The Strauss Blog

How to Write Things That Will Actually Get Read – Part 2

Recently, I was on a call regarding anti-spam legislation (for more information). The mandated “Unsubscribe” button make me think about how valuable, and precarious, member engagement is for associations. With the advent of email, all it takes is literally a click of a button for your members to “Unsubscribe” from your communication. We know how important this communication is to the functioning of an association. What can you do to get your members actually reading what you’re writing for them? You may want to start by revisiting part one of this blog located in our archive.

Once you’ve done that, keep reading part two below for three more tips about writing things that will actually get read!

1. Know your Audience

I tend to write academically, as I am used to having professors as my audience. However, this style is not appropriate for all contexts. Some associations respond better to a more casual, conversational tone. Using first person narrative can help to connect with these members, and plain language will ensure that everyone is on the same page.

On the other hand, some associations pride themselves on their professionalism and intelligence. For these groups, small things such as the use of contractions (don’t instead of do not, for example) make the association appear lazy and sloppy.

Before you start writing, consider who your reader will be and the kind of impression you want to make with them. Tailoring your writing style to the audience will go a long way in engaging the membership in what you have to say.

2. Get to the Point

Have you ever read a piece of text and found yourself wondering: What’s going on here? Some people like to drone on with long introductions and flourishes in an attempt to explain their subject matter, but this may bore the reader and take their attention away from the important point of the communication. Generally, association communication should be succinct and to the point.

Consider the following:

 The past year has been full of many challenges and successes for our association. We have worked hard to get where we are and will continue to do so. However, our resources are becoming strained and without making a change, it will be difficult to operate in the coming years. As such, the board has voted on an important change. Starting January 1, 2020, our membership dues will be increasing by 2%.

Versus:

On January 1, 2020, membership dues will increase by 2%. This is a result of an increasing workload and lack of resources. The association will continue to work hard to overcome challenges and achieve many successes.

In the example, both paragraphs say the same thing, with similar wording. However, the second is more concise and allows the reader to immediately understand what the association is trying to communicate, while the first paragraph has the reader spend four sentences guessing where the paragraph is going.

3. Use Headings

It’s inevitable that much of your audience will choose to skim your writing. No matter how tailored, concise, and well you write, some people simply do not have the time to read the whole piece. As a favour to these busybodies, make use of headings. At the very least, your reader will know what the document is about. This also allows the members to pick out parts of the document they find more important and engage with those, rather than view an overwhelming amount of text and ignore it.

If you are writing something lengthier, such as a report, proposal, or minutes, make use of the “headings” function in your word processor. In Microsoft Word, this is found under “Styles”. The advantage of this function is that it allows you to create an automatic table of contents, which is handy for both your own review and for the busy reader. If you are still reading this, then I’ve done my job here. Remember to think ahead of time what you want to say, to whom you want to say it, and how you can make it stand out. It’s important that association communication is done carefully and purposefully to encourage member engagement and mitigate against the dreaded “Unsubscribe”.