Monday, May 28, 2012

Search Results

Communicate to motivate!

Table of Contents

The Importance of Good Writing

TIP #1: Be Active, Not Passive

TIP #2: Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

TIP #3: Don't Be Verbose and Run On and On and Use More Words than You Really Need to Use to Get Your Point Across

TIP #4: Skip the Big Words. Your Reader is Not Impressed

TIP #5: Shorter is Usually Sweeter

TIP #6: Structure Your Paragraphs Logically

TIP #7: Are You Sure That's the Right Word?

TIP #8: Have a Conversation

TIP #9: Say What?

TIP #10: Avoid Qualifiers

TIP #11: Get Rid of Repetitive Redundancies

The Importance of Good Writing

Does your job require you to write? Anything at all? If not, you don't need this article. However, if you're occasionally called on to write a letter to a customer, instructions for a subordinate, details on the operation of a process, a training manual, an annual report, an article for the company newsletter, or even an email to a co-worker, you'll develop a reputation as a writer.

Will that reputation be good or bad? Will people enjoy reading your work - or cringe when they get something from you? Most of the time, that will depend on your writing style. People like to read things that are easy to understand, are written in plain English, and follow a logical progression of thought. Misspelled words, grammatical errors, and poor sentence structure are all distracting to your message. This booklet is not intended to be a primer on spelling or grammar, but you can greatly improve your writing just by following 11 simple tips.

TIP #1: Be Active, Not Passive

A common error is writing in the passive voice when active voice will sound better and make more sense. Active voice is usually preferred because it makes the sentence clearer and shorter.

Instead of this: The man was bitten by the dog.

Try this: The dog bit the man.

Instead of this: A rude noise was made by the student, and the principal was called by the teacher.

Try this: The student made a rude noise, and the teacher called the principal.

TIP #2: Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

Your writing shouldn't cause your reader to scratch his head and say, "Huh?".

Instead of this: If the Internal Revenue Service finds that an individual has received a payment to which the individual was not entitled, whether or not the payment was due to the individual's fault or misrepresentation, and whether or not the payment was due to a miscalculation by the Service, or some other type of error, nevertheless, the individual shall be liable to repay to the Department of the Treasury, the total sum of the payment to which the individual was not entitled.

Try this: If the IRS overpays you, regardless of the reason, you are required to return the amount of the overpayment.

TIP #3: Don't Be Verbose and Run On and On and Use More Words Than You Really Need to Use to Get Your Point Across

Some writers seem to enjoy long sentences. The go for quantity rather than quality. In reality, it takes more talent to be concise.

Instead of this: ABC Software, Inc. today announced its early adoption and planned use and support of Microsoft's new Visual Studio for Applications (VSA) technology as a fundamental component of the platform on which ABC Software's next-generation solutions will be built. ABC Software has a strong history of providing customers with solutions adaptable to unique business needs through award winning customization tools. VSA provides important capabilities that will enable ABC Software to take customization flexibility to more advanced levels in its next generation products.

Try this: ABC Software is one of the first to adopt Microsoft's new Visual Studio Applications (VSA) technology. ABC has a history of providing customization tools that are adaptable to a wide variety of business needs. Using VSA will enable ABC to create even more advanced versions of its software.

TIP #4: Skip the Big Words. Your Reader is Not Impressed.

Some writers believe that they'll be more highly respected or appear to be smarter if they use big words. In reality, however, most people are put off by that. The writer appears to be a pompous show-off. Just say what you mean in plain English!

Instead of this - Try this:

additional - extra

advise - tell

attempt - try

commence - start

consequently - so

forward - send

individual - man or woman

initial - first

in excess of - more than

in the event of - if

numerous - many

on receipt - when we get

on request - if you ask

particulars - details

persons - people

prior to - before

regarding - about

referred to as - called

sufficient - enough

terminate - end

TIP #5: Shorter is Usually Sweeter

A good rule of thumb is to let each sentence accomplish just one thing. Too many ideas in one sentence make it confusing. Instead of stringing several ideas together, simply put each one into a separate, shorter sentence.

Instead of this: The government and financial community in The Bahamas appreciates the need for companies to operate under the laws of a jurisdiction which minimizes taxation, reporting requirements and bureaucratic intervention while providing flexibility for operation in a liberal and concessionary environment.

Try this: The government and banking community in The Bahamas recognizes that companies want to pay less taxes. Those same companies want to be free of onerous reporting requirements and bureaucratic interference. The Bahamas allows businesses to operate freely and will even provide concessions to attract them to the islands.

TIP #6: Structure Your Paragraphs Logically

It's very confusing to the reader if your thoughts jump back and forth instead of following a logical progression. From reading magazines and newspaper articles, most of your readers will expect you to start with a generality, and then continue with more detail and specific examples.

You may do this without thinking when you are speaking. You pass a friend in the hall at work who asks what you did the night before. You stop and tell her that you went to a great new restaurant where the food and service were outstanding. You tell her the name of the place, where it's located, and say, "You should check it out." By that point in the conversation, it's time to get back to work.

Later, you go out to lunch with another friend, and spend an hour together. She asks you the same question and you start your answer exactly the same way. But since you have more time, and she is truly interested, you start giving her details. You mention who you were eating with, gossip about who else you saw there, list every item on the extensive dessert menu, and describe the ambience of the place in intricate detail.

When you write something, your readers will be in a variety of locations and circumstances when they receive your communication. You want to be sure you write the most important messages at the beginning, and then go into more detail for those who have the time and interest.

TIP #7: Are You Sure That's the Right Word?

Much has been written about how confusing the English language is for those who are trying to learn it for the first time. But writers know it can also be confusing for those who have spoken and written the language their entire life! Here are 55 sets of words that writers frequently confuse - and a quick review of their proper usage:

Affect - to influence;

Effect - result

All ready - prepared;

Already - at this time

All right - satisfactory;

Alright - incorrect usage

All together - a group;

Altogether - completely

Allude - to refer to;

Elude - to evade

All Ways - by all means;

Always - forever

Any way - by any method;

Anyway - in any case;

Anyways - incorrect usage

Appraise - to estimate a value;

Apprise - to tell

Ascent - upward movement;

Assent - to agree

Assistance - help;

Assistants - helpers

Bare - naked;

Bear - carry;

Bear - animal

Beside - next to;

Besides - also

Born - brought into existence;

Borne - carried

Brake - stop;

Break - shatter

Buy - purchase;

Bye - goodbye;

By - next to

Capital - the seat of government;

Capitol - a building where a legislature meets

Compliment - praise;

Complement - to enhance or complete

Connote - to imply;

Denote - to indicate

Continual - occurs regularly;

Continuous - never stops

Correspondence - written communications;

Correspondents - people who write the communications

Desert - leave behind;

Desert - an arid land;

Dessert - after dinner course

Device - invention;

Devise - to invent

Discreet - prudent, circumspect;

Discrete - separate, distinct

Disinterested - unbiased;

Uninterested - indifferent

Elicit - to bring out;

Illicit - illegal

Except - other than;

Accept - to receive

Fair - average;

Fair - beautiful;

Fair - just;

Fare - fee for transportation

Farther - literal distance;

Further - to a greater extent

Forward - toward the front;

Foreword - introductory note

Gorilla - a large primate;

Guerrilla - non-conventional warfare

Hanged - past tense of hang (execution of a criminal);

Hung - past tense of hang (as with a picture on the wall)

Heard - past tense of "hear";

Herd - group of animals

Illusion - misperception;

Allusion - indirect reference

It's - contraction of "it is";

Its - possessive of "it"

Lead - to be out in front;

Lead - heavy metal;

Led - past tense of being out in front

Lessen - to make less;

Lesson - something learned

Overdo - to carry too far;

Overdue - past due

Passed - past tense of "pass";

Past - a time gone by

Patience - forbearance;

Patients - clients of a doctor

Peace - absence of war;

Piece - part of something

Presence - being somewhere;

Presents - gifts

Principal - head of a school;

Principal - holder of a high position in a business;

Principal - sum of money that earns interest;

Principle - a rule or standard

Raise - to lift up;

Raze - to tear down

Residence - a house;

Residents - people who live in a house

Respectfully - courteously;

Respectively - in the order mentioned

Right - correct;

Rite - religious ceremony

Sight - something seen;

Site - a place;

Cite - quote an authority

Some time - a period of time;

Sometime - at an unspecified point in time

Stationary - not moving;

Stationery - writing paper

Straight - not bent;

Strait - passageway through water

Tenant - a renter;

Tenet - strongly held belief

Their - possessive of "they";

There - not here;

They're - contraction of "they" and "are"

Waiver - give up a right;

Waver - to be indecisive

Who's - contraction of "who" and "is";

Whose - possessive of "who"

Your - possessive of "you";

You're - contraction of "you" and "are"

TIP #8: Have a Conversation

For most things that you write, an informal tone is not only appropriate, but easier to read. Unless you're writing a scholarly paper on some rare disease for your next medical convention, you should avoid the use of jargon.

Don't think of your readers first as engineers or bankers or lawyers or business executives or co-workers. Think of them first as people who have plenty to do and don't want to labor over their reading.

Good communication involves more than speaking and listening, or writing and reading. It involves clarity on the part of the writer, and understanding on the part of the reader. It involves an interaction between two or more human beings. Your writing should be as easy to read and understand as your conversation around the water cooler. And especially avoid whatever buzzwords, business jargon, and clich├ęs are currently in vogue.

Just imagine if people talked the way some of them write. You might get a voice mail like this:

"Hey George, let's think outside the box, examine our core competencies, interface with our strategic alliances, and see if we're on the same page. I figure it's a win-win and a no-brainer. We should just touch base, and then hit the ground running. I figure if we're proactive, we'll find some great synergy. Going forward, I think this will not only be an important value proposition, but may even be mission-critical. I just wanted to give you a heads-up that it needs to be tonight, because I'm out of pocket all weekend. At the end of the day, I think we'll find we've missed some things that weren't on our radar screen. Bottom line, it's all about positioning. And remember we need to walk the walk. After all, there is no "I" in team and we need to go for result-driven empowerment. So keep me in the loop, okay?"

Wouldn't this jargon-free voice mail be easier to understand:?

"Hey George. Let's invite a couple of girls out for a date. It would have to be tonight because I'll be gone for the weekend. We've been saying we have to get out more. It'll be fun! Call me back when you get a chance, okay?"

Remember to write more like you talk.

TIP #9: Say What?

Read what you've written out loud! Sometimes that will reveal problems that you don't "hear" in your mind when you proof your own work. You may know precisely what you mean when you write the sentence, and still have it be totally misunderstood.

Sometimes the problem comes from moving your subject and verb too far apart in the sentence.

Instead of this: President Bush wrote his State of the Union address while traveling from Washington to Omaha on the back of a menu.

Try this: President Bush wrote his State of the Union address on the back of a menu while traveling from Washington to Omaha.

Instead of this: Dr. Smith has been writing a treatise on the history of diabetes research since the early 1900s.

Try this: Dr. Smith has been writing a treatise. It discusses the history of diabetes since the early 1900s.

TIP #10: Avoid Qualifiers

Your writing will typically be stronger if you avoid certain qualifiers. No, that's not right. Your writing is stronger when you avoid certain qualifiers. Do you see the difference when the word "typically" is removed from the previous sentence?

"Typically" is one of dozens of qualifiers that people use both in their writing and speaking. Other examples are "possibly", "nearly", "approximately", "likely", "sort of", "maybe", "try to", "believed to be", "should be", "usually", "most", "sometimes", "occasionally", "I think", "perhaps", "roughly", and "generally".

The use of too many qualifiers in your writing will make you sound unsure of yourself, or worse yet - evasive.

Instead of this: The food was somewhat tasteless.

Try this: The food was tasteless. or The food was bland.

Instead of this: It was a fairly hot day.

Try this: It was a hot day.

TIP #11: Get rid of repetitive redundancies

A redundancy is unnecessarily using two or more words that mean the same thing - like repetitive redundancies. The second word is excessive and superfluous. Here are some examples of redundancies to avoid:

o small in size

o I thought to myself

o all-time record

o money-saving coupon

o join together

o merge together

o young child

o unexpected surprise

o hollow tube

o academic scholar

o past history

o honest truth

o close proximity

o previously recorded

o mental telepathy

o refer back

o added bonus

o bare naked

o consensus of opinion

o hot water heater

o it's raining outside

o passing fad

o surrounded on all sides

o unsolved mystery

o puppy dog

These few tips probably won't win you a Pulitzer Prize or get you elected President, but hopefully you've learned enough to make your next writing assignment easier and more enjoyable...for you AND the reader!

©2005, Daniel P. Stuenzi, All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment