I Only Read the First Three Sentences!

First published May, 2016

We all read a lot of long documents: proposals, reports, stories etc. Or at least we are asked to read them.

The truth is we often don’t read them at all.  Most often, we just skim.  We skim to pick up the idea: the theme or the key points.  We skim to find the parts that are of most interest to us at that time.

The strange part about this admission is that we don’t think about this when we craft a document or story or report of our own.  We write as if we really believe that the reader will cover it all and read every word.  This is where we go wrong.

I tell all of my audiences, when we discuss good communications skills, we need to put ourselves in the shoes or seats of our audience.  We need to ask ourselves: what do they want to hear and how do they want to hear it?  If you do this before producing those pages of text, you might approach the task a little differently.

You need to consider if, for instance, you have different audiences for your document. Some will want to key in on the technical parts while others will want the general overview.  Understanding this is the first key to a better output.

Once we understand our audience, it is time to construct our output in a fashion that is ‘skimmable’ (not a good word, but it fits), readable and easy to navigate.

How?

Benoit De Grâce is the author of the chapter “The Power of Seven” in the book “The Keys to Our Success”

In his chapter, Benoit tells us that the key to his success is breaking his output into chunks of 7, plus or minus 2.  It is such a simple but powerful message. Humans will lose attention, he suggests, if you try to cover more than 9 ideas or topics.  As well, each topic should be clearly separated or referenced.

The idea of 7, plus or minus 2 is important here.  But so is the formatting of those ideas.  If I am asked to read a document that covers a lot of ground, I will ‘chunk’ my work, as Benoit suggests, but as well, I will number and label the 7 (plus or minus 2) sections.  Thus, my reader has easy access to the sections that he or she really wants to read.

  • Tell me up front what you are going to tell me.
  • Give me the detail with the same headings as listed above.
  • Recap what you have told me.

Follow this simple advice and readers will find it easier to read the parts that you want them to read.

‘Skimmable’ (still not a good word), readable and easy to navigate.

Share

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

More Posts

Our Relationships Deserve a Strategic Plan

The people in our lives can make or break our happiness and our success. Without strong healthy and enjoyable relationships, both personal and professional, we are at risk of being

Scalability and Common Sense

Have you ever watched someone use a canon to kill a fly?  Use a software program to solve a problem that really just needed a pen and piece of paper? 

Who is Your Coach?

Connor McDavid has a coach and he’s arguably the best hockey player in the world. Kevin Durant has a coach. Most great artists have coaches. And many people in business

I Only Read the First Three Sentences!

We all read a lot of very long documents: proposals, reports, stories and more.  Or at least we are asked to read them.  The truth is, we don’t really read

Subscribe to my blog

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top