What the press can teach us about business writing

Michael Gentle
Dec 9, 2017 · 2 min read

What do newspapers and magazines have in common with email? They’re both competing for your attention.

Of course, the stakes are higher with the press, because if they don’t succeed in keeping their readers interested, they’ll go out of business! You can pick up any newspaper or magazine, no matter how long it might be, and flip through it quite easily in less than a minute. You can read articles at a glance and quickly decide which ones hold your interest.

Now compare this with the emails in your inbox. Poorly written subject lines mean you can’t make a call on whether to open the e-mail or not. And if you do, you’re invariably faced with dense, wall-to-wall text that goes on and on. Is it any wonder so much of it remains unread?

We live in an age of information overload and short attention spans. So, if your reader has not understood the point of your message in the first three lines, you’ve already lost half the battle.

Business writing needs to mirror the good habits of the press when it comes to making writing easy to read. This means adopting the following practices:

  • Make your point upfront
  • Use a clean, airy layout
  • Keep it short and simple

To learn these principles of effective business writing — with before/after examples — visit our website and download the free report (no email needed) entitled “Get to the Point! — Say it in the first three lines”.

The First Three Lines

We teach business writing essentials in focused 3-hour workshops.

Michael Gentle

Written by

Michael Gentle is the founder of The Balance of Privacy, a GDPR consultancy in Geneva.

The First Three Lines

We teach business writing essentials in focused 3-hour workshops.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade