Writing Important Points Wisely

by Guest Contributor on August 15, 2011

writingDay-to-day emails. Powerpoint presentations. Annual reports and proposals.

So much of business must be read. All can be summarized using only a few words and phrases. As the writer, you should know which they are and make them plain in order to be recognized as a spirited and impactful communicator.

Here are just a few simple writing methods you can use in business communications outside of the world of emoticons to make your point effective, persuasive, and anything else it needs to be.

Work your punctuation.

Use punctuation to carefully highlight the words and phrases you want to stand out. The colon is a great announcer, and an em-dash frame makes a perfect live aside (as opposed to a parentheses frame, which is more of a murmurer). Punctuation style can be the difference between “meh…” and “wow, she knows her stuff.” And that’s only comparing correct usages.

Highlight with formatting.

I’m not referring to bold or italic text. Those formats have been relegated to headers and sub-headers outside of social media. And I seldom see underlining even in those anymore.

Here, I’m referring to the structure of your piece itself. Set up your paragraphs so that the most important idea catches the light the way it should. A knock-out punch hits harder at the end of a few leading sentences.

Depending on the dramatic effect you want, a short sentence could be most powerful in a paragraph of its own.

Treat the central word or phrase like a rich dessert.

Substitute similar phrases when you’re not aiming for the heart yet, and use the real deal when you mean “it,” and nothing else. Using the same language over and over turns into a droning refrain, making your grand conclusion or key action item sound like everything else you’ve just said. Thesaurus, anyone?

If you want your audience to see it online as well, this is a natural way to pack your article with keywords for SEO purposes.

Work your jargon around it.

Departments like Human Resources, Legal, IT, and Accounting have reasons for being cryptic. As Adam Toporek mentioned to me in a comment on a post I wrote about jargon, it’s used as a “shortcut” among specialists. So if you need it, go ahead and lead in with placating code, but don’t muffle your key point with it. Judge’s verdicts are good with this (see the second case listed).

Cut that last line and paste it at the beginning.

This oldie-but-goodie tip works when you want people to engage with your point as soon as they begin reading. Most of the time your last line is the line you would have used to say everything you’ve said in the piece, but only after the reader has gathered all the background information you’re about to provide.

So don’t worry you’ve given too much away. What you’ve done is given them a reason to read the rest of your work.

Image: found_drama via Flickr, Creative Commons

Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.

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