I was reading an article last weekend in a legal-oriented email newsletter. Yes, I do that for fun. The article, meant for a layperson to read, was 4,000 words (eight printed pages) of highly technical content in long paragraphs describing the impacts of a recent Supreme Court decision. When the attorney author introduced Latin phrases halfway through the article, I started jotting down notes for my own article.

Illud iterum dicere potes!
I’m sure the author was extremely knowledgeable and had a lot of important information to share, but the presentation of that information didn’t match what the target audience wanted to read. The result? Few would continue beyond the first couple of paragraphs before searching for a more concise and understandable article.

There’s often a big difference between what we want to say as professionals, and what our non-technical audience wants to read. We need to adapt our communication style and format to them, or we’ll lose them.

Here are five (5) tips for making your communications more appealing and compelling to your audience:

  1. Be brief. Grab the reader’s attention in 5 seconds, and hold it for 5 paragraphs. If it needs to be longer than that, narrow the topic.
  2. Keep it simple. Write in a conversational tone, as if you were chatting over lunch. I won’t tell your grammar teacher.
  3. Use headlines and bullets. Make it easy for readers to quickly scan and absorb the information.
  4. Understand the medium. Your content needs to be easy to read on any screen – computer, tablet, or phone. Hint: You can’t read a PDF on a phone.
  5. Summarize. If you’re presenting multiple articles, like in a newsletter, include titles and brief summaries. Let your readers quickly see all options and decide when to click for more details.

This also applies to conversations. Make sure you’re speaking in a language they can understand. Not Latin.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.℠

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