One of the most important things to remember when communicating in writing is that you won’t be around when your audience sits down and tries to make sense of what you’ve written. You therefore need to write simply and clearly and be careful to answer all the questions that your readers are likely to want to know the answers to.
Anticipating those is pretty easy if you take a leaf out of the reporters’ handbook and include the 5Ws in any informative writing that you do. As a junior reporter I was introduced to them and taught to check my writing to make sure they were all included before hitting the send button on any story I wrote.
So what are the 5Ws? They are What, Why, Where, When and Who and can be applied to any situation. For example:
- What happened/is going to happen or what thing/product are we talking about.
- Why did it happen/is it going to happen or why they should take note of our product/service.
- Where did it happen/is it going to happen or where they can contact us/where our product is available.
- When did it happen/is it going to happen or when is our product/service available.
- Who did it/who we are/who needs our product or service.
An example of a sentence including the 5Ws is:
Acme Builders Suppliers (who) is launching a new range of taps (what) designed to cut water wastage (why) at their Brisbane premises (where) on February 1, 2017 (when).
You don’t of course have to use all the 5Ws in a single sentence but if you address them all in your text, you will tell your readers pretty much everything they need to know. In my personal experience I have learned that an HM standing for ‘How Much?’ is usually an important question to answer as well.
The 5Ws are the basic things people need to know when finding out about something and it’s obvious we should always make sure that our business communications answer all five. If we don’t provide all the necessary information there is the risk that customers or potential customers won’t bother to ask for the missing info and go elsewhere.
Give readers all the information and there is a chance they’ll act on it.