4 minute read

If you’re a leader, you’re a writer. Every day you coach, guide, persuade, negotiate and share decisions. And a lot of that is done in written form. 

Why is writing so important for leaders?  

Everyday you write emails, proposals, responses, social media posts, texts, speeches, you name it. And some of those are more effective than others. So how can you write in a way that gets the results you want?  

Better writing for leaders and better business writing really comes down to three big ideas. 

1. Make Your Writing Relevant 

When sharing information with your team, context is important. It’s the why that helps people connect to what you’re sharing. But it’s not enough. We also have to position the information in a way that is specifically connected to them and what they are most interested in. 

Here’s an effective business writing example: 

You’re sending an email to your team sharing some information about an event you are sponsoring and asking them to also support. Instead of positioning the event as an opportunity to support a local organization, think about the value the individual employee will get, and put that front and center. 

A traditional subject line on an email about this event might read: 

Sign up today to volunteer with the food bank! 

That will probably get some of your employees engaged. 

But what if instead, you said something like this: 

Want to help feed hungry families next Friday afternoon? 

By shaping this into a question and focusing on the value it would bring to the employee, you’re making the topic more relevant to the individual reading it. 

2. Make Your Writing Easy to Understand 

Making your writing easy to read sounds like a given, but how many times have we all received an email from a coworker or a client and literally had to put the message aside because it was too overwhelming to understand? 

Remember the saying, “less is more.” Tighten up your writing. Ruthlessly eliminate jargon. Write your message, then go back and edit it. Share it with someone else. Force yourself to condense the message by at least a third or half. You can do this several ways: use fewer words. Use simpler words. For example, instead of saying “in the near future” – just say “soon.” Instead of saying “with the exception of” just say “except.” 

Small changes like this will help make your writing clearer and tighter. 

But it’s not just the words you use – or don’t use.  

Your writing can be clearer if you include fewer ideas. Eliminate extraneous ideas that aren’t critical. This will help you emphasize the things that ARE critical. 

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about the opening to an email about an employee culture survey: 

Thank you in advance for participating in this year’s culture survey. We know you have a lot of other pressing activities, but your feedback will help us ensure we are creating programs and policies that our employees value. We want to hear from you. 

Okay, that’s not terrible, but you can tighten it up while still being friendly: 

Thank you for completing this 10-minute culture survey. Your feedback will help us improve our employee offerings. 

3. Make Your Writing Sticky 

Make it obvious what action you’re looking for, and make it almost irresistible, so that the reader is compelled to act right in that moment. People set aside difficult tasks and once they do, they are much less likely to come back to the task. 

To make your writing sticky, limit what you ask for. Make fewer requests of your reader. If you want the reader to answer a question but also to find a document and send it to you, and schedule a meeting with another colleague, you’ve probably asked for too many things in one communication. 

If we can limit our requests in the moment, we’re much more likely to get them answered. We can also make it easier for the message to stick with our reader if we can use some sort of formatting that helps the reader navigate our message, such as bullet points, bold text or other formatting. These visual prompts allow the reader to skim to the action step and refer to the other parts of the message for clarification as needed.  

I discovered a great tool offered by the writers of the book Writing for Busy Readers. This AI tool is built on ChatGPT and it’s set up so that you can copy and paste your written message into the tool and it will give you a more reader-friendly version. 

For more examples, stories and business writing tips, check out our podcast on this topic, In the Loop: Communicating for Maximum Leadership Impact, a part of the Gut + Science podcast family.