5 Elements of Compelling Written Communications

February 17, 2017

Written communications

Are your written communications helping others achieve the results you want? Business leaders must get things done through others, and this process depends on effective communication. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, communication is the difference between leading and managing.

Consider these essential steps to leading others:

• Describe something to be accomplished.
• Influence others to join the effort.
• Engage and inspire them to do their best.
• Enable and empower them to succeed as individuals and a unified team.

Each of these steps requires an ability to communicate well. Most leadership communication occurs one-on-one or in group conversations. But in a variety of situations, many leaders must be able to communicate through writing. AMA’s seminar The Write Way to Lead shows that effective writing is a leadership tool.

Writing well can get others to see, believe, feel, and do what we want. It can give permanence and extra power to our ideas. It can help ideas to spread wider and take hold longer.

As an extra benefit, writing well can help us to be better thinkers. The process of writing causes us to examine, deepen, and clarify our thoughts. Good writing comes from careful thinking, and careful thinking occurs best during careful writing.

What is the “write” way to lead?

The best leaders are compelling. So how can we make our writing truly compelling to those we seek to lead? Here are five elements of persuasive leadership writing:

Make a connection. A leader’s message must immediately connect with the intended readers. It must capture and hold attention by identifying a pressing issue or appealing to something those readers value.

Present the “what” right away. The main point of a leader’s message must be immediately visible and understandable. It must clearly convey what the leader wants readers to see, believe, feel, or do.

State the “why.” The writing must express the sound reasons for belief and action—such as the benefit to readers or those they care about.

Explain the “how.” If readers need close details on how to do something, the message should spell them out. If they need less guidance, it should empower them to find their own path forward. Either way, the message should give readers the amount of direction and support they need to succeed.

Say it simply. A brief message that’s easy to grasp is key. When possible, it should cover no more than one page with short paragraphs, short sentences, and short everyday words. Face it: The more we write, the less people read.

All this advice is easy to understand, but plain hard work is required to carry it out. As Steve Jobs once told Businessweek, “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make to simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

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AMA’s new seminar provides practical tips for writing well in various leadership situations. This program features samples, practice, and feedback to hone your writing and leadership skills.

About The Author

Rich St. Denis has taught business writing for 32 years to more than 10,000 people. He also has deep experience in leadership, emotional intelligence, team building, and presentation skills. He can be reached at

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    […] questions should guide the content of your communications, including those delivered by email, in one-on-one conversations, and in presentations. “To focus a message basically means to come […]

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