A good example

Picture a graduation speech dull, boring, the audience half asleep. It doesn't have to be that way. I once saw a graduation speaker do a terrific job, and he read the entire address aloud, holding the audience spellbound. First, his text was extraordinarily witty and in spoken English. Second, he was energetic gesturing constantly, varying the loudness of his voice, even singing the French national anthem in English (to illustrate a point). Third, his eyes were piercing. We had the feeling he...

Announce the transition explicitly

Don't be afraid to be absolutely mechanical with your transitions. Subtlety may be nice in James Joyce's novels, but it's of little value in business presentations. For an example, let's return to our topic on headhunters. This could be your first major transition The first task for a headhunter is to find job openings to fill. Then say what you have to say. When you're ready for the next item in your blueprint, say something like this Now that we've found a job opening, we need to find someone...

Announce your topic define any key term and state your bottom line

My first suggestion is to let members of your audience know the destination for their trip. To do that, you'll need to announce your topic, define unfamiliar terms in it, and state your bottom line up front. Announcing your topic is simple just say what you're going to talk about. You don't have to make the topic the first words out of your mouth. You might want to say a few polite sentences first what linguists call polite noise Thank you, Liz, for And a little humor up front lets groups...

Bottom line

Business presentations should have an absolutely clear structure the kind your audience simply will not get lost in. When you're reading a book and get lost, you can flip back and start over. But when you're listening to a speech and get lost, well . . . there's not much you can do except sit there and consult your watch, the window, and the interior of your mind. So when I prepare a presentation, I try to make its organization absolutely clear. As with writing, I think of a presentation as a...

But a linear draft

Even though your writing process may be recursive, your draft should usually be linear. That is, you should start at the beginning and work your way straight through. The other way writing part 2 before part 1, for example can cause problems. Here's why. If you have a good organization, your reader will read the document in order page 1, then page 2, then page 3. So for you to write page 3, you need to know what the reader has already seen on pages 1 and 2. It's amazing how often good writing...

Chapter Choosing visual aids

Don't always use the same type of visual aid each type has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some older books on speechmaking cautioned against visual aids Don't rely on them too much, they'd say. Don't use them as crutches. But the standard for those books was the immobile speaker standing behind a lectern, declaiming to the audience for 30 minutes. Today, almost all business speakers use visual aids. One reason is technology many of us can produce them rather easily at work. Another is that...

Do you always need a blueprint

If your document is short, telling its structure may seem too mechanical. Another time a blueprint may seem too mechanical is when your document has many parts. Suppose, for example, it has nine sections. Readers normally don't want to read through a list of the nine topics you're going to cover. On the other hand, a document with nine sections can get confusing, can't it So I suggest using an implied blueprint I'll cover the nine issues in the case, starting with the most important one....

First example the auditors have come

Suppose you've just had outside auditors look over your financial records. They've spent three months with access to all your files and all your people. Today they hand you their report. Do you want to plow through all their facts everything they examined to find that your company looks great Or that one of your division managers has been cheating Wouldn't you rather have the conclusion up front For instance, consider these two good starts for audit reports (each with the bottom line up front)...

Give a blueprint for the body only

Don't confuse the outline of your presentation with a blueprint. A blueprint covers only the points in the body of the presentation. All too often, I've seen speakers use something ineffective like this as the visual aid for their blueprint III. finding prospective employees IV. matching employees and openings When the speaker turns to this visual aid, she finds herself saying something like this, First, I'll give you an introduction. . . . But she's already giving the introduction Then she'll...

Headings

A good layout for headings can help your readers see the structure of your writing a bad layout may only confuse them. Headings are a key that you can use in almost every document. Good headings can make a terrific difference in most of your documents At a glance, your reader can see that your documents look organized. Headings also help show where the parts of your documents begin and end. Headings make nice reference points when your reader is trying to find something again. And they help you...

How can you write a good blueprint

Here are some tips for writing good blueprints Consider highlighting (such as using bullets) to emphasize the blueprint list. Put a sentence after the blueprint telling your readers you're going to say more about each item (Let's examine each step in detail). That way your readers know they've read not just a list but a list of the topics you're about to elaborate on. Be sure that the headings in the body of your document match the key words in your blueprint. For example, the first heading in...

How should you punctuate bulleted lists

When you're using bulleted paragraphs, you don't have to worry about using special punctuation -just punctuate normally. However, when you're using bulleted lists, you may wonder whether to start with a capital letter and whether to put a period at the end. After all, some lists are only words or phrases. There are two common methods the traditional method and the contemporary method (which I learned from Dr. Ginny Redish). The traditional method still quite popular simply keeps the punctuation...

Info

Character Collateral Capacity to repay Condition of the economy Capital to cushion against losses Audiences may spend time admiring your clip art rather than listening to you. There are two good places for creative clip art, however. One is a repeated design on a series of transparencies in a row. If, for example, you're talking about trucks for a few transparencies, then airplanes, then trains, consider putting the image of a truck or an airplane or a train on the all the appropriate ones....

Is passive voice ever all right

when you don't know the actor (John was murdered.) when the actor is unimportant to the point you're making (The senator was reelected.) when the emphasis is clearly not on the actor but on the acted upon (What happened to the little girl So don't think of passive voice as always bad. Think of it as putting unnecessary strain on the reader. Use passive when you need to but be careful of overusing it. Seldom have readers suffered because writers overused active voice.

Is there a general structure for an executive summary

Executive summaries should usually begin with the bottom line. That three-page executive summary I just mentioned had the bottom line up front. In a way, the beginning was like a summary within a summary a good way to begin. What if the bottom line doesn't make sense at the very beginning Then I'd give the minimum background necessary to understand the bottom line first followed immediately by the bottom line. Normally a sentence or two of background is enough. The middle part of the summary...

J

I suggest putting the company's logo or name on the same line as the transparency's title. (For an example, look at most of the samples in this book.) That way, you'll have plenty of space for your content. Some speakers tape each transparency to a cardboard or plastic frame. That's a good idea if you have only a few transparencies. In that case, the frames have these advantages The frame provides an opaque edge that allows only the transparency itself to project onto the screen. Otherwise,...

Longer example adapting physical education for children with special needs

This example is from a curriculum coordinator. Here is the abstract explanation of adapting physical education for children with special needs creating games during physical education for children who are unable to participate in the regular games children play. Unlike the earlier terms, we can understand that definition fairly easily, but it has little impact. However, the speaker wanted more than intellectual understanding. She wanted us to feel the need for her program. So she was creative...

Longer example concurrent engineering

This example is from an engineer giving a presentation at a conference. Here is the abstract explanation of concurrent engineering designing an item, planning for its production, and planning for its maintenance all at the same time. Fortunately, the speaker continued with an example If you want a new part for a machine, the old way was to design the part, down to the last detail. Then the designers would give their design to the production people who would prepare tools to make it. Once the...

Longer example livefire vulnerability testing

The next example is from a research analyst. Here's an abstract explanation of live-fire vulnerability testing finding out what happens to our military weapon systems when enemy weapons hit them. When I first heard this term, I was mentally searching for a concrete example. Fortunately, the speaker supplied it Suppose there's a new tank, and we want to find out what might happen if an enemy missile hits it. People in the military don't want to wait for an actual war to get the answer. So they...

M

Main point of document then background main point of section then explanation main point of section then explanation And here's an explanation of the model 1. Begin with your main point whatever you want your reader to do or understand. 2. Organize your content into sections or blocks of related information. Those blocks don't have to be single paragraphs they could be pages long (broken into short paragraphs, of course). 3. Label each of those blocks with a heading. Use subheadings, too, if...

My own writing process

What happens on a typical writing project something two or three pages long Or even book length What would be a good way to write that document We all have our special techniques, but here's what normally happens when I write 1. I fool myself into believing I'm actually ready to write, so I start in. 3. I then jot down a quick list of the main points I want to cover. If I can think of any subpoints, I put them in, too. 4. I arrange those points in the best order. 6. If I find that I'm not...

On time on April

Where's the period to end the sentence I don't know. There simply isn't one. But readers are more likely to notice a period there than a period missing. The contemporary method places more importance on each item in the list having the same appearance than on pretending the list is still a sentence. So here's how the contemporary method handles punctuation and capitalization If the bulleted item is a sentence, make it look like one (that is, start with a capital letter and put a period at the...

Organization getting to the point

My key advice on organization is simple start with your main point. Tell your readers, right at the start what you want them to do (I recommend you buy a color printer) what your conclusion is (Wages will increase next year), or whatever your main purpose is for your document Now, the main point doesn't have to be the first sentence (though it can be much of the time). I'm just saying that the main point should be up front before your reasons instead of after.

Prefer serif type for your main text

There are many ways to classify typefaces, but the most common is whether or not they have serifs. Can you see the difference between the letters in the left and right columns The letters on the left have small lines at the ends of the strokes. Those are serifs. The letters on the right don't have those small lines and are sans serif. (Sans is French for without.) I recommend serif type for your main text (basically, the text for your paragraphs excluding titles, headings, etc.). Why Simply...

Remembering what to say

Well-designed visual aids greatly reduce the pressure of remembering what to say in your presentation. A speaker's greatest fear going blank with everybody staring. You try to think of something anything but your brain seems to be disconnected. Nothing. At that point, it's too late. But you can do something to avoid being in that situation (other than declining invitations to speak). You can design a way of remembering the content of your presentation so going blank almost never happens. And if...

Sample typefaces

Here are samples of most of the typefaces we've talked about in the chapter. Look closely at how many words are on the first line of each sample. You'll see, for example, that Courier is really expanded and Times New Roman is really compressed. Also notice the overall look of the typeface and whether it appeals to you. This is a sample of 12-point type to help you compare typefaces. This is a sample of 12-point type to help you compare typefaces. This is a sample of 12-point type to help you...

Show them examples of good writing

While examples of bad writing are all over the place, examples of good writing are sometimes hard to find. But when you have such an example, you have gold. People can do an amazing job following a good example Oh, that's what you want When a good example does cross your desk, by all means send it to all your writers and then congratulate the person who wrote it. When a good example does not ever cross your desk, then you need to take a harder step. You need to create a good example. You can do...

Some suggestions for reading aloud

Good readers can overcome the problems I just mentioned. Here's what I suggest if you must read your presentation Inflection. To make your words sound natural, rehearse often. Check yourself for pauses. Ask yourself if your words sound the way you'd say them. This is surprisingly hard to do you'll probably have to work at it. Spoken language. You can also improve your inflection by choosing words you might actually say rather than using businessese. In fact, top speech writers work to put...

Some suggestions for using notes

If you must use notes, here are some suggestions Use note cards. They're small and easy to handle. Don't put much on them. What would you use as headings or sub-headings if you had written your entire presentation That's what should go on your note cards not lots of text. Too many notes get in the way of good eye contact. Leave your notes on the lectern or table and move away from them occasionally. During parts of your presentation when you're especially confident, move around to gain rapport...

State your bottom line

Now for what audiences most want to hear up front your bottom line. Rudolf Flesch, a pioneer in plain English writing, called that spilling the beans. Spilling the beans is even more crucial for speaking than it is for writing. In other words, make your bottom line your top line by telling your audience, right up front, your conclusion, recommendation, or request. A conclusion Overall, you'll be pleased with our company's financial picture. Our profits are up 8 and our predictions are all good....

Style writing a readable sentence

Write more the way you talk with ordinary words, a variety of punctuation, personal pronouns, and contractions. Let's start with a quiz. Choose a or b How have you produced most of the words in your life For most of us, the answer is b we've spoken many more words than we've written. What does that have to do with writing you may ask. Everything. You see, in plain English, words and sentences are more like those in spoken English. Spoken English is the language we're most comfortable with the...

Teli your people what you want

Remember in school when you got a paper back with red marks all over it and a comment like this Sentences must never begin with and or but. Don't start sentences that way in my class Don't you wish the teacher had told you that before you handed in the paper The same thing happens when your people write for you if you haven't told them what you want. In fact, I suggest you tell your people in a memo that you want plain English. Tell them to write the way they talk, use pronouns, use headings,...

The key advice Write the way you talk

Thus, the key to plain English is this talk to your reader. Simply talk on paper. Write the way you talk. Imagine you're actually standing in front of your reader. Or talking on the telephone. What would you say in an organized and polite way Then write those words. Sound simplistic Some people are afraid that writing the way you talk means being simple-minded, writing like a kindergartner. But that would be true only if you talk like a kindergartner. The advice is to write the way you talk....

The problem

Now we buy shoes from the following sources The result Too often we have shoes cluttering our store shoes in strange colors, styles, and sizes that we have trouble selling. Worse, we often don't have the right colors, styles, and sizes to make sales. That's why I recommend visiting wholesalers. That way, we can see the actual colors and styles we purchase, and we can check for quality and fit. Then we won't be stuck with shoes we can't sell. In this report, I discuss the advantages and...

The report examines each of these in detail and then makes a recommendation

You can see that this version simply announces the topic it doesn't give the recommendation (buy from wholesalers). Readers of executive summaries especially want the recommendation that's often the main reason they're looking at the report. A second problem with executive summaries is that they may use unfamiliar jargon. Often reports especially technical ones take care to define new terms before they use those terms later in the report. Poor executive summaries sometimes include those same...

The role of the outline

What's the role of an outline Should you have one Most business people I speak with confess they rarely use an outline, and they virtually never use a formal outline (you know I, A, B, II, A, B). Outlines do have advantages, though. It's always helpful to know where you're going before you start. But sometimes writers simply aren't quite sure where they're going until they write that is, as they struggle to put thoughts into those elusive things called words, learning takes place new ideas...

Third example Wheres that color printer

At the beginning of the chapter, I mentioned that one reason writers put the main point last is to reenact how they learned something. In fact, I think that's probably the most common reason of all. Writers simply use the same order on paper in which events actually occurred. Suppose, for example, you've been spending the last few days ordering a new printer for your office. Your boss says to you, How about sending me a memo and letting me know where things stand. You might be tempted to...

Tip

Use headings on most documents longer than about half a page. Even short documents benefit markedly from headings. There can be a problem with hanging headings, though you have to know how to work with two columns on your computer one column for your headings, another for your text. If you're not comfortable working with columns, a similar style of headings is easy to do With this style, you simply indent, your text more than you indent your main headings. There are many, many more ways to make...

Use body movement to reinforce transitions

Finally, you can use your entire body to help reinforce a transition. If you're using a visual aid, move toward it and point to the next subtopic you're going to cover. If you're not using a visual aid, simply take a few steps to the side as you're announcing the next subtopic. Watch professional speakers. They often walk or make some other movement at key transition points. To some, an obvious organization may seem terribly mechanical, but I think of it as wonderfully clear. And a clear...

Use headings

Just using short paragraphs isn't good enough. You also need to show your organization visually to your readers. A good way to do that is with headings. Think of headings as labels for the parts of your document. For example, the memo we just worked with has short paragraphs, but it doesn't have labels for the various parts. Let's improve it one more step by adding those labels Make your headings actually communicate with your reader (such as When will the new computers arrive instead of...

Use visual aids to reinforce transitions

Explicitly announcing the transition is a good start, but you can reinforce your transition even more by using visual aids. Suppose you use a visual aid near the beginning of your presentation to give your blueprint. You can use it again to move to each major point. That way, not only will your audience hear that you're making a transition they can see it, too. You might even use highlighting on the visual aid to show the audience which point you're moving to

What is a blueprint

A blueprint is simply a brief oudine of what you'll cover. Here's an example From my point of view, we may classify risks as As a reader, you now know the structure of the document you've just begun to read you know it has three parts, you know what they are, and you know the order they should appear in. As a writer, you usually want your reader to be comfortable with the structure of your document. That way, your reader can spend more energy concentrating on its content. A blueprint is...

What is a business presentation

There is no standard business presentation. Perhaps the speaker is standing in front of a small group of people talking about work. Or selling them something. Or urging them to make a change. Sometimes a business presentation is aimed at co-workers. Or bosses. Or subordinates. Or clients. Sometimes it takes place in someone's office. Or in a small conference room. Or in a hotel auditorium with hundreds of people in the audience the speaker hooked up to a microphone, visual aids staff at the...

What is plain English

Plain English, to put it simply, is a way of expressing your ideas clearly in writing and speaking. As for plain English writing, I think of it as having three parts Style. By style, I mean how to write clear, readable sentences. My advice is simple write more the way you talk. This may sound simple, but it's a powerful metaphor that can revolutionize your writing. Organization. I suggest starting with your main point almost all the time. That doesn't mean it has to be your first sentence...

What is plain English writing

Plain English writing is easier to read and easier to write. It can express the range of ideas, from simple to complex. When I first came across plain English, I was teaching writing in college. You can guess what I had been teaching an overly formal style designed more to impress than simply to communicate clearly to the reader. Since then, I've switched to plain English and taught it extensively in college and to many thousands of people in government and business. This book is a result of...

What is the main message

This is the main message most presentations succeed or fail long before the speaker stands in front of the audience. Most presentations succeed or fail in the design stage because a good presentation is designed. By designed I don't mean something the graphics department does. I mean something the speaker does the thoughtful, meticulous, purposeful preparation that helps the speaker communicate. Just as important, that preparation makes the speech far, far easier to give. A good design, in...

What isnt plain English writing

Businessese isn't plain English, nor is academese, bureau-cratese, legalese, or any other -ese. Here's an example of some businessese from a federal regulation Each application shall be supported by a comprehensive letter of explanation in duplicate. This letter shall set forth all the facts required to present to this office a complete disclosure of the transaction. Those of you with business experience know this example is just beginning businessese, relatively uncomplicated compared with...

What spacing should you use for bulleted lists and paragraphs

The reason for using bulleted lists and paragraphs is to isolate and group information, so you want to use plenty of white space. Here's a bulleted list that does just about everything wrong After 3 months of examining your records for the past year, we have found the following Your marketing division is systematically hiding its losses each month totaling 300,000 for the past 6 months alone. The division manager and her assistant appear be the only people involved. There were no other major...

What specifically does this section of the book cover

This section of the book sets forth a process for designing and giving your presentation Organizing your presentation. You'll want to begin by roughing out the general structure of your presentation making sure it has an absolutely clear organization. If it doesn't, listeners will probably get lost, and listeners who get lost rarely find their way back. The good news is there's an organization a pattern that works for most business presentations. Using examples. Many presentations depend on the...

What symbol should you use for bullets

There isn't just one symbol for bullets. Here are some perfectly acceptable ways for making the bullet symbol This is the traditional symbol. This bullet is common, too. It echoes the rectangular shapes on many pages (paragraphs, illustrations, etc.). You may need to reduce its point size to make it look right. This bullet adds flair. Again, you may need to reduce its point size. This is what people often use when they can't figure out how to get the other symbols out of their computers. These...

Whats the structure of this part of the book

The next three chapters introduce the three fundamentals of writing in plain English style, organization, and layout. The rest of this part of the book then goes into more detail on each of the fundamentals. For example, after you get the fundamentals of layout in Chapter 4, later chapters will cover other topics of layout such as choosing typefaces, designing effective headings, and using graphics. There are chapters expanding on style and organization, too. So let's begin the journey. For...

Who is writing plain English these days

It's hard to believe, but many people still write businessese. But many have also shifted to plain English. In other words, there's a fence with some people on the bureaucratic side and others on the plain English side. Fortunately, more and more people are moving to the plain English side and when people reach that side, they never jump back. The advantages of plain English are just too obvious. Also, many large organizations today are endorsing plain English Private business. Many successful...

Why do people write passive voice

One reason people write passive voice is to intentionally leave out the actor. For example, timid bosses wouldn't want to write this sentence I have decided everybody must work this weekend. The actor is I who may seem pretty exposed to gripes and other criticism from the people who can't go sailing or skiing during the weekend. So some bureaucrats, to avoid responsibility, tend to put such a sentence in passive voice and then eliminate the by prepositional phrase It has been determined by-me...

Why do you want the main point first

What happens if you're reading something ten pages long and the main point is not up front I think most of us get confused and frustrated, so we skip to the end and hunt for it. Once we find it, we can usually start over and understand the document much better. With the context of the bottom line, the details up front start to make more sense So why do writers often put the main point at the end Here are some common reasons I've heard to make readers read the entire document to build the case...

Why is plain English better than the other way

Plain English has two important advantages over the other way of writing It's far easier for your reader to read. It's far easier for you to write. You don't need many more advantages than those, do you But let's look further. In the past, plain English seemed merely a preference you like the old way I like plain English. Who's to decide Well, psycholinguists have simplified the decision. Their work shows clearly that plain English is easier for all of us to read, no matter how smart we are....

Why is punctuation important

Imagine, if you will, a string of words with no punctuation whatsoever xx xxxx xxx xxxxx xx x xxxxxxxxx xxxx xx x xxxxxxx xxxx XX x xxxx xxxxxx xxx xxxxxx xx xxxxxxxxxx xxx xxxx xxxxxx xxx xxxx xxxx xx xxxxxxxxxxx There's a misconception that someone who is good at punctuation simply knows what punctuation mark should go where a comma here, a semicolon there, a period at the end. However, for someone who is good at punctuation, the words come out differently than for someone who is not. People...

Why is reading a presentation hard to do well

Most of us have suffered through people reading badly. Here are some reasons that happens The speaker loses normal inflection. Like people who have memorized their speech, people who read aloud often lose touch with the ideas behind the words. You can easily tell if that happens listen for pauses. Natural speaking is filled with them unnatural reading isn't. The text isn't spoken language. Too often speakers write their speeches in businessese that difficult gobble-dygook that's hard enough for...

Specific tips for writing the way you talk

To talk on paper, you may have to change your writing. For example, when you write Do you normally use words like commence instead of begin, and prior to instead of before Do you normally avoid all marks of punctuation except the period and the comma Do you normally avoid using any personal pronouns like I, we, and you If so, you're a typical bureaucratic writer. Get ready to take the most important step in your writing career. Here's what I suggest Use a variety of punctuation. Use more...

How long are your lines

Have you ever wondered why we can read small type fairly easily in a newspaper but not in a standard business letter That's because the length of the line on a page is almost as important as the size of the type. We can read lo-point type in a newspaper column that's two inches wide. However, if we tried that in a column six inches wide, we'd be squinting. Most business writing is in a single column on an 8V2 by 11 inch sheet of paper. With normal margins, the length of your line will be about...

Second example the letter in the inbox

Don't you wonder, with every piece of paper in your inbox, Does this ask me to do anything And don't you wish the writer would start with that and then tell you why Even with short memos and letters, most of us appreciate getting the main point early. For example, what if you're having a busy day as personnel director for your company, and this comes in from an employment agency On December 15,1 received a phone call from Mr. Jason Brown from Michigan, who was your director of sailing in the...

What about the rules we learned in school

At this point, you may be wondering if we should pay attention to anything we learned in school. That depends on the school, because many are terrific. And, of course, we need to follow certain rules or else communication will become hopelessly erratic. There are three categories of rules to consider rules few people agree with rules amateurs follow and professionals don't Let's look more closely at each of these. Some rules just aren't controversial. For example, we all know to start sentences...

Restrict bold to titles and headings

Bold and italics both emphasize your words Bold emphasizes a lot. It stands out from several feet away. That can be good or bad. It works great for headings. It can distract needlessly when you use it to emphasize words in paragraphs (as here). Italics emphasizes a little. It stands out when you're actually reading the words not from several feet away. I recommend that you use bold for your title and most of your headings and seldom anyplace else.

Layout adding visual impact

Show your reader the underlying structure of your writing by using headings, lists, and other good techniques of white space. When I give presentations on writing, my audiences usually consider layout to be the most important topic I cover. What is layout, anyway On its simplest level, it is whatever goes into the look of the page something that appears open and inviting probably has good layout something that appears cluttered and inviting probably has bad layout. The look of a page is...

Using visual aids as notes

He briefly defined desk editor and the three terms on his visual aid. He didn't need to remember what to say during his introduction because the first visual aid served as his notes Then he turned to his next visual aid During this part, he gave us examples for each point. When he had said all he had to, he didn't need to worry what was next. He simply turned to his next visual aid Again, this was all he needed to remember what to say. The examples he'd rehearsed came right to mind. By now, you...

A model for writing

There's a simple model that can help you get started with a lot of your business writing. This chapter presents a model you can use for much of your business writing a template that will hold the ideas in many documents. These documents can be short (like memos) or long (like reports or even books). If this sounds too good to be true, it isn't. I've used this model or variations many times, including for some of the most challenging and complex writing in government and business, writing...

How tall are the basic lower case letters

As I just discussed, one reason type can look small is that it is compressed. Another reason is that the basic lower case letters may be short. For the sake of explanation, let's say that basic lower case letters include letters not having ascenders or descenders, like a, c, o, and x, to name a few the parts of letters like b, d, p not including the ascenders and descenders just the bowls of the b, the d, and the p, for example Within a particular typeface, all basic lower case letters are...

Executive summary

For longer documents, summarize up front including your bottom line. An executive summary is like an elevator briefing. Here's what I mean Suppose you get on an elevator with your boss, who asks, How's your project going You need to finish your answer by the time you get to the fourth floor. What would you say You'd probably give a quick, bottom-line summary. And what's effective for a busy person on an elevator is also effective for a busy person sitting at a desk. An executive summary, then,...

What is a bulleted paragraph

You needn't feel that bullets show only single sentences, like this After 3 months of examining your records for the past year, we have found the following Your marketing division is systematically hiding its losses each month totaling 300,000 for the past 6 months alone. The division manager and her assistant appear to be the only people involved. There were no other major discrepancies. You can also have short paragraphs as bullets After 3 months of examining your records for the past year,...

Plain English at Work

New York Oxford OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 1996 Oxford New York Athens Auckland Bangkok Bombay Calcutta Cape Town Dar es Salaam Delhi Florence Hong Kong Istanbul Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madras Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi Paris Singapore Taipei Tokyo Toronto and associated companies in Berlin Ibadan Copyright 1996 by Edward P. Bailey, Jr. Published by Oxford University Press, Inc., 198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016 Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press All...

Use short paragraphs

Looks better, doesn't it And, of course, the paragraphs can be even shorter than these. A question often comes up about this time But isn't a paragraph a paragraph Can we start paragraphs just anywhere We can't start paragraphs anywhere, but there are many options. The old un truism is this Each paragraph should represent a separate thought. Some thoughts take longer than others therefore, some paragraphs may be very long. To some extent, paragraphs do represent separate thoughts, but what is a...

This is point type

Terms like points and serifs were alien to most of us a few years ago, but the computer revolution for word processing has made the terms more common and given us the ability to put them into practice. As I mentioned earlier in the book, serifs are those little lines that hang down from the crossbar of a T, stick out from the sides of an H, etc. But some typefaces called sans serif don't have those lines. Here are examples of both kinds Serif THEIR their Sans serif THEIR their The standard for...

Passive voice

Use active voice unless you have a strong reason to use passive. This chapter attacks the most important villain of readability in business and technical writing passive voice. If you've heard one outcry against bad business and government writing, it's Too much passive voice That's a good outcry, because bureaucratic writers significantly overuse it. Passive voice isn't always bad, but lots of it absolutely kills readability. Identifying passive voice is simple. Just go through these two steps...

Use strong transitions throughout

My third suggestion is to use strong transitions and plan them as you rehearse. We know that good organization helps. So does a good blueprint. But all may be for nothing if listeners can't figure out when you've moved from one section of your presentation to the next. Too often audiences perceive only this as the structure of the presentation they're attending That is, audiences usually know when they're in the introduction of a presentation and when they're in the body of it, but they seldom...

Sample headings

There is a nearly limitless number of ways to make headings. This section shows you just a few samples. In each case, notice that the sub-heading is subordinate to the main heading in at least two ways. That is, if the main heading is upper case and centered, the sub-heading shouldn't be the same except that it starts on the left margin. The main heading and sub-heading would look too similar. When readers turn to a page with only one heading, they might not remember if it's your main heading...

Whats the matter with passive voice

Passive voice isn't wrong, but it often causes problems. That's because it often leaves out information that the reader needs. Let me explain how that happens usually unconsciously by the writer. Remember I said that passive sentences always have a slot for a prepositional phrase beginning with by The policy has been approved by the CEO. In the first sentence, the words in the by phrase showing the actor are actually there in the second, they aren't there, but there's a place a slot for them....

What is abstract writing

Abstract writing is so general that readers constantly have to guess what it means. If I stopped there, that sentence would be abstract you'd have to guess what I mean. So let's consider an example. Here's an abstract sentence As a property manager, 1 sometimes find strange things. It's hard to picture exactly what the writer means. Things can be strange in different ways. We're left, to some extent, to guess exactly what the writer means by that word. As a result, the sentence isn't memorable....

Make subheadings clearly subordinate to your main headings

Heading With Subheadings Example

Headings label blocks of information. Sometimes you may have subdivided your blocks into parts and want to label them, too. So you need headings and sub-headings. What you don't want to do, however, is to have headings that mislead your reader. Notice that the first heading looks subordinate to the next one, the sub-heading The sub-heading, which is upper case and centered, looks more important than the main heading, doesn't it When you design your headings, you need to be sure they work with...

The semicolon

The semicolon is more formal than the colon and the dash. Professional writers today tend to use it much less than writers of several decades ago did. Some people think of the semicolon as a strong comma something between a comma and a period. That's true, but it's not the whole story. The semicolon also has to separate equal grammatical units an independent clause from another independent clause, or a dependent clause from another dependent clause, or a phrase from a phrase. The semicolon does...

How can you be more concrete

Concreteness is crucial to good writing. The rest of the chapter looks at these three ways to be more concrete A quick example is normally fairly short from a word to a couple of sentences. Here are three As a loan officer, I will not hesitate to hold up an application of a member whose salary I question. For example, I would be suspicious of someone who is eighteen and makes 50,000. I am responsible for making sure the computer system is running smoothly every day. If there are any problems...

Advantages of overhead transparencies

Simply prepare your visual aid on paper and then copy it on a copier. But instead of copying onto blank paper, copy onto a transparency. This way you can make transparencies quickly, revise them quickly, and revise them often. You can also make them yourself, without waiting for a professional staff to produce them for you. This convenience often translates into whether people update their presentations or let them go stale. They're cheap. They cost only...