I watched this five-minute video floating around LinkedIn the other day and fell in love.
Besides showing what seemed like a fun, family activity, the clip instantly reminded me of a lesson I learned in 3rd grade by one of my favorite elementary-school teachers.
My class’s assignment was to write step-by-step instructions for any simple task like blowing up a balloon, shuffling a deck of cards, making a PB&J sandwich (as depicted in video above), etc.
I chose the task of tying shoelaces; which, in hindsight may have been one of the tougher activities to write out instructions for. And, my takeaway from the assignment was that it’s harder than it sounds to be clear and concise when writing that way.
Fast forward 23 years and I am now fully cognizant of why communicating effectively through written words is important. Especially given that American workers spend six hours checking their email on any given workday.
What can we do to ensure our written communication is efficient and to the point?
Advertising icon, David Ogilvy, famously answered this question with ten simple rules, and I think now is as perfect a time as ever to review, think about, and apply them to your next memo…
- Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
- Write the way you talk. Naturally.
- Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs.
- Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
- Never write more than two pages on any subject.
- Check your quotations.
- Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
- If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
- Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
- If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.
– Lee Sumner, Sr. Research Manager