Step 1: Gain their attention


Give them a reason to care
Advertisers have known this forever. With the first sentence, you must pull the reader in and give them a reason to continue. This is equally important in business writing. You have a few sentences to grab the reader’s attention. If you want the content you write to be helpful, first you must make sure it’s read.

Make content easy to find
You’re probably expecting me to start with firecrackers and sparkles, but in business writing the overriding concern is always content. The most fundamental way that you can win the reader’s attention in business writing is by making the content easy to find.

If people have to hunt through pages to get what they need, they will most likely set aside the document and never look at it again. We are all inundated with information. It’s a few key strokes away and we expect quick answers.

Talk to the people who will be using the document. Find out what they need and organize the document to help them. The table of contents should be structured around how people ask for information. I have found that many people also appreciate a thorough index.

But be human too
You can put us in a suit or uniform, or let us wear business casual, it makes no difference. We are all human and we respond most keenly to messages that speak directly to us about what matters in our life. This is as true with business communication as it is with any other form of human connection.

Just because the subject matter of business writing is serious does not mean it can’t be human. Readers love stories, especially ones that reflect their life. It doesn’t have to be more than three or four sentences, but a well-placed anecdote draws readers in. As with all stories, do what you can to evoke the senses, and show how the character in the story overcomes a challenge.

Readers also love a useful tip. Tell them something they don’t know that will make their life easier. If you do this in the first few sentences, they will be eager to read more.

You can also ask a provocative question. This works best if you pick something they are unlikely to already know. A surprising statistic can have a similar impact.

All of these approaches have one thing in common: they give the reader context. Sales people call it “WIIFM”, which stands for “What’s in it for me?” As a business writer, you’re selling too, and what you’re selling is information. Show the reader how the content you wrote fits into their world. Give them a reason to care.

© Debbie Bateman 2018. Image purchased from Adobe Stock.

One thought on “Step 1: Gain their attention

  1. Hello! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a
    quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading
    through your articles. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that
    deal with the same subjects? Thanks for your time!

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