- Explain how new concept words or phrases fit with the previous concept(s) and the central idea.
- Include references to the central idea.
- Avoid introducing a series of new concept words or phrases without explaining them.
- Avoid using vague words that don't show the relationships among ideas, such as "topic," "thing," "area," or "concern."
- Avoid using meaningless words such as "is essential," and "is critical."
Use full phrases to define words clearly.
- Prefer to use the entire phrase that represents a concept, not the shorter single word.
- Add words where the additional words will help define and clarify.
- Avoid using abbreviations and acronyms unless you are sure the readers know them.
- Avoid using legal definitions.
Write Strong Conclusions
Write a conclusion that achieves your goals.
- If you're presenting a case, restate the conclusion and main points together.
- State the facts the reader must know at the beginning and end.
- State any action the reader must perform at the beginning and end.
- End cordially.
- End with your interest in being helpful.
- Include follow-up information about next steps: who, what, when, where, and how.
- If you appreciate the reader’s cooperation or in some other way value the reader’s contribution, state that in the conclusion.
- Provide reassurances after bad news.
- Include a feedback loop for important messages. Make sure
- you know the person has received the message,
- you know the person has understood the message,
- you know the person has followed through with the actions in the message.
- End with contact information.
Write Clear, Effective Paragraphs, Sentences, and Words
Use paragraphs to organize information.
- Generally, keep paragraphs short.
- Include a transition at the beginning of the paragraph when you can.
- Within the paragraph, include transitions at every change of ideas.
- Include only one idea in each paragraph.
- Have an outline of main ideas in your mind.
- Ask, "Is all the information necessary?" "Can the reader achieve the goals without some of the information?"
- Streamline the writing:
- Delete deadwood.
- Delete redundancies.
- Delete the obvious.
Combine sentences to show relationships. Separate sentences to make them clearer.
- Try to limit sentences to one or two ideas.
- Identify the critical idea words in sentences to see whether the sentences can be combined or whether the ideas in one sentence should be separated into two or more.
- Combine sentences that sound choppy.
- Repeating an idea or words in two sentences is a signal you may want to combine them.
- Place important ideas in their own sentences for emphasis.
Write clear, simple, straightforward sentences.
- Make sentences flow smoothly. Avoid inserting information that breaks up the sentence.
- Write the most straightforward sentence you can.
- Avoid complicated punctuation, especially dashes and ellipses.
- Never drop articles and other words as a shorthand method.
Write strong, direct sentences.
- State what you want. Be direct.
- Avoid weakened verbs.
- Use active voice.
For reports, write clearly and simply for non-technical readers
- Understand what the non-technical reader wants or needs.
- Decide the level of detail the reader wants or needs.
- State the conclusions, recommendations, or topics.
- Add detail at the level the reader wants or needs.
- Write in clear, complete sentences.
- Don't dumb down the information.
- Use clear, simple vocabulary.
- Minimize abbreviations and acronyms.
- Use an acceptable tone.
- Format the presentation to make it easy to read.
- Divide clearly the sections of reports written for both technical and non-technical readers
- Consider embedding non-technical with technical explanations when the non-technical readers have some technical background or interest
Use words the reader will understand.
- Use modern, everyday words and phrases rather than archaic words and phrases.
- Prefer simple words over complex. Use plain English.
- Tighten up the use of words. Be precise.
- Use jargon words only if the reader understands them. However, use jargon words for knowledgeable readers because they will expect them.
Prepare a Polished, Correct Final Draft
Use your spell checker and grammar checker.
- Set Microsoft Word to check spelling and grammar as you type.
- Use the spell checker to correct a spelling problem by right clicking on the word with the red line under it.
- Still check for spelling to identify words misused, but spelled correctly.
- Use the grammar checker for advice, but don't change everything it identifies.
- Proofread every e‑mail you send out.
- For very important e‑mails, print out a copy and proofread the printed copy.
- Focus when you proofread. Stop if you are interrupted.
- Decide that you are going to go into the proofreading mindset.
- If you are having trouble following some text, read it aloud.
- Proofread every letter and space on the page, no matter where it falls. Start in the upper left corner of the screen and end in the lower right corner.
- Do not skip around in the e‑mail. Follow it from beginning to end.
- For longer e‑mails you have printed out, use a ruler to focus on one line at a time. Draw the ruler down the page.
- For formal, critical e‑mails that must be correct, proofread in stages: word accuracy, numbers, punctuation, spelling, usage, and format.
Format the e‑mail to be readable.
- Unless you're sure your reader can read HTML e‑mails, use plain text.
- Use 9-point or 10-point Arial font for maximum clarity.
- Use upper and lower case as you would in a letter.
- Open up the text with white space. Indicate that you are changing ideas with white space.
- Skip blank lines between paragraphs. Indent lines when necessary using the space bar.
- Break up large blocks with headings, spaces, numbered lists, bullets or asterisks, and one-sentence paragraphs.
- Present ideas in smaller blocks because it is tedious to read long blocks of text onscreen.
- Try to include the substance of the e‑mail in the first screen and detail in the following screens.
- For longer e‑mails, write a summary at the beginning.
- Don't use colored backgrounds and patterns.
- Don't use all caps, except for headings, and don't use all lower case. Capitalize words that are normally capitalized, such as "I."
- Avoid unusual fonts, font size, html e‑mails, boldface, and italics.
- Avoid the use of emoticons and acronyms, such as :o), LOL, and CUL.