How to produce writing that gets read
What is ‘good writing’ in a work context?
Is there a formula you can use? A benchmark you can apply?
Sadly, there’s no universal standard for what makes good professional writing.
Instead, it’s entirely about the context of your intended audience.
For example, we’re often told to avoid jargon.
But if your aim is to appeal to a specialist audience, jargon is a code you use to show you know what you’re talking about, that you’re part of the club and can be trusted.
On the other hand, if you need to explain something simply for a non-specialist audience, chunky paragraphs of specialist jargon will cause the reader to bounce out of your work faster than a super-bouncy bouncing ball from a supermarket toy-vending machine.
Good writing meets audience needs
People don’t read for fun at work, and they don’t owe you their time and attention.
If you can’t make it clear from the first few words why they should care, you’ve lost them.
To write effectively, you need to think about:
- who you’re writing for
- why you are writing for them
- what you want them to understand or do differently as a result of reading your words.
You need to make sure your writing meets the needs of the audience.
As a subset of this, here are some things you can do to make sure your work writing gets read.
Use active voice and direct language
Writing that meets reader needs puts the subject of the sentence first. This tells us who or what is doing the action.
Using active voice also forces you to be very clear about who has the agency.
So rather than writing, ‘the decision was made’, it’s better to use ‘we made this decision’.
This also demonstrates the power of direct language.