Clear Writing for Schools: Communicating with your Student Body

I’ve attended several post-secondary institutions. All were wonderful places, run by motivated, caring administrators, but most failed at providing information. To clarify, they failed at providing student-centric information. Many schools suffer the same problem. The Problem Before a term starts, students receive numerous emails and letters containing time-sensitive information about registration, payment, accommodations and course materials. They also receive…

Secrets to Successful Communication

The art of communication is the language of leadership. James Humes Leaders need to speak and write well. No matter how brilliant you are, if we can’t understand you, your leadership fails. Plain Language can help you communicate skillfully and successfully. What is Plain Language? Plain Language is an approach to speaking and writing that…

Is Your Document Clear? A Checklist

This is a brief checklist to help you make sure that your document is easy, enjoyable, and rewarding to use. Layout—does this look readable and informative? __ Easy to see where to start. __ Paragraphs are short. __ Blocks of text are broken up by white space. __ Bullet points are used where appropriate. __ Type…

Attract Your Audience with Powerful Titles

Good headings describe the contents of your presentation or document; great headings also entice your audience. I once read an article entitled Human Trafficking and Taco Bell Sauce only because of its intriguing title. Titles are the first impression of your speech or article. They can attract or repel an audience, so take care to create…

Plain Language: Can You Draw A Picture Of Your Sentence?

In the quest for clarity, I’ve devised a simple test: Can you draw a picture of it? If you can easily turn your words into images, it’s a safe bet that those words are clear, simple and efficient. Imagine drawing this sentence: I walked to the store with my big ugly dog and bought oranges. Easy, right? The…

Beyond No! Communicating with Toddlers

Communicating with two-year-olds can be frustrating. They’re passionate and stubborn, as likely to bite as to speak. But it doesn’t have to be this way—spending time with toddlers can be fun! Yes, really. Toddlers are amazing—they’re still connected to their magic, and look at the world in a way we’ve forgotten. They have lots to…

Attractive & Efficient: Is your infographic successful?

An infographic is a magical combination of words and images that together convey information more efficiently than just text. Done well, infographics save your reader time and energy. But beware—infographics are harder to make than you might think. Unsuccessful infographics might be nothing more than harmlessly decorated text, where the images don’t add much to the…

Apostrophes, Contractions And Plurals (Oh My)

Apostrophes are running wild. They’re often used incorrectly or absent when needed. Some writers seem to insert them randomly, as if hopeful that a few might land in the right place; a prophylactic peppering of punctuation. For the sake of clarity and your readers’ sanity, here’s a cheatsheet on when, why and how to use…

Activate Your Verbs!

Active verbs make speaking and writing clear, efficient, and more interesting. Active verbs are usually easier to understand, which is important for international audiences. Wordy and inactive: Better: They made a commitment. They committed. (or They committed to…) They reached a decision. They decided. The program has ceased to operate. The program ended. Her cake was…

Promising Useful Content: 5-second cheatsheet

No one reads anymore. We scan a website or document, deciding in about 5 seconds if it merits attention. Does Your Document Pass the 5-Second Test? Physical elements such as formatting, colors and layout help your reader quickly understand if your content is useful to them. The shape of the content: Is it a massive block of…

4 Wrong Reasons to Communicate

There’s a great acronym that makes me look smart and wise. It’s WAIT, and stands for Why Am I Talking? What a brilliant question to ask yourself! You might decide not to speak if your answer is any of the following: Gossip Is the “news” you’re sharing about someone else just veiled gossip? Even if it seems…

4 Questions To Stop Asking

1. Are You Sure? This negates everything the speaker just said, which is rude and hurtful. You might ask this question because: You want to know if you can believe what the person just said, or if you can trust their source. A better response would be “How do you know this?” or “Please tell me…

3 Great Speaking Tips (and my dad for free)

You know how, um, like, the kids talk these days? Sadly, it’s not just kids—many of us undermine ourselves with speech habits that make us seem uneducated, unprepared and unsure. Breaking those nasty little habits will improve your education, career, and relationships. Try these 3 simple exercises: Speak in full sentences. Can you say two complete…

Business Writing Success: A quick & easy method

Is writing at work a challenge? You want to seem professional and competent but with so many other tasks competing for your attention, it’s hard to find the time to write well. And when you do get started, distractions and delays make it hard to finish. These 3 simple C’s will help you start quickly,…

Negative Feedback: How to receive & respond to harsh responses

It’s easy to offend people—look at social media. Even if you’re not a puppy-kicking troll, chances are good that you will offend someone at least once in your life. Perhaps you purposely or accidentally did something wrong, or maybe it’s just a case of different values. In either situation you might receive negative feedback. Receiving criticism and negative feedback…

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