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On Better Communication

Do you freeze up when asked to write something for work? Don’t worry. Whether you’re writing a letter to a client or a blog for the company website, there are a few simple steps you can take to produce clear and coherent copy.

A lot of people freeze when they have to write something. They get afraid they won’t know what to say or how to say it.

But they do know that. They just need to map out it beforehand and read it afterwards to make sure it says what it should say.

Suppose the job is to write an article for an in-house newsletter on how to make the office safer.

Take a minute to think about what things can improve safety.

Write down whatever comes to mind, maybe installing an alarm at the front desk, setting a code entry to the back offices, naming a safety officer, and making a list of emergency phone numbers.

Then choose the ones that are important and write about them individually. If another item comes to mind during the process, note it in the margin and come back to it later.

Don’t try to be funny or wise or intelligent or persuasive. And don’t try to make anything sound great. When people labor over making a point, they just wind up with a beat-up sentence. Just be clear and the finished product will be good.

After the items are covered, put them in whatever order seems most logical.

And once that’s done, read it over and look for the basics:

  • If something isn’t clear to you, nobody else will understand it either. Suppose one item says the front office should be arranged so the receptionist can see the elevator in the hall. Why? Is it so the receptionist can lock the door if a suspicious person appears? Or sound an alarm? Explain it.
  • If something seems wrong, it probably is. Suppose the article says the managing partner recommends that the front door be locked at all times and it’s not feasible to do so. Don’t put that in. Ask the managing partner for a clarification. Or leave it out.
  • What looks like a grammatical error probably is one. But don’t waste time figuring out how to correct it. Just write it another way. Suppose the sentence is The first, second, and third contact persons are Tom, myself, and Jane. (Is it myselfmeI?) Just make it different, maybe Contact Tom first, then me, and then Jane.
  • Take out the unnecessary words. Veryreally, and all can always be taken out, and the sentence is stronger and more mature as a result. We really had a good time visiting your cabin last week. All the leaves were very colorful, and all the mountains were really beautiful.
  • Take out most of the exclamation points. Be careful!!! Watch out for people in the halls who don’t have a visitor’s pass!!! Compare that to Call the security captain if you see someone in the hall without a visitor’s pass.
  • Finally, read it out loud. Even better, read it out loud to somebody else and ask if it makes sense. That’s the surest way to pick up the things that are out of place or illogical, to hear the grammatical errors, and even to spot the typos.

Editor’s picks:

How to be a better proofreader

3 ways to eliminate flab from your writing and become a stronger communicator

8 steps to quickly and (almost) painlessly creating an employee handbook tailored to your firm









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