Turn them on, before you turn them off

1st May 2018

Last week, I gave you a simple way to instantly impress people when you’re speaking to them (the First Serve).

But what about when you are writing? How can you grab them in seconds?

This is clearly critical. If you spend ages producing a 20-page document – but the reader’s first impression is that it doesn’t look relevant or interesting – well, they might not read it at all. Or with the diligence and respect you deserve. That’s a pretty depressing thought.

So, how do you create a great first impression? Well, you’ve read enough documents, so will know the answer to this one! These are the first things that readers see:

  1. Length. Nobody wants to read a long document, when a short one will do
  2. Title. The title must be interesting. “Update” isn’t. Nor is “FYI”. But “Three new ways to impress our boss” is
  3. Interesting Contents Page. Just as you want a good title on the front, you want every section to have interesting titles too. After all, if they’re boring, people won’t read the section at all
  4. Short paragraphs. Everyone prefers short paragraphs to long. So press the “return” key more
  5. White space. Everyone prefers white space to clutter. So press the “return” key more
  6. Portrait. People find it easier to read narrow columns than wide ones. That’s why newspapers are set-out the way they are. So portrait (narrow) is easier to read than landscape (wide). So make your documents portrait
  7. Visuals. People like good visuals. Their eyes are drawn to them. So, whenever it’s appropriate, include some. They must be good quality

You know all this.

It’s what you’re thinking every time you read someone else’s document.

But do you always do them when you’re writing your own?

Action Point

Review a recent/imminent document for these seven points. It’ll take you a few seconds – the same length of time it took your readers to get their First Impression of what you’d written.

Anything that could be improved? Improve it. Again, it’ll take a few seconds only…

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