Before your readers will listen to you, they need to know that you have listened to them and that you understand their challenges and their needs. Respect for our readers is the basis for all strong writing techniques.
- Respect your readers’ time. Be merciful. Don’t take up any more of your readers’ time than necessary. Answer the question, argue the point or lay out the deal as as concisely as possible.
- Respect your readers’ intelligence. Your readers are highly trained and intelligent, so they expect thoughtful, deep analysis. While you must be brief, it is more important to be thorough. Your readers will give you their time if you reward their effort with deep knowledge.
- Make it as easy as possible for your readers. Don’t make your readers work any harder than necessary to understand your paper. Write in the language they already know and love–plain English.
- Satisfy your readers’ curiosity. Your readers are deeply curious. But they are more curious about you as a writer than they are about your topic. Do you know your subject? Are you masterful or just competent? Are you reasonable and worth working with? Use your writing to convey who you are as a lawyer. Let your tone suggest confidence and authority.
- Focus your readers. Given the competition for your readers’ time, you must focus your readers’ attention for them by leading from the top–the key to effective, professional writing and the principle my book focuses on.
- Give your readers choices. Headings and introductory sentences allow your readers to choose not to read a section to to mark a section for reading later. Give your readers the option to just say no or later.
- Keep your readers’ eyes moving. Your readers should be able to move seamlessly from the beginning to the end of your paper. Any style that halts that forward momentum destroys your readers’ trust in you as a writer. (The books explains many techniques to keep your readers’ eyes moving forward.)