3 Business Communication Trends You Should Know
Today’s business happens on screens—and often on small screens, consulted while the reader is in the midst of several tasks. How are you supposed to keep up?
1. Use space like you’re paying for it.
Get a clear message across in as few words as possible.
You don’t need to condense an e-mail as you would a tweet. Articles and transitions are still key to readability, and you’re not really paying by the word! But every word should serve a function.
Keep paragraphs to a reasonable size.
Your readers’ wide range of screen sizes makes it tricky to offer fixed rules about paragraph length. Traditional guidelines suggest four to six lines, but on a vertically oriented phone, a single sentence can take up a lot of room.
So be flexible: instead of counting lines, take care to write sentences that flow together, keeping readers’ attention. Just remember that shorter is often better. Walls of words will repel your readers.
Use graphics not to decorate, but to clarify.
Images can serve as useful signposts or indicators, but there’s evidence that, at least online, people ignore pretty pictures. You’re better off using plenty of white space, which subtly eases readers through complex text.
2. Cater to readers using phones and tablets.
Your audience wants information now.
Good writing isn’t much use if it arrives at the wrong time, and most people now expect to get up-to-date content right away. Answer your e-mails quickly; refresh your web writing often.
Make all action items obvious (perhaps bold).
Busy people on the go might refer to your writing in the middle of some other task. They should be able to scan a document and find the must-dos first—with deadlines.
Ask your question or state your position right away.
It’s hard to break the habit of giving background before saying what you actually need. Leaping right to a request can seem abrupt, even rude. You should greet your reader when that’s appropriate, but putting the main point in the first sentence often improves a short text.
For example, here’s the body of a recent e-mail of mine:
Did anyone at your recent workshop follow up with you about coaching? I’m making a report, and I see that nobody has filled out the coaching evaluation.
If I’d sent that message with the second sentence first, it would’ve been a just little bit worse. Ever so briefly, it forces the reader to wonder why my report is supposed to matter to her.
Sometimes an idea or question does need an introduction for clarity’s sake, but even this can stay short. The next time you think you must preface your core topic with a paragraph of explanation, look again to see if you can reduce that to a sentence or two.
3. Cite compelling data.
Supply real information that supports your written message.
Self-promoting fluff won’t get the job done: you wouldn’t want to read a piece of “content” without substance, so why would your audience? If you’re proposing that readers buy your product, for example, use statistics and stories to reinforce its value. People respond to these far better than they’d respond to simply being urged what to do.
Your readers have near-constant access to millions of strangers’ points of view. Lots of those millions are savvy marketers who know that great content catches viewers’ attention.
You know that too—but can you achieve it? Clear, data-rich, and up-to-date writing will get you there. Make your reader say Wow!