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Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
Effective writing
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Effective writing

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A pocket-sized guide to clear and informative writing

A pocket-sized guide to clear and informative writing

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  • 1. Effective writing: A pocket-sized guide to clear and informative writing. auravox.dk
  • 2. Words are information. We write to inform. Not to sound professional, brainy, smart or innovative.
  • 3. To read and understand is hard. Do what’s easy for the reader. You put in the extra effort so the reader doesn’t have to.
  • 4. Writing is difficult. Good writing is extremely difficult. Break up process the of writing Planning (Decide what to write and to whom) Drafting (Get it on paper once) Revising (Get it on paper better) Editing (Fix spelling, grammar, typing) Formatting (Choose font, layout, colors, etc.)
  • 5. Planning
  • 6. [To whom are you writing?] Define your target group. Figure out how they prefer to receive your information. Don’t know your reader? – use yourself as a sample: If someone was to give you this information 3 years ago, how should they have done it?
  • 7. [What are you writing?] Figure out what you want to say. And why? Every section, paragraph and sentence must have a purpose. This purpose must be relevant to your reader. If you can’t organize you content, write your ideas down in random order. Then sort them.
  • 8. Drafting
  • 9. [Get it on paper once] Drafting is about getting ideas out of your brain and onto paper. It is about your ideas, not your grammar or spelling. Don’t waste time on getting the sentence just right or adding that adjective. Get to the point. Fast. (we’ll remove your adjectives later on anyways)
  • 10. Revising
  • 11. Let’s make your writing clearer and easier to understand. This is done by finding better ways of putting your ideas into words. ”But there’s no other way to put my ideas into words. It doesn’t get any better than this!” Wrong. Ideas can be formulated in infinite ways. You are simply too lazy to spend the extra time. You put in the extra effort so the reader doesn’t have to. Remember?
  • 12. Be your own worst enemy. If you don’t even understand it, the reader won’t either. Is there anything that can be misunderstood? Change it so it can’t!
  • 13. Get to the point. Fast! Chances are that your reader won’t read everything you’ve written. Put your main point in the first sentence! I mean... Put your main point in the first sentence! Chances are that your reader won’t read everything you’ve written.
  • 14. Don’t insult the reader. Always state the main point before you give the reasoning that leads to it. You are not writing a detective story!
  • 15. Be reader-friendly. Put the main point of each paragraph in its first sentence. That way, readers can skim your paper and still get it. Do you actually think people read everything you write?
  • 16. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Never try to sound formal or sophisticated. Stuffy text is more difficult to read. Never (never!) use a word unless you know exactly what it means. The reader probably doesn’t know it either.
  • 17. Avoid pleonasms and redundant words. Black darkness Cold ice Burning fire ...or ”our user-friendly software is intuitive and easy to use”
  • 18. Avoid adjectives (show it instead, don’t tell it). “Our web-application up-time is excellent” ”Our web-applications are available 99,8% of the time” The second statement carries proof. The first statement is just words with a positive adjective – “excellent”.
  • 19. Get personal. Humans prefer to talk to humans, not to companies. “Company X focuses on quality” vs ”At Company X, we focus on quality” The first statement is inhuman – probably written by a machine in a basement. The second statement is human – it’s personal and carries risk for the sender.
  • 20. The “Banality Test” (…or cutting through the crap) Take a statement and reverse it. If what you’re saying is blindingly wrong, the original statement is a banality. Original: “When doing employee surveys, don’t forget to get management buy-in” Reversed: “When doing employee surveys, you don’t have to involve management” The statement itself is a banality, but the importance of management buy-in is not. Instead of stating the obvious, tell why management buy-in is important!
  • 21. Don’t use double negatives It’s not as if we didn’t try = We tried The longer the sentence, the harder it is to understand. (The n3 rule – more about that next)
  • 22. Say it with less (…or K.I.S.S.) Factoid: Time taken to process an n-word sentence is proportional to n3 Cutting this sentence length in half will make it 8 times easier to read!
  • 23. #1 “One of the best things you can do for yourself to improve your writing is to learn how to cut out words that are not necessary.” #2 “One of the best ways to improve your writing is to learn how to cut out words that are not necessary.” #3 “One of the best ways to improve your writing is to learn how to cut out unnecessary words.” #4 “To improve your writing, learn how to cut out unnecessary words.” #5 “To improve your writing, cut out unnecessary words.”
  • 24. We’ve now gone from... “One of the best things you can do for yourself to improve your writing is to learn how to cut out words that are not necessary.” to “To improve your writing, cut out unnecessary words.” Bingo! – 25 words reduced to 8!
  • 25. Editing
  • 26. Chec ur spellin, gramar ’n punctation Get your word proccessor to help you. Don’t always trust you word processor. Read your text, not just the words! Better still, have someone else read it.
  • 27. Old habits die hard If you’ve misspelled goverment your entire life, you probably won’t catch the error in your editing. Nobody was born knowing how to spell. But if you can spell... Code: int main(int argc; char* argv[]); Your title: Key Account Paradigm Orchestrator ...you can learn to spell its and it’s.
  • 28. Formatting
  • 29. Use text formatting carefully Use text formatting conservatively and your key message will stand out more. It’ll also make your presentation look better. Formatting your text with bold, italic and underlines doesn’t always have the desired effect. Less is better. Keep text formatting to a minimum. Be consistent. Once you decided for italic for highlighting – stick to it! Don’t underline. Underlines are only used to indicate hyperlinks.
  • 30. Bullets or no bullets? Bullets should be used with prudence. Are they necessary? Item #1 Item #2 Item #3 “I like bullets. Does this mean I can’t use them?” Sure you can, as long as you use them correct.
  • 31. auravox.dk Martin Lysholt Nielsen Inspired by Michael A. Covington (http://www.ai.uga.edu/mc/WriteThinkLearn.htm)

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