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Keep It Simple and Keep It Brief. You Will Reach Your Audience

Aug 17, 2007
How many times have you heard the term KISS ? It means, Keep It Simple, Stupid! It is directed against people who are windy in both their writing and speaking. How many times have you attended a meeting where the speaker puts you to sleep? How many times have you read a thirteen page resume? In each case, the speaker or writer has turned you off.
In order to win in this present day competitive marketplace, the one thing you do not want to do is lose your audience. A speaker or writer will invariably violate the cardinal rule of any presentation -- keep it brief!

According to a recent Associated Press survey, Americans are running out of patience. We can't stand to wait more than five minutes on the phone. We start fuming in long grocery lines. You must acknowledge this reality in your talks, e-mails, phone calls, or presentations. Get to the point fast.

How do we get to the point? Here is how we do it.
Former GE Chief Executive Jack Welch demanded simplicity from his managers. Welch would ask them to prepare one-page answers to strategic questions. I've seen longer memos between individuals planning lunch. Business with Welch was simple. If you were a windy writer or speaker, Welch would advise you to clean your desk and be out the door in five minutes. No need to make things complicated, according to Jack Welch.

Great leaders keep their conversations no longer than necessary. They expect the same from others. Sybase CEO John Chen once said the mark of a leader is the ability to articulate a message that is passionate, clear, and concise.

Remember that famous battle report from World War II. It read "Sighted sub. Sank same."

Here are seven suggestions for you for effective writing. There are many more than just these seven ideas, but these should get you started.

1. Avoid using passive voice. It is anemic and lacks punch. With such ineffective writing, your readership will lose interest and fall asleep. It suggests to your audience that you are a sheepish follower rather than a strong leader.

2. Avoid using long sentences. These will send your audience into dreamland very quickly. Do not overwork connectors such as "and" or "but." If you are describing a list, use bullets or item numbers.

3. Avoid using cliches or jargon. You may understand what they mean, but your audience may not comprehend what you are trying to say.

4. Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. If your audience suspects that you are an illiterate fool, seeing your writing will erase all doubts.

5. Break your text into paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a theme or topic. You should say what you want to say, then move on to the next topic. If your article covers a wide range of topics, use an outline. Your audience will immediately recognize if you are well-organized or if your presentation is windy.

6. Get to the point of your presentation immediately. Do not expect your readers to go through fifteen pages of text before they reach your main idea. You will lose them after Page Three.

7. Keep your presentation interesting and avoid repetitive sentence structures. Imagine reading something like this:

John bought Mary a dog for Christmas. Sam bought Susan a dog for Christmas. Susan bought Eric a dog for Christmas.

Your readers are not in first grade.

Mastering good writing skills is not difficult. You have to work at it almost every day to achieve proficiency. You will find that as your written and verbal communication skills increase, so will your earnings.
About the Author
Bob Carper is a veteran information systems consultant specializing in verbal and written communication. He holds a BS and an MBA degree. If you are interested in getting your friends together to improve their writing skills, please visit http://www.secure-webconference.citymax.com
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