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...

Who reads an executive summary

The answer seems obvious executives, of course, That's true but not the whole story. The main reason for an executive summary is often to let a busy executive, usually a highly placed boss, read the summary instead of the document itself. If the executive summary is good, the executive can learn all the important bottom-line information up front. However, there are other important audiences Other people who are too busy to read the document. The top boss may not be the only one who doesn't have...

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...

Introduction

This book combines and significantly updates two previously separate books of mine The Plain English Approach to Business Writing A Practical Guide for Business Speaking The goal of both books was similar to help people communicate clearly and easily to busy people at work. Plain English is the key. It helps you as a writer and as a speaker. Combining the previous books now gives you help in two very important types of communication for people in business writing and speaking. If you think your...

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...

Bottom line

Most presentations succeed or fail long before you ever stand up to deliver them. Now let's turn to the second half of this book giving presentations in plain English. As with writing in plain English, you should find that speaking in plain English is clearer for your audience and easier on you, too. With a few simple techniques, you can be on your way to being a more effective speaker. But for a moment, think of yourself as a member of an audience. Have you ever sat through a presentation...

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...

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...