Wednesday, December 02, 2009

weekly writing coach: list it

Sometimes the simplest writing task is most effective at communicating your point. Witness the list: Without adornment, it puts forward a collection of facts, points, accomplishments, contents, ingredients. The at-a-glance aspects may best fit today's appetite for micro-content.

How does that translate to your writing? Consider a list when you have:
  • Accomplishments: Put the flowery adjectives and adverbs, the essays and prefaces aside. Simply list your organization or company's accomplishments--the historic record of all time, or just this year's kudos for an annual report--so that your web viewers and readers can quickly grasp where you stand in the universe. Rockefeller University enlivens its "about" section with a "quick facts" page; scroll down to see its impressive bulleted lists, nicely done with active verb constructions.
  • Ingredients: What goes into your annual conference, your newsletter, your membership? Slice up and list your demographics, parameters, or supplies to provide another view of your events or people. If it takes 35 freight trucks, 2,000 pencils and pads, 800 projectors, 55,000 seats in 50 conference rooms, 4,000 donuts and 300 gallons of coffee to fuel your big conference, that tells me more in a sentence than I can get from all the descriptive content on your website.
  • People: We like to see ourselves, so describe your demographics--or, share your lists of people so others can create their own contact lists. If a key group of your organization's executives, researchers, teachers or speakers is on Twitter, try the Twitter lists feature to make available a ready-made list others can follow. Or, crowdsource a list of leaders on Google Wave or Evernote, where -- in the holiday season -- a group wish list is being compiled so it's share-able.
This holiday, skip loading up your writing like a Christmas tree. Instead, make a list. Whether you check it twice is up to your communications office standards...

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