Whether you’re thinking of getting a tattoo or writing a business document, it pays to think before you ink.
The general rule is that the more time you spend planning your document, the less time it will take to write it. Can I guarantee you that? No. But I believe you’ll write a shorter, more effective report that will resonate better with your readers if you do.
It’s a topic that comes up often in my Writing for Impact workshops. I sometimes get a few moans and groans that if they, the workshop participants, implement this key learning point, it will take them longer to prepare their reports.
Yes and no.
Yes, because the first few times you sit down and actually plan your document, you won’t have a routine, template or personal style that guides you. The more you plan upfront though, the easier it will get. You’ll develop your own approach to document planning, and you’ll become more efficient over time.
No, because you’ll write less if you think before you ink. It happens naturally, because you end up including ‘just enough’ to support your key messages and recommendations. Because of this, your stakeholders will easily find what they need in the document and then take the desired action.
Before you sit down to write your next business document, consider these aspects in your planning:
A careful outline is just as important to a report as it is to a tattoo. Design the content and structure of your report so that it achieves its purpose and has logical flow. Identify your key messages, and include only those facts and figures necessary to support your conclusions and recommendations. Including everything you know on the topic will result in reader fatigue.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that applies to both tattoos and business documents! Use connecting words and phrases to link your facts, opinions and argumentation. Draw conclusions for the reader, rather than leaving it up to them to decide what your point is. If not, your reader may not come to the same conclusion you did. And that could lead to negative feedback and inaction on your recommendations.
We’ve all heard about the lengthy, painful process involved in removing a tattoo. Your document is a representation of you, your team and your organization. It indicates the quality standards you work to, and is a sign of your professionalism. If your report is long, vague and unclear, your reader will notice immediately.
More concise, more informative, better results
You want your reader to read your report and take action, right? Planning your document before you begin writing will increase your chances of achieving this goal. Clear and concise reports don’t burden the reader with excess or irrelevant information, they bring the reader joy because they are so easy to read, absorb and act on.
Planning before you write will result in you writing less, and will save you the time and effort of clarification discussions, negotiations on language used, and edits from your boss.
Do you have a planning technique you want to share? Include it in a comment below, because we can all learn from each other. Plus, if you need daily inspiration for writing clearly and concisely, you can check out my first book, Communicate Your Way To Global Business Success.