Guidelines For Good Writing

Writing can be intimidating. Unlike speech, the written word has certain permanence. That's enough to block anyone's creative juices. The first rule of learning to write well is to write. The second is to understand that writing is hard work.

Guidelines

  • Always write with the reader in mind. Test for clarity and interest. When writing a long report, use headings and subheads. Organize it by sections.
  • Use bullet points to set off information.
  • Be consistent. If you list items beginning with action verbs, don't switch to nouns.
  • Avoid boring, overused words and phrases such as "in regard to".
  • Voice your ideas. Then write them down.
  • Get your message in the first paragraph. Don't make readers hunt for your objective.
  • If you're typing on a computer, edit on paper as well as on screen.
  • Don't wait for inspiration. Just start writing.
  • Make your message fun to read. Use quotes, facts, and anecdotes. Where appropriate, drop in charts and other visuals to add interest.
  • Number your pages. "Turn to page eight" is easier than "It is on the page after the one with the graph."

Help Readers Get the Picture

To capture the attention of today's visually oriented readers, writers need to:

  • Be descriptive. Paint a picture with sentences that allow for visual cues. Examples: "let's examine this closely", "To illustrate my point…" or "Imagine this scene."
  • Be brief. Pretend you must get your point across in seven seconds or less, an eternity in television. Don't say, "It is our intention to have a new and efficient method of operation in place in 30 days." Instead say, "We'll upgrade operations in a month."
  • Be a storyteller. Entice readers with a clever beginning. Entertain them with an absorbing middle. And reward them with an unforgettable ending.
  • Be plain. Use language geared for junior high school rater than high school comprehension levels. Instead of "The experience left me enervated," say, "The experience left me tired."
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