As millennials in their college career or as recent graduates for some of you, we will be doing a copious amount of work-related writing. This writing may be a cover letter, a quarterly report, a write-up of a focus group, or tons of other things. It doesn’t matter what you are writing, instead it matters that you write it effectively and with the end reader in mind. Writing your work in this manner is know as “User-centered design”.
I gave a brief explanation as to what exactly user-centered design is, and you’re probably still a little bit confused. Let me explain. One of the first concepts of this style of writing is ease. This sense of ease to apply to all the elements of the writing. Ease of understanding, ease of navigation, even easy on the eyes. An effective way to do this is to start out by creating clear headers to each section of the piece so that when people read it they can easily understand what they are about to read in each part. Clear headings also allows readers to quickly find a section of information if they are looking for something specific, instead of them reading massive chunks of text to find what they are looking for. If they are doing that they may become fed up and/or confused, thus causing them to possibly become annoyed with your writing and they may look at you negatively if this happens. Another element you can add that would go hand in hand with the idea of clear headings is a table of contents and pages numbers, if your work is long enough for these elements of course. This further helps the reader to find what they are looking for and understand what they are going to read. These elements also add a professional aspect to your work.
Another fundamental idea of writing with user-centered is the tone you use while writing and how you organize your ideas. According to Plain Language, your should deliver your main message early on and then talk about it. Do this instead of talking about your message and quickly touching on it and then giving your “bottom line” at the end of your writing. This allows readers to get a sense of what they will read and often times answers the question on their mind, if there is one. Another aspect that goes along with mentioning your main ideas early on is your sentence structure. As stated on Thrive, sentences should not run on, they should be concise, short, and effectively deliver the intended message. This goes for paragraphs as well, your paragraphs should not be massive chunks of text but instead about five sentences long. By writing with these methods in mind, you can effectively convey what you are trying to say without all the extra “fluff”. Dr. Suess gave a quote that perfectly describes the hassle of the reader when you write more than you need to, “so the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads”.
Your tone of the writing should not be condescending or cold, but instead should be easy and professional. You do not want to appear angry or standoffish to your reader, this could hurt you in the long run even if your overall work is good. Origin Interactive gives a very good description of the proper tone for your writing. Your tone should also be catered towards who will be reading your work. Do not make it too technical and difficult to understand if say your reader works in a different department and may not have a similar set of knowledge as you do.
One final and extremely simple suggestion for you is to make sure that you use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It is unprofessional and makes you look lazy if you do not make sure your work isn’t cluttered with mistakes.
From here on out, and even in current work you may be completing, it is a very effective and smart strategy to employ user-centered design in your writing and always consider your audience while writing.