Tight and Bright: How Decluttering Your Language Improves Communication
September 7, 2010
Many people dread putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to write letters, memos and reports. They dont know what to say and they dont know how to say it. They end up cluttering their composition with fancy phrases and stilted language, and their message gets lost in the muddle. Here are some tips to avoid that trap:
1. Know your audience. Are you writing to invite your cousins to a family reunion? Then you can be informal and conversational. Or are you writing an annual report that will be scrutinized by the executives at head office? Your tone will be formal, but not flowery. Simple words are always appropriate.
2. Pare it down. Write now instead of at this point in time, for example, or money instead of monetary units.
3. Use the active voice. Write I made a list of writing tips, not I have been occupied in the writing of a list of composition tips.
4. Use the right tools for the job. Keep a dictionary and style book handy. Look for templates and writing samples online. Use a word-processing program that fixes spelling mistakes and alerts you to grammatical errors.
5. Dont use slang: It will not be understood by many of your readers, and it wont stand the test of time.
6. Ask a friend or colleague to edit and proofread your work. A fresh set of eyes can often spot spelling mistakes and missing words. If they dont understand a phrase, you can be sure most of your other readers wont understand it, either.
7. Read it aloud: If you stumble over a passage, so will your readers.
8. Keep a list of common writing problems. And refer to it often.
By applying these simple rules you can clean up your text and your message will be bright and clear. Once you know what to say and how to say it, writing those letters, memos and reports will no longer seem like such a daunting task.
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© 2010 Colette Robicheau
The Organizing Coach
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