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Delivering Good News in Writing

Nobody likes to deliver bad news, but it can be just as challenging to share something good when you have to do it in writing.

Surprised? To understand what makes it difficult, you have to consider the role that your written words will play. They essentially take your place when you can’t deliver the message in person. It’s widely accepted that most of in-person communication is actually nonverbal. The recipient of your communication relies on your gestures and facial expressions to develop a stronger grasp of the message you’re sharing.

When you deliver that message through another channel — such as a letter, an email, a social media post, an ad, or an article — your recipient lacks those nonverbal cues. That means any impressions he or she receives have to come from the words alone. In those cases, it’s all too easy for the recipient to draw the wrong impression or reach the wrong conclusions.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to keep your “good news” message from inadvertently creating bad impressions.

1. Make sure it’s really worth sharing. Your intended audience is busier than ever and simply overwhelmed with all sorts of messages every day. Is your good news something that’s really meaningful and worthwhile, or are you only adding to the clutter?

2. Make it relevant to the audience. Frame your good news in terms the audience can appreciate and understand. Don’t tell them why it’s good news to you — explain what makes it good news for them.

3. Keep it brief. Rather than share every detail, zero in on the most important points (again, those points that are most important to your audience). Resist the temptation to add more details, and respond to those who ask, “Should we also mention… ” with a firm “No.”

4. Never gloat. Be especially careful if there will be people in your audience who may have suffered some sort of negative impact from your good news. Share your good news with grace and respect. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, but demonstrate humility instead of bragging.

5. Share the credit. If others within your organization or external partners played a role in making the good news possible, call attention to their contributions. Doing so will not take the spotlight away from you. In fact, because you’ll be seen as generous and gracious, it will actually shine more brightly.

6. Stay calm. Avoid making your message overly excited by using things like ALL CAPITAL LETTERS or lots of exclamation points. If your message reads as though you’re jumping up and down and waving your arms wildly, that’s exactly how you’re going to appear to the audience, and it’s a look that rarely flatters.

7. Share it and be done. Just as you should move on after sharing bad news, there’s no need to repeat good news endlessly. Hearing the same self-praise again and again actually becomes annoying to an audience, undermining what you were hoping to accomplish.