstrate your ability to get the job done so you can win that promotion or new job.