Plain business writing course (entry 4): Total recall

 

Most of us are bombarded with tons of information every day. How do you get your readers to remember YOUR precious message?

Rule 4: Retention of info is boosted by cause-effect and contrast, straightforward and parallel relationships, and repeated words and main ideas.

1. Give them cause-effect information.

E.g. Owing to low stock levels the branch was unable to carry out a large order.

Cause-effect words to use include the following:

...because of...

...caused by...

...cause of...

...on account of...

...reason for...

...which is why...

...owing to...

2. Use contrasts.

E.g. Last week's sales were higher than average, but this week's have been abnormally low so far.

Contrast words to use include the following:

although; however; yet; but; differ; even though; instead; whereas; unless; while; contrary to; unlike; on the other hand; the reverse

3. Say it straight.

The relationship between the following two sentences is implicit (unclear) rather than straightforward:

"The Marketing Department has been missing deadlines. Two copywriters left the firm in July."

An example of a straighforward relationship between two items of information would be as follows:

"Two copywriters left the firm in July, and the Marketing Department has been missing deadlines as a result."

You can point out to your reader the relationship between different items of information by...

a. giving the info in a logical time order

b. using 'cause-effect' words

c. using 'contrast' or 'compare' words

d. giving a definition followed by an example

e. listing similar info together.

4. Create parallel constructions.

Parts of sentences that are parallel in meaning should also be parallel in structure.

E.g. Tim is good at writing, presenting and to persuade people. Wrong!!!

Correct: Tim is good at writing, presenting and persuading people.

Wrong: Thandi was thought to be a good student, because she was always on time for classes, she made good notes and studied hard for exams.

Correct: Thandi was thought to be a good student, because she was always on time for classes, she made good notes and she studied hard for exams.

5. Repeat words and ideas.

Don't keep introducing new words and ideas unnecessarily. Once you've introduced a term, there's nothing wrong with using that exact same term next time you're talking about the same thing. And make sure you don't fling together too many new ideas in one piece of writing – keep going back to your main ideas, rather than getting lost in too much detail.

To sum up: Help your reader to remember your message by using cause-effect and contrast, saying it straight and parallel, and repeating words and main ideas.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

(Confucius)