All during school and college our parents and teachers impressed upon us that getting all A’s was the pinnacle of success. As adults, whether you were an A student or not, I recommend you strive for all A’s in your daily writing with the following five A’s:
- Attract, and keep, the attention of your reader
- Alleviate confusion
- Use Appropriate grammar, punctuation and syntax
- Achieve a specific goal/objective
- Ask someone to proof for you
A. You will attract attention with a pithy subject line and a powerful opening sentence. You have only ten seconds to grab the reader’s attention, and it’s your responsibility to keep the reader engaged in your e-mails, memos, reports, cover letters and other documents. Make every word count.
B. To alleviate confusion specify steps, times, dates, places, people and action items that will help them and you. Never assume.
C. Appropriate grammar, punctuation and syntax are paramount for the “A” in your writing. Refresh and review the use of subject/verb agreement; the use of colons, semi-colons, quotation marks and commas; and stay away from sentence fragments and run-on sentences.
D. To achieve your goal/objective in your writing, less is more. Site examples, use bulleted lists, give time tables, be specific. Organize your documents for easy transitions. Make your points memorable.
E. Proof! Ask someone who’s not in your department to proof your documents. Yes, some e-mails are only a few sentences, and others need to be proofed. You see only what you thought you wrote and may miss common typos and mistakes. A different set of eyes and understanding will give you invaluable feedback.
You’re still in school: the school of getting your points across, getting what you want, selling a product or service, and making money. Use the five A’s to continue to get all A’s.