How To Write Effectively

Nido Qubein

A major study by the Rockefeller Foundation found that 68% of the customers who quit buying from their regular suppliers do so because employees fail to communicate effectively with those customers.

Efficiency experts claim that at least 40% of the average worker's time is spent doing tasks that are either unnecessary or have to be done over because they were not done according to instructions. So, as you can see, the ability to communicate with precision has a tremendous impact on the bottom line.

One way to communicate precisely is to put it in writing. Executives can multiply their influence by learning the techniques of forceful writing. High-powered writers learn to focus words the way a laser beam focuses light.

A few years ago, Earl Nightingale and I recorded a cassette program on this subject. In it, I recommended some pertinent guidelines:

  • Focus your objective. What is the purpose of the material you want to write? Writing can help you achieve the five I's: It can inform, inquire, influence, instruct and incite.

  • Focus your audience. Written materials such as reports and brochures can be valuable positioning tools. They should be written with a specific audience in mind—the audience you wish to influence to buy your products or services.

  • Focus your content. Make sure that your message is the right message for the right audience. Don't let unnecessary ideas intrude on your principal message. To quote Professor William Strunk Jr., the renowned authority on English usage:

"A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts."

  • Focus your organization. A good piece of writing flows like a symphony. Organize your material so that each topic flows easily and naturally into the next.

  • Focus your clarity. Some writers think they can hide fuzzy thinking by burying it under a mass of words. To have impact, ideas must be expressed precisely and concisely. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address required only 275 words, and 196 of them were of one syllable.

  • Focus your refinement. Perfection rarely emerges from a first draft. Ambrose Bierce once said that "a saint is a dead sinner revised and edited." Great writing is rough copy revised and edited.

  • Be your own toughest editor, but don't stop there. Let others read what you have written before you submit it to your audience. You know what you meant, but you can't know how others might interpret it until others have read it.

  • Focus your results. Unless results are built in, they don't happen. Good writing always does four things:

  • It creates a feeling.
  • It gives an idea.
  • It gives the reader a benefit.
  • It produces a desired response.


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