Chapter 6: Executive Writing

Whether you hope to work in the corporate or agency world, executive writing will be part of your job. It might be to write effective emails to colleagues or clients, or you could be producing a newsletter or writing talking points or memos for an executive.


The strongest executive writing is fast and accurate and easy to read and understand.


To achieve this, it’s important to:

  • Start strong and specific
  • Be concise
  • Embrace the ugly first draft
  • Write for the reader


Start Strong and Specific
Don’t bury the most important information. Consider how to get that information as close to the top as possible.


You don’t need to write the beginning or a headline first. In fact, if you do, it’s wise to go back and consider needed revisions at the end of your writing process.


Be Concise
Ask yourself what the goal of the message is and how much information the reader truly needs to understand or act on your message.


Things that waste readers’ time:

  • Big words and complicated sentences (avoid sentences with lots of commas)
  • Passive verbs
  • Unneeded openings or recap conclusions
  • Wordy descriptions that could be an image or graphic
  • Main messages that stretch beyond about 10 words


Embrace the Ugly First Draft
Because you know an editing process comes after writing, just get going on the draft. It can be helpful to timebox yourself: give yourself 30 minutes to get as much as possible done on a piece of writing rather than waiting for inspiration or trying to make edits as you write.


Write for the Reader
The lessons about analyzing audiences still apply to executive writing, even when you’re just writing an email. Factor this in as you consider the structure of what you’re writing as well as the tone and words you choose.


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