Magazine article Work & Family Life

Be Kind to Your Reader.And More Writing Tips

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Be Kind to Your Reader.And More Writing Tips

Article excerpt

Rule 1 for good writing is to keep your reader reading. And how do you achieve this feat in your workplace communications? For starters, make sure that every opening sentence in every email, letter or document passes the "So what?" test.

If there is even a chance your readers could respond by asking "And how is this relevant or important to me?" you need to revise your opening so they know exactly why they should keep reading.

For example, here are two openers. One fails and one passes the "So what?" test, as you can see: "My name is John Grant, and I work in the marketing department at Branding, Inc." Or "I work with Anne Bradstreet at Branding, Inc., and am wondering if you have any data on teenage users of your social networking site."

Make key points first

Readers tend to pay attention to the first sentence or two of every paragraph - and then they drop like flies. Put your key point first in every paragraph. Let your sentences shine. Make them clean, clear and without excessive details that bog down a reader.

For example: "I have a solution for addressing the issues raised last week about our new Training Initiative." "I'll call you to follow up soon. In the meantime, you can reach me either by email or by cell at.... Thanks."

Write an informative subject line

Think of your subject (or Re:) line as a global heading on the map of the page. It should be informative but not get too specific. For example: "Re: Vacation" tells too little but "Re: Emergency vacation starting tomorrow" is just right.

Be clear and concise

Writing clearly and concisely is easier said than done, of course. Here are six steps to help you find the balance between brevity and clarity:

Think and plan before you start writing. Know your purpose and the outcomes you want to achieve.

Express your ideas as simply as possible. Let normal speech be your guide. Don't write gobbledegook that you would never say to a reader's face. Delete empty words and rambling phrases.

Don't be too informal. Write the way you talk, for the most part. But avoid slang and abbreviated words. They give the impression of laziness or excessive informality.

Use the active voice. If you let your speech guide you, you'll stay in the active voice. You use it all the time: "We won the game." "We worried about that issue." Still active, just past tense.

The active voice is specific, natural and clear. Compare: "The hog-stunner was installed by Robert" or "Robert installed the hog-stunner."

The passive voice is OK sometimes: for example, when the doer of the action is relatively unimportant or you are emphasizing the outcome. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.