Monday, June 15, 2009

3 Ways to Help People Remember What You've Written

by Barb Sawyers

With the constant onslaught of information, it's getting more difficult for people to remember everything they've read. That's why it's so important for writers to aid their recall. To do this, help readers deposit your information into their memory bank, add some strong glue and offer some cues to help them retrieve the information later.

Deposit into the memory bank

- Make sure your communication offers value and relevance. That's how the brain prioritizes memory deposits.
- Revise your writing until it's easy to understand, using your target readers' terms, not the jargon of your business or profession.
- Give people a context in which to remember. Tell them, for example, they will want to remember this information the next time they go to write an important email to a prospect.
- Focus on what's important and avoid the clutter.
- Organize your information, guiding your readers with numbers, bullet points, categories, acronyms, subheads or other devices.

- Use a strong visual to reinforce what you want readers to remember.
- Link what they already know to your new information.
- Create a catchy slogan.
- Persuade your readers to repeat your most important message out loud.
- State your main point in the introduction, then repeat it in the body and conclusion.
- Ask the readers to apply what they've learned by completing a practical exercise.
- Tell stories, anecdotes or jokes that play on emotions or connect different points.
- Rhyme. Who can forget: In August 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue?

Retrieval cues

- Follow up with communication that repeats the images and other cues you provided originally.
- Use emotional prompts. "I'm scared. Now what did Oprah tell me to do when that happens?"
- Or look to problem-solving cues. When people encounter the problem you can solve, they will dip into the memory and retrieve your solution.

Now repeat after me, loudly: "I will help my readers deposit information into their memory banks, add glue to keep it there and give them some retrieval cues to pull it out."

Or maybe you should just say, "Woo, glue and cue."

Barb Sawyers writes articles, newsletters, announcements, scripts and other communication that are read and remembered. With a masters in journalism and more than 25 years' experience, Barb has enabled many corporations, small businesses, government agencies and nonprofits to communicate more effectively.

She's working on an e-book called The First 25 Words.

A member of IABC/Toronto, Barb is past chair of the Alliance of Independent Practitioners, a large group of independent communicators.

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