To appear confident and in control, leaders should ascribe to the motto “Less is more.” If you write too much in a single paragraph, it can overwhelm the reader and, worse yet, appear sloppy. Long-winded sentences and paragraphs make it seem like your thoughts are scrambled and that you don’t know how to say a lot in a small amount of space. The writing style wears out your readers and can undercut your leadership. It’s as if you need to keep going and going because you feel people don’t believe you — like a used car salesman who won’t stop “selling” because he knows he’s pushing a “lemon” of car. And finally, you look at what you created and realize: it’s a giant, bloated paragraph no one wants to read.
Wouldn’t it better if I wiped out that entire paragraph and instead made the message short and sweet? Like so:
Remember, when it comes to writing messages to your team, less is more.
Fewer words = more confidence.
Sharper message = more understandable.
This is why a well-crafted email, letter, memo or other piece of professional writing has two phases:
– Rough draft
– Final draft
You may write, for instance, a rough draft of an email and find it contains a large paragraph like the one I wrote at the beginning of this blog post.
And you know what? That’s OK.
Often, the rough draft is our stream of consciousness, and the words flow from our brains right onto to the page without a lot of strategy or planning. Again, totally fine.
But you should never press “Send” on a rough draft. Now is the time to evaluate what you wrote. The first question should be, “Do I have any large paragraphs?” If so, break out the butcher’s knife and chop up the words.
Your choices are to either turn one big paragraph into several “mini” paragraphs (2-3 sentences max) or remove the entire paragraph and replace it with the central thought or argument contained in the section.
Ask yourself, “If I only had 10 seconds to make my point, what would I write?”
The answer will be much, much shorter than the big paragraph from the rough draft.
Once you read a final draft, review once more for typos/misspellings and then send out the message.
You will feel better about what you wrote and readers (ex: your employees) will respect you for saying a lot in a small space.
Photo: ITU Pictures (Flickr)