Business Writing Essentials

Entice Attention

Your readers have lots of things going on at work. When they are reading your stuff, if their minds wander to other topics, you're done. Game over. It doesn't matter what you were trying to accomplish. You lost them.

Try to avoid that.

How, you say? One way is to recognize and kill the Four Diversions of your readers' attention: puffery, abstractions, distractions, and announcements.

Kill puffery

Choose simple verbs instead of complex ones.

[x] The US Mint utilizes zinc to implement the penny.

[+] The US Mint uses zinc to make the penny.

Verbs should be action words that grab the attention of your reader. When they are unnecessarily complex, they can alienate your reader, and they can convey subtle extra meanings. For example, the word utilize suggests "ingenuity in putting to profitable use" and the word implement suggests "providing the means to carry out". Neither of these meanings is appropriate in this case.

Kill abstractions

Show the real action.

[x] Inflation is an explanation for the decline of the penny.

[+] Inflation explains the decline of the penny.

The real action is in the lively verb explains. Try not to hide your action verbs inside abstract nouns formed with generic verbs such as be, do, give, or make.

Kill distractions

Eliminate unneeded verbs.

[x] The diagrams presented below show production rates for the one-cent coin.

[+] The diagrams below show production rates for the one-cent coin.

A verb that is not really needed in a sentence still grabs the attention of the reader. The result is misplaced emphasis.

Kill announcements

Keep attention on the action in the sentence.

[x] It is the blanking press that makes the planchets.

[+] The blanking press makes the planchets.

When you begin a sentence with It is or There is, you often reduce verb power, because you emphasize other elements of the sentence, usually the subject.

Lesson: Entice Attention
Module: Influence
Course: Business Writing Essentials