Those who remember high school English and writing classes will recall teachers' admonitions to write in the active voice, use strong verbs and show don't tell, recalls author Bill Birchard in a recent HBR article. He challenges those rules and believes there is a better way to communicate and capture your audiences’ undivided attention. Write or speak in a way that causes your audience to release pleasing chemicals such as dopamine. Dopamine is released when your brain expects a reward. Associating activities with pleasure makes you happier, more alert, motivated and focused.
Birchard offers five suggestions that can prompt the release of dopamine and other pleasing chemicals from the brain.
Use simple words, simple sentences and make order out of chaos. Does it work? Research found that publicly traded companies that issue complex shareholder reports trade at a 2.5% discount from those whose reports are simple. You can make your communication easier to read by writing short sentences, eliminating unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, cutting useless transitions and omitting caveats that cloud your message.
Be specific. Get to the point quickly and simply. The brain yearns for stimulation, and brain scans show that when people read words such as garlic, cinnamon and jasmine, their olfactory circuits light up. A similar reaction occurs with sight, sound and motion.
Appeal to your readers’ emotions. People process emotions much quicker than thoughts. Consider how your copy will make the reader feel. A study of New York Times articles that featured emotions received 34% more reads than those that did not, and stories with positive emotions were read even more. An effective tactic to appeal to your readers’ emotions is to use metaphors, Birchard suggests.
Be social by incorporating character and experience. “Self-revelation – measured and apt – connects readers to you and turns on rewards,” Birchard writes. You can be more social by using the word you instead of he, she or they.
Tell stories. As humans, we are captivated by wanting to know what comes next, what happened and how-did-it-turn-out narratives.
The lesson: Your style is not as important as your ability to reward your readers' desire for happiness by making your communication simple, specific, emotion generating, social and reminiscent of a good story.