My job requires me to write. I write computer documentation, some marketing materials, business-related documents, and correspond with business people throughout Asia. The most important rule for writing is to know your audience! In real estate, the three most important things are location, location, and location. For writing, it is audience, audience, and audience! It seems obvious but many writers forget this rule.
When I write computer documentation, my first question is who is my audience. Am I writing for computer novices? Programmers? Engineers? The person whose boss said they have to use this program and just want to learn it as quickly as possible?
If I’m writing for programmers or engineers I can use technical terms, acronyms, and assume that my readers have a specific level of technical knowledge. If the person is a novice, the opposite is true. I use analogies and scenarios when I write for beginners.
Get to the point right away. I hate when people use the build up approach, the climax and drama at the end. The problem – you may be the only person that reads the end. For example, if you are raising money for a charity, tell your readers in the first paragraph that you want them to give money. The rest of your document convinces the reader to give you money.
Be careful when you write email. You never know who will read it. You send an email to a friend and they send it to another friend. That friend sends it to someone else and before you know it, you don’t know who’s reading your email. When I write an email, I never write anything that I don’t want a stranger to see. Writing email is like writing a message on a postcard.
Be careful with humor. This is especially true when you are writing to a person from another country. Humor is cultural. What is funny in one country is not always funny in another country.
Don’t make stereotypical or political assumptions. You may have a blog that discusses charity or a blog that discusses the War in Iraq. Don’t believe the political stereotype. You never know who is reading your blog. No need to offend people that like your writing.
Always respect your readers. People often ask me what is the hardest aspect of writing? My answer – getting people to read it.