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Has anyone ever sent you a thinking of you card or opened a door for you, or helped you complete a project on time? You probably said, "Thanks, you are so considerate." We like considerate people. But have you ever considered that as a business writer, you need to be considerate to your reader? You can be considerate of your reader in a variety of ways. Make the document look easy to read. Emphasize the message's main purpose, and follow the basic paragraphing guidelines. First, design your document so it looks and is easy to read.
Your reader is busy, and your message is competing with numerous other messages. Readers will always choose a message that looks easy to read, so they don't have to work at reading long, confusing paragraphs, or try to determine your key points. Your responsibility as the writer is to design it in a considerate way. Look at these two versions. "There are several steps to getting "your authorization approved. "You first have to see your supervisor "to pick up the form, then you "have to fill out the form.
"Next, you must attach all receipts to the form. "After your receipts are attached, take it to your "supervisor, who will then have to sign it. "You will have your answer within 30 days." Or this approach. "Please follow these steps for authorization approval. "1. Get the required form from your supervisor. "2. Fill out the form. "3. Attach all receipts to the form. "4. Have your supervisor sign the form. "5. Wait 30 days for approval." Which version would you read first, be able to understand, and follow more quickly? Because we feel overloaded with information, we want and need documents that are both quick and easy to scan.
You as the writer have a responsibility to your reader to chunk the information in easy to understand units, so using numbered lists and bullets helps your reader identify the key points. Another way to be considerate of your readers' time is by making important information stand out with bold, italics, or underlines and internal headings. In other words, emphasizing the main points. Internal headings help guide your reader from section to section of a document, and give your reader a preview of what that section contains.
Look at the next two examples. The notice from the home office. Now look at the revised version. Notice the headings, the short paragraphs, how easy it is to read. Do you have any question which version is more considerate of your reader's time, or which one would be read first? Also look at the length of and content of your paragraphs. The first example had one 14-line paragraph. Maybe you remember from Writing 101 that a paragraph means one idea, opens with a topic sentence, and provides support for that main idea.
The average length of a readable paragraph in shorter documents such as memos, letters, and emails, is about six to eight lines. Not sentences, but lines. Definitely question any paragraph that exceeds ten lines. Chances are, you're trying to include multiple ideas and will confuse your reader. So how can you be considerate of your reader's needs and time? Make your document look easy to read, with lists, short paragraphs, bold or highlighted print, and internal headings.
Your considerate document will stand out, and your reader will thank you.
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