Write With Your Readers In Mind

Copyright 2003 by Jane Cleland. Click Here for Terms of Use.

In order to calculate your Empathy Index, count the number of references to your target readers: "them." Count references to your readers by:

• shared interest

• use of their name or names

Next, count references to yourself and your organization: "us." (When the word "we" refers to both the reader and writer, don't count it.)

When the two numbers are subtracted ("us" from "them"), you should end up with a positive number. The higher the positive number, the more reader focused the writing. The more reader focused the writing, the more potent your communications are likely to be. Consider, for example, this sentence, drafted by a scientific laboratory:

We are pleased to announce that our new facility is open and ready to accept all microbiological tests.

Notice that there are no references to the lab's customers. But there are two references to the company ("we" and "our"). The Empathy Index is calculated as follows:

The same content presented in a much stronger way shifts the focus from the company to the company's customers. Consider this alternative:

Your microbiological tests will be turned around more quickly, and you'll enjoy a higher degree of accuracy than was previously available, because our new facility is now open and ready for your business.

In this example, there are three references to the company's customers ("your" twice and "you" once), but only one reference to the firm ("our").

Them Us

Empathy Index

Them 3

Empathy Index 2

Try reading the two sentences aloud. The first sentence starts with a cliché that focuses on the company: "We are pleased to announce ..." The revised sentence begins with benefits to the customer: "Your microbiological tests will be turned around more quickly . . . " Can you hear how much stronger the revised sentence is?

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