Assume your reader will skim, not read

If you are pitching ANYTHING–getting funding, getting a meeting with a decision maker, getting picked to win an RFP…

You should assume that your audience is skimming your note. When your memo arrives, most people are busy doing something else. They are feeling dull, distracted, or cranky. They are scrolling through their phone. They have 15 browser tabs open and running late.

Mostly, their lives were fine before you arrived (and will be fine after you leave).

You can’t assume you have someone’s undivided attention. Why does this matter? You can write differently with people who already love you. But if your decision maker is distracted, you’re dealing with a different level of initial interest. This shapes the CONTENT of what you should include in your note.

If your writing is dense, you probably haven’t spent enough time making it easy to understand. When a good idea is buried in complicated writing, you’re doing a disservice to yourself and your idea.

So the real benefit is this: skimmable writing increases the chances that your ideas are actually heard.

When people say “learn to write well,” that could encompass a lot of things. But if you are a modern professional, focus on mastering the art of skimmable writing. It’s a good investment that you’ll use daily.

Takeaway: Your audience is listening with only half their brain. Before you hit “send,” ask yourself: “Is this easy to read?”

 

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Wes Kao