How to Get More People to Read ― and Act On ― Your Message

You can lead a horse to water… but sometimes you have to make it easier to drink.

We’re smack in the middle of the Information Age. Everywhere you turn, you see words ― in books, magazines, television, junk mail, not-so-junk mail, computers, tablets, smart phones, billboards ― even the tag on your child’s bedtime bear. We’re so surrounded with words that we have conditioned ourselves to ignore most of it. It’s all white noise until something grabs our attention.

Once something does grab our attention, we still only give it a few seconds. You may have heard, once upon a time, that your business website only has a few seconds to get a site visitors attention before they retreat out and try your competitor’s site. Today, the same is true for any writing, even the important stuff. Readers just want to get in, get out, and get on with their busy lives.

Have you ever had to field phone calls to answer questions that you thought were clearly explained in black and white? Have you ever put together what you thought was a knock-‘em-dead ad only to get zero responses? Maybe it’s not the reader. Just maybe it’s the writer.

People tend to stop reading if the content is confusing. They won’t even try to read it if it so much as looks confusing. And if that happens, your readers may jump to their own conclusions, listen to rumors ― or worse ― listen to what your competitors are saying if their information is easier to understand than yours.

Proper writing takes a backseat to effective writing

Gone are the days of 1970s stilted business speak. Writing effectively is much more important. That means your audience must:

• Be drawn to pick up your communication.

• Be motivated to read past the headline.

• Be able to quickly and easily follow and understand the content.

• Have no trouble remembering the single most important point.

• Be able to act on the information.

If your purpose for writing is to showcase your years of academic training, technical writing experience, eloquent prose or vast vocabulary skills, then by all means write the way you want. But, if your purpose for writing is to get your readers to buy your product, follow instructions or act on your message, then check your thesaurus — and your ego — at the door.

“Plain language” is the new norm in business communications

No, it’s not dumbing down the English language. Plain language communicates above the white noise. Plain language respects your audience’s time. Plain language makes your message clear and memorable. You can read more about “plain language” at these websites:




Keep watching the Route 422 Business Advisor for tips and tricks to plain language writing. Over the next 10 months, you can learn about techniques that will help you write like a Fortune 100 professional writer. In the meantime, if you have a particularly important communication, give QubComm a call. Plain language is our specialty.

Jeanette Juryea is President of QubComm, your Corporate Communications Department in the virtual Qubicle next door. Send an email to for professional writing, editing and design services from award-winning writers. You can also ask about writer training, brand/style guide development, existing communications analysis and more.