As I prepare to graduate, and ultimately search for employment, the subject of rhetorical awareness has come up a lot in conversation. Last week I met with someone from career services for my university and she probably told me to “consider my audience” at least five times during our hour-long meeting. Her point being that your resume and cover letter should be crafted to appeal to your potential employer. One generic resume or cover letter will not get you a job. People, especially employers like to know you put some thought into your writing. A tailored piece of writing helps convey ideas or information in the most impactful way possible.
In addition to making your writing persuasive you must also make your writing accessible. Meaning, if your writing has no practical application to the subject you are writing on, it is not going to be useful. For example if you are crafting a memo at work about how to sign up for payroll it’s likely your audience will be short on time.
Helping them understand how to enroll in the new system as quickly as possible will save them not only time but also you a lot of effort in the long run. A great way to achieve this is by focusing on user-centered design. This article outlines examples as well as tips on how to apply user design in the work place
Consider who or what you are writing and/or creating for. Knowing who will read your writing and why they need to read it is crucial. This article goes into detail about the importance of knowing your audience and why it is beneficial. Before you even begin writing decide whom your audience is and what they need to gain from your writing. If they need directions, you might want bullet points and flow charts. If they are more visual people, you might just do flow charts and pictures rather than blocks of text. You wouldn’t speak to a potential employer the same way you would to your friends; you shouldn’t write the same way either. Your writing and set up should be entirely customized to your audience.
Write down your main points. Planning out what you are going to say and what you are trying to get across is crucial to creating clear, helpful writing. Your main points should be at the forefront of your writing. This article about good business writing outlines that if your main points aren’t front and center you are wasting your time.
Draft. Edit. Repeat. After you have established your audience and main points, write a draft. Then read your draft over and over again. Ask yourself, is there anything I can take out? Check for clarity and if you can, have another pair of eyes give it a once over. If someone else can understand your argument-without any explanation from you- there is a good chance your argument is clear. This is a process that should be repeated and pays off in spades.
Remember the key to all of this is repeated effort. In order to design and craft useful documents and interfaces you have to strive for improvement. Companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook are always making changers and upgrades to their interfaces and writing. These changes are because these companies are responsive to feedback. If something doesn’t work, learn from your failure and use it to improve upon your existing or future projects. Big companies don’t just create one website or one version of something; they are constantly striving for improvement. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are well-crafted pieces of business writing or interfaces. Be patient, be open to criticism, and constantly strive for improvement and you will achieve success.