by Barbara McNichol
“Writings are useless unless they are read, and they cannot be read unless they are readable.” – Theodore Roosevelt
If Roosevelt lived in today’s world, he might have known that 6% of the time wasted in corporations is due to poorly written communications. Of course, your goal is readability. At the same time, you desire to be fast and efficient. What techniques can help ensure your message is clear?
- One Thought, One Sentence
- Rewrite Negative into Positive
- Build Bridges to Guide Your Reader
- End Sentences with Your Strongest Point
One Thought, One Sentence
As you might have learned in high school composition class, strive to express one thought in one sentence. You’d craft another sentence for the next thought, and so on. Also, medium-length or long sentences are fine on occasion, but you propel your prose forward with short, succinct sentences.
Rewrite Negative into Positive
It’s hard for readers to track what’s being written when it’s stated in a negative way. Often, negative statements require a lot more words to make a point. Avoid using “no” and “not” except when you want to emphasize or contrast something.
Negative: We can’t incorporate all the design features without increasing the unit size.
Better: To incorporate all the design features, we have to increase the unit size.
Build Bridges to Guide Your Reader
As you craft your message, use bridge words and phrases to keep your train of thought moving forward. Logical links build your case—the smoother the better.
Here are examples of bridge words that . . .
- connect two ideas of the same kind: and, plus, as well as
- add another thought: besides, also, what’s more, besides, then, again,
- compare or contrast ideas: but, still, however, yet, rather, likewise
- reinforce an idea: indeed, in fact, of course, by all means
- show results: as a result, consequently, thus
End Sentences with Your Strongest Point
Consider placing the most vital words at the end of your sentence. Doing so adds emphasis and bridges one idea to the next. Which of these sentence variations is stronger?
- “You’ll enhance your ability to communicate clearly by using these four techniques.”
- “Using these four techniques, you’ll enhance your ability to communicate clearly.”
If you said the second, I’d agree. Leave readers with a benefit statement as the last idea they read. A subtle distinction, yes, but it helps strengthen your intention.
How do you strive to improve readability in your writing? Share your ideas here.
Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping administrative professionals add power to their pens. To assist in this mission, she has created a Word Trippers Tips resource so you can quickly find the right word when it matters most. It allows you to improve your writing through excellent weekly resources in your inbox, including a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Details at www.wordtrippers.com/odi. Word Trippers is 40% Off until 12/18/17.