Questions to Ask for Clearer Writing


Communication (Photo credit: P Shanks)

Business writing needs to be clear. Confusing writing causes miscommunication and keeps everyone from reaching their targets. In essence, unclear writing slows productivity.

I’m privileged to work with talented clients on diverse and interesting projects. When beginning a project, I like to ask the client lots of different questions about their goals and audiences. Next, I ask some specific questions to understand how to create crystal-clear copy that will deliver the message straight away.

Here are a few of the questions I ask my clients. When working on a new project, take the time to think through these questions and map out the answers. I promise they’ll help you craft a clearer final product that has a greater impact!

  1. How will you/I/we know the writing project succeeded? How will we know we’ve achieved our goal? Consider long-term and broad indications that the project reached its goals. These may  include generating discussion or excitement, prompting someone to think differently about a specific topic or solidifying knowledge and processes into writing. 
  2. Is there a specific event or reaction that would tell us that this writing is successful? Consider exactly how you’ll learn that you achieved your goals; think of specific events. For example, if you’re writing a blog post, a reader’s comment tells you it’s successful. If you’re writing a large presentation about the importance of work-life balance, someone telling you afterwards that they implemented a few of your tips is a clear sign that you were successful.
  3. What do you want your readers to do or think or feel immediately after reading this project? Consider what your audience (or audiences) knows and feels now, and the type or reactions you want to elicit. For example, you may want the annual report you’re writing to inspire confidence in your organization and optimism for the future.

These questions delve into the desired outcomes of the writing, giving you a better understanding of your overall goals. Armed with the answers to these questions, you’ll be better prepared to package and organize the information clearly and eloquently.


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