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Nate’s Notes 56: Todd Rogers | How To Write So Busy People Will Read What You Write

By March 6, 2023June 8th, 2023No Comments

Todd Rogers

Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Improving Academic Outcomes With A Nudge From Behavioral Science: An Interview With Todd Rogers District Management Journal : Activating Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education Spring 2018 | Volume 23

Todd Rogers has dedicated the last 20 years of his career to a simple, practical, under-appreciated idea that is having a profound impact. His work has not only increased voter turnout, and thus strengthened democracy, but also has decreased student absenteeism, and thus improved the lives of children. And it all stems from a simple question: 

How can we write so busy people will read and respond to what we write?

First, the why:

When we make it easier on the reader, they’re three times more likely to engage. Todd helped write an email that was sent to 50,000 people, and by simply using headers every two paragraphs, he tripled engagement. 

Second, the how:

Before we ever hit send, do one round of editing with a single goal in mind: Make this easy for the reader. And Todd’s research has found what helps: Fewer words, fewer ideas, fewer requests, common words, effective formatting, and designing for navigation because everyone skims.

The French Philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in 1656, “I am writing you a longer letter only because I did not have time to make it shorter.” 

It takes work to follow Todd’s advice. But it will make us more effective and kinder. 

It’s a simple idea, Please take it seriously. 

Todd Rogers Bio:

Todd Rogers is a Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. His work: supports student success and attendance; strengthens democracy; and improves communication.

Todd has co-founded two social enterprises one of which focuses on improving voter communications, and the other which partners with school districts to reduce student absenteeism. 

At Harvard, Todd is the faculty director of the Behavioral Insights Group, faculty chair of an executive education program, and director of a Student Support R&D lab. He is also Senior Scientist at ideas42 and Academic Advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team.

Todd earned an undergraduate degree in religion and psychology from Williams College, a master’s degree in social psychology from Harvard, and a PhD in organizational behavior from Harvard. 

I hope you enjoyed learning from Todd Rogers, because I certainly did.

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