Getting to Yes, And

Writing for Busy Readers

Guest

Todd Rogers

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Kelly talks to Harvard Professor Todd Rogers about his book “Writing for Busy Readers: Communicate More Effectively in the Real World”  that he co-wrote with Jessica Lasky-Fink.

I didn’t expect this book to be so practically useful in the sense of it makes you rethink all your communication – like the use of CAPS.

"The book is about how to write so busy people read, understand and respond. And that means writing in a skimmable way. I think the caps thing is interesting. As you know, we talk about it in the book. It's different for different people. Some people interpret caps in different ways. Some people think you're yelling at them. Some people think you're emphasizing something important. And then some people think you're just trying to draw attention to this as opposed to everything else.”

People don’t really talk about the vast amounts of ways we communicate today – it's not just email.

"Especially as we move into the world of the future of work where we are a little more remote, a little more asynchronous. There's just a lot more writing. And I think we need to have just explicit discussions: How do we write stylistically? Structurally? What modes do different things get sent? What gets sent on teams, what gets sent by text, what gets sent by email? What could be sent as a report? And then we also have other questions about timing and things like that. But I think it's worth having explicit discussions about these things that we just have never even bothered to have.”

I was reading all these terrible company mission statements, and they are long and convoluted, and they are frustrating to read.

“The median US adult reads in the fiftieth percentile. One half of US adults read at a ninth grade reading level or lower, which means they really struggle to read long sentences. Those mission statements are totally inaccessible. If we want to write so more people can read it, we should write these short, accessible sentences. But also, people who can read those things, you and me and many of your listeners who are totally comfortable reading long, convoluted sentences. It's just unpleasant and requires a lot of effort.”

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