by Barbara McNichol
What can professional editors tell you about improving your business writing? Consider these five mistakes every conscientious administrator should watch out for as you craft and revise your messages (especially your emails and marketing copy).
Mistake #1: Addressing readers as readers (plural) rather than a single key person whose interest you want to capture. Reading is a solitary pastime that occurs one person at a time. The fix? Keep a single interested person in your target audience top of mind as you write.
Mistake #2: Using a long noun phrase when one active verb will do. The fix? Whenever possible, get an active verb to do the “work” of the sentence. Instead of writing, “the examination of the report was done by the director,” change the noun phrase to a verb and rewrite the whole sentence. “The director examined the report.” This changed passive construction to active, reduced word count, and delivers your message more directly.
Mistake #3: Having no rhyme or reason to the order of the paragraphs. The fix? Once you’ve crafted a solid, compelling opening, think through how the flow of your main points will best guide your reader logically to your desired conclusion. If possible, test the result with colleagues or actual readers who will give you honest feedback.
Mistake #4: Writing sentences that ramble (on and on and on and on). The fix? Limit sentences to 15-21 words max. Be sure to vary sentence length for added interest.
Mistake #5: Flat-out choosing the wrong word. Yes, in English, it’s easy to confuse certain common words such as “advice” instead of “advise” (among hundreds more). The fix? Rely on a comprehensive writing resource to help you select the perfect word when it really matters.
What common writing mistakes would you add to this list? Reply here.
Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping administration 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