Personal, Active & Brief

We pay more attention when someone speaks directly to us. Salespeople know that, so do good writers, speakers, teachers and leaders. Write Like You Speak, and Speak Directly to Your Audience. Be personal—write or speak directly to your audience, readers, or participants. Although school trained us to be formal and impersonal, it’s better to use...

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...

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. __...

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...

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?...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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