SPOS #919 – Todd Rogers On How To Write For Busy Readers

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Welcome to episode #919 of Six Pixels of Separation – The ThinkersOne Podcast.

Here it is: Six Pixels of Separation – The ThinkersOne Podcast – Episode #919. In a world of information overload, Todd Rogers, a Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, recently published the book, Writing for Busy Readers – Communicate More Effectively in the Real World (co-authored with Jessica Lasky-Fink), as a testament to their understanding of the nuances of better writing in our text and emoji-paced world. Todd has dedicated his career to the study of efficient communication strategies, whether it’s engaging with families, students, consumers, employees, or voters. His expertise is not just academic, it is also deeply rooted in practical applications, as evidenced by his co-founding of the Analyst Institute and EveryDay Labs. These organizations reflect his commitment to using behavioral science for public good – from improving voter communications to reducing student absenteeism through better family engagement. At Harvard, Todd’s course, The Science of Behavior Change, is one of the most sought-after classes, a testament to his ability to translate complex theories into actionable knowledge. His role as the faculty chair of the executive education program Behavioral Insights and Public Policy, and his leadership of the Harvard Behavioral Insights Group, further highlight his central position in the landscape of behavioral science. In Writing for Busy Readers, Todd (alongside Jessica), dives into the challenge of writing effectively in a society that is bombarded with tasks and distractions. They champion the principles of brevity and clarity, advocating for the power of concise messages in capturing and retaining the attention of busy readers. Their book is a must-read for anyone looking for the balance between being informative and being succinct. Todd discusses the importance of standout subject lines, the pitfalls of overusing adjectives and common phrases, and the relationship between writing and persuasion. Todd addresses the impact of generative AI on writing, revealing his insights on how technology can aid in the principles of effective communication. Todd and Jessica’s work is not just about writing – it’s about understanding and engaging with the reader’s context and perspective. His insights offer a roadmap for writing in a way that resonates in a society where time is the most precious commodity. Enjoy the conversation…


  • Writing for busy readers requires brevity and clarity.
  • Consider the reader’s context and perspective when crafting written communication.
  • Skimming and scanning are common reading behaviors in a busy society.
  • Subject lines should be unique and attention-grabbing to capture the reader’s attention.
  • Avoid overusing adjectives and replace common phrases with more concise alternatives.
  • Effective writing is closely related to persuasion and the ability to make it easier for readers to understand and respond.
  • Generative AI tools like chat GPT can assist in writing, but they need to be trained on the principles of effective communication.
  • Teaching effective writing strategies in schools can help individuals communicate more effectively in various contexts.
  • Acknowledging others’ efforts and providing positive feedback can have a significant impact on their well-being.


  • 00:00 – Introduction and Background
  • 01:15 – The Principle of ‘Less is More’
  • 04:18 – The Impact of a Busy Society
  • 06:32 – The Burden of an Infinite Queue
  • 08:01 – The Importance of Being Brief
  • 10:07 – The Evolution of Reading and Writing
  • 12:28 – The Art of Skimming and Scanning
  • 17:23 – The Impact of Context and Emojis
  • 19:37 – The Renaissance of Writing
  • 20:36 – The Paradox of Writing More
  • 25:38 – Understanding the Reader’s Context
  • 27:41 – The Challenge of Sarcasm and Miscommunication
  • 29:23 – The Power of Impactful Words
  • 46:25 – The Power of Subject Lines
  • 47:53 – The Overuse of Adjectives
  • 50:26 – Phrases, Persuasion, and Effective Writing
  • 52:38 – The Impact of Generative AI on Writing
  • 55:42 – Making Writing Easier for Readers
  • 57:16 – The Importance of Acknowledgment

Download the Podcast here: Six Pixels of Separation – The ThinkersOne Podcast – Episode #919.

Before you go… ThinkersOne  is a new way for organizations to buy bite-sized and personalized thought leadership video content (live and recorded) from the best Thinkers in the world. If you’re looking to add excitement  and big smarts to your meetings, corporate events, company off-sites, “lunch & learns” and beyond, check it out.