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7 Ways To Write Better (You Won’t Believe #5)

Let’s face it, your high school sophomore honors English class did not equip you to be a great writer at your [fill in the blank job] now. It was more likely your fault you got very little out of the class (fifteen-year-old hormones being what they are). It is possible your teacher did a great job teaching, it was you who was not ready to be a great writer. Well….you are ready now. You are ready to communicate well at work with your writing.

Here is a very long, tedious list you might consider next time you write your boss an email and a bunch of beautiful photos to make it go down easier:

  1. Only write sitting down

  2. Read your writing backward to look for errors

  3. Only write after 1 pm

  4. Use spellcheck

  5. Do not bury the lede

  6. Let your mom write your emails

  7. Schedule emails to be sent later after 11 pm

Okay, see what I did there? Classic clickbait!! The real topic of this article is #5: Don’t Bury The Lede. The lede is your main point or idea. All the other tips are silly ones I made up. If I were to start this again, rather than making you read for twenty seconds without any useful information, following my advice, here is how I would have started:

When writing to communicate clearly, let your reader know straight away what you are writing about. 

When your reader has to read for a while before you give away what you are writing about, they feel manipulated. A classic example is online recipes. Usually, the recipe is three pages down after a sentimental story about a grandmother and a trip to New England and 27 HD photos of the finished dish, and all you want is to know how to braise chicken. The problem with not putting the topic of your communication first is the same as the online recipe: it is manipulative, convoluted, and/or selling something. 

Burying the lede of your emails, especially if the topic is not pleasing to the reader, is a way to hide. Your reader will know once they get to the bad news, you are hiding. It is like calling to tell a friend you are running 5 minutes behind and arriving an hour late. After 5 minutes you are not only late, you are a liar. Maybe it is better to only be late. There is likely less harm in being forthright.

I get why you want to delay bad news for your co-workers and boss. It is usually our instinct to please those who work with us, but waiting does the opposite. It goes back to what I have written before, the Golden Rule of Writing: treat your reader like you would like to be treated. Even if the news is bad, you only make it worse by hiding. Being bold with your news, good or bad, builds integrity. Your boss will trust you more, not less if you tell them straight away. Your co-workers will respect you more if you save them time reading your emails. 

You also might be burying the lede because your thinking about the topic is not clear until later on in your writing. Sometimes the act of writing something down helps you get crisp about what you want to communicate. Often I look at the first few ideas I have and I erase them when I finally get to my point. Then, I re-write it to start with my point, once I figured it out. 

In the end, it is easy to cover the bad news in sugar or make your reader wait through your convoluted thinking to get to your point. It is easier in the beginning but ultimately is detrimental to you. Take care of yourself and be direct with your communication.

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