Writing Tip for Jack Welch
When I founded Winett Associates ten years ago at the end of another recession, most of us did not use the Internet, CD-ROMs, or Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). New technology has meant that people are drowning in email messages, reports, and online newsletters and news flashes. With this deluge, how can you ensure that people read what you write? Your readers are more likely to read your words, consider what you have said, and respond as you wish if you address the following straightforward questions.
Whatís the point? Shortly after beginning to read your document, your readers should be able to state your purpose and your main point(s). To achieve this result, formulate a sentence in the first paragraph or two that conveys your central idea and your writing approach. If your introduction is too long, your text too confusing or boring, your readers will say, "I can't read this!" Many readers thought that a September 16, 2002, Wall Street Journal op-ed article by Jack Welch, former GE CEO, was a self-serving defense of the millions in extra compensation that Welch has received from GE. Welch buried his main point near the end. His real point was that he should no longer receive many of the extra benefits from GE as public "perception matters."
Prove it to me! Back up your main points with specific examples or reasons presented in an objective and unemotional way. Provide either a long example or several short examples, or provide a logical explanation. To convince management to upgrade the corporate Web site, mention specific shortcomings, such as outdated product descriptions, inconsistent pricing information, old management team list, and broken links. To be as concrete as possible, provide facts and statistics. To lobby for a review of product pricing, you could compare your prices with your competitorsí prices. In general, stick to the facts, and avoid finger pointing, personal attacks, and emotional arguments.
How do you know? Demonstrate either directly or indirectly your competence in the subject you are discussing or the superiority of your argument. Presenting your facts logically and in well phrased, grammatically correct sentences lends authority to your document. Use your spell-checker, and use a format that is easy to read.
Whatís in it for me? Readers are egocentric. To read and act upon your words, they first must feel that your document has value for them. You can provide reader benefits by informing, instructing, assisting or even by entertaining. The idea is to address the readerís central question, "Why should I care?"
What happens next? (When?) Given the facts you have presented, what is the next step? If your company has an outdated Web site, you could recommend hiring a Web designer. If your company needs to review pricing, you could request permission to convene a pricing task force. Make clear who is responsible for what.
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