If you’re frightened by a blank page – or a blank screen – have no fear.

The Writing Coach is in.

If the blank screen doesn’t frighten you, you may be one of those people who can’t write a simple email message without a lot of opinion and anecdotes and unnecessary information.

Content matters. Get to the point. What do you want the reader to know? What do you want the reader to do?

“It’s like the length of a woman’s hemline. It should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting.”

My beloved high school creative writing teacher – Roberta Young – gave that advice to her students as she assigned short stories and more. Everyone wanted to know how long each writing assignment had to be.

We offer coaching services 1:1 and in small groups to review and practice tips for effective writing for business or personal purposes.

Mrs. Young’s advice is still helpful today for different kinds of writing, including business writing. That said, while creative writing is intended to entertain, business writing has a job to do.

In today’s rapid-fire world of 24/7 communications, with emails and texts, along with memos and reports, presentations and speeches—brevity is a virtue.

Not everyone is a writer. But everyone needs to write now and then.

A few tips can help you communicate effectively, informing and influencing your audience, while also cultivating positive relationships. Ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Who is your audience? Your relationship will signal the tone of your message—formal or more casual. Consider if you’re sharing good news, bad news or neutral news – that should be reflected in the language you use.
  2. What is the purpose of the message? Are you telling the recipient something? Asking for something? Both?
  3. What do you want the recipient to know or to do? Be specific. Use bullet points. If you say you’re writing to make two requests, following that line with two bullet points.
  4. If you want them to do something, be sure to specify when—by the end of next week, or by July 1, for example.
  5. Why is your communication important? Offer some context, give some background – but be succinct. One characteristic of effective leaders is their ability to give direction and help their audience understand the reason for the direction.
  6. What are the next steps? Will there be a meeting to discuss the subject at hand—when? Are you available for questions? Is more information forthcoming? When?
  7. Express gratitude.Thank your audience for their attention to this request or this information.

A few more tips:

Relatively short sentences in relatively short paragraphs are best for email messages.

Format your message so it’s easy to read. Your audience is busy – if you really want them to know or do something, help them receive your message so they can act. Bullets help.

If your message is one big block of text, you’re giving your audience permission to move on to the next message.

It may not be publicly known that for years major daily newspapers have used writing coaches to brush up on basics and keep the newswriting tight among members of their editorial teams.

Maybe you or your team could use some writing coaching, too.  We’re ready to meet your needs! – Jane Brust