Write It Right

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Writing is something we all do in a business environment, and as someone once said about common sense, we all feel we are proficient at it because it is such a common activity.

But, as with anything else, there is good writing and there is bad writing. Good writing on the whole is simple, clear, and direct. Bad writing is the opposite, confusing and mind-numbing. But the good news is that we can all improve our writing by instituting just a few simple practices.

The first thing to keep in mind with your writing is to avoid convoluted sentences. Never use a $100 word when a 25 center will do. Use strong nouns and verbs, and fewer adjectives. Strong nouns are specific and concrete, strong verbs show action.

A good example of bad communication is the language routinely used by police – “After a lengthy pursuit, we apprehended the perpetrator.” In other words, after a long chase, we caught the bad guy.

When you write your emails, reports, letters and other communication, watch out for how you use personal pronouns. Refrain from using I too much. Using we or us will help to engage your reader more.

Also, using contractions will help you maintain a more conversational tone. Many people believe that using contractions shows an unacceptable informality, or that there is something not proper about using them,but, don’t worry, you won’t be arrested by the grammar police.

Also, avoid using the passive voice. It simply adds more superfluous words to your writing and makes it more flabby, less compelling. So, instead of saying “The financial report was given by the CFO,” you would write, “The CFO gave the financial report.” The active voice is more direct, more forceful, and more succinct.

To avoid being monotonous, you should also vary the length of your sentences. Use long and short ones, with main clauses and subordinate clauses.

And finally, try to avoid acronyms. If you are writing for a specific audience, it might be appropriate to use specialized acronyms that are readily understandable to them because of the area they work in. But for a more general audience, acronyms will probably only cause confusion for the reader. It is better to use words.

Remember – easy writing makes for harder reading.

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It was my distinct pleasure working for RealStreet, aka KJMK, on separate FEMA disaster recovery assignments and long-term recovery planning assignments between October 2004 and May 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricanes Ivan, Katrina, Francis and Wilma. I found working with these professionals enjoyable as well as self-fulfilling and rewarding. After a 9-year stint as Read More…

Steve Spry, CAPZO, Certified Alabama Planning and Zoning Official

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