Given that our writing is competing for attention, it is sensible to write as well as possible. You can’t go too far wrong with adopting these tips.
- Know what you want to say
“For the second time in six months, a patient has died because of defective equipment.”
The writer is unlikely to have meant that the patient has died twice. If the sentence had started with the key point “A second patient has died…” the remaining words would have fallen into place.
- Write simply
“Use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.”
- Be concise
“There have been some problems in the production department recently and I would like to propose some means by which they could be solved over a period of some four weeks but no longer.”
” would be better expressed as:
“I propose a four-week programme to solve the recent production department problems.”
- Be clear
“There has been a paradigm shift in the way that analysts go about their processes which has led to an improvement in output.”
The key point is output. Paradigm shift is irrelevant in this context and so the sentence could be rewritten as:
“Output has increased owing to analysts’ new processes.”
- Write correctly
- Write in the active voice whenever possible
“Market research information is obtained via researchers’ telephone surveys.”
is written in the passive. Alternatively, you could write in the active:
“Researchers obtain market information by telephone.”
The passive voice is more appropriate when you do not know or do not wish to mention the subject, or where the object is more important (to the reader) than the subject.
'We will install an EDM system with an energy efficient power pack next week. Our project manager will oversee each part of its deployment.'
Or you could write the first sentence in the active and the second in the passive because the object is more important to the reader than the subject:
'We will install an EDM system with an energy efficient power pack next week. Each part of its deployment will be overseen by our project manager.'
Lead with benefits
Benefits are advantages of relevance to the buyer. Customers buy benefits. They do not buy features. For example: A feature may be a powerful microprocessor on your computer. The benefit is that your applications – Word, PowerPoint and Excel – run quickly.
Whether you are proposing a concept, idea, service or product, always lead with benefits and support those benefits with features.
- Use attractive words
- Link to your heading
- Create impact
“Strategy to Boost Growth” is more interesting than “This Year’s Plan.”
By Richard Walker, director, Walkerstone