Before You Write Anything, Know Your Readers

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Communication is a two-way exercise. Without knowing something about your readers, you’ll rarely get your ideas across. Consider their goals and priorities and what motivates them. Depending on what your recipients value, your tone will change and so will your content. Highlight the things they care about most. If you’re writing a memo to colleagues, for example, consider how they’ll interpret what you’re saying based on their levels in the organization. Or if you’re responding to a client’s request for proposal, address every need outlined in the RFP — but also think about the client’s industry, company size, and culture. To make this easier, consider choosing an intelligent, non-specialist member of the audience — or invent one — and focus on writing for that person. Your message will be more accessible and persuasive to all your readers as a result.

Adapted from the HBR Guide to Better Business Writing.

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