Monday, 15 August 2011

Give me the summary, not the detail

“Give me the summary, not the detail” - if you can summarise stuff, you’re more likely to get people’s attention these days.

Many organisations stuff their emails and web content full of detail because they’re thinking too much about what they, as an organisation, want to say.

But what an organisation wants to say is often different from what its audience wants to hear. So what's the best way to summarise stuff?

Be brave
Trim your message. You don’t have to tell people absolutely everything about your product, service or organisation. Just single out some interesting points.

Go to a pub or hang out in a lift
You’re thrown together with someone from a different industry, who asks what your organisation does. Can you step back from your day-to-day detail and talk in plain language?

What would the headline be?
Writing headlines is a skill - headlines tell a story in just a few words. How would a newspaper describe your organisation?

Delete the crap
There are words and phrases that add little to our sentences. Some are just a wordy way of saying something simple. Check this out: ‘At a later date’ just means ‘later’ and ‘On a monthly basis’ means ‘monthly’.

Promote the conclusion
Ever written a long email and then realised the important bit is at the bottom? Cut the conclusion off the bottom and paste it at the top. Then delete the rest.

Summarising is such a key skill – it helps you write better subject lines for emails, concise tweets, Facebook updates and web content. 

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