Are You Writing to Reward Your Reader?


Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

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There’s lots of writing advice out there, but thanks to the work of psychologists and neuroscientists, we can now see in detail how our brains respond to everything from metaphors to complex words. The big takeaway is that we can actually write in a way that taps into the reader’s most primal learning needs. Here’s how.

o First, keep it simple. Divide up long sentences. Omit needless adjectives and adverbs. Cut useless transitions. And get rid of caveats that clutter your message.

o Next, be specific. Concrete details light up neurons in our brains that process sensory reactions. Play to your reader’s emotions — you may think logic is more persuasive, but our brains actually process emotions faster than thoughts. How your words make people feel will shape what they understand and remember.

o Reach out to your reader by using the second person (i.e. “you”). And finally don’t underestimate the power of a good story. Starting with the earliest hunter-gatherers, stories have been a primary way we’ve shared lessons, so our brains are wired to reward narrative.

Whether you’re writing an email or a big report for the board, these tips will help you get your message across.

This tip is adapted from Write to Reward Your Reader,” by Bill Birchard.

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Here’s a direct link to dozens of other Management Tips.





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