by Tanya Pretorius
for the Creative Activation Forum.
8 October 2005.
These are a few simple tips that will change your business writing style instantly.
While we are here, here is a note about introductions. Unless you specifically state, here, first, in the beginning, what you want people to go away with, they will come up with all sorts of things that you may not have intended. Be specific. Thus: These are a few simple tips that will change your business writing style instantly.
The most underrated aspect of good writing is Keep It Short and Simple: KISS. Go through your work with a fine-tooth comb, hunting for extraneous words. Kill them. KISS and Kill.
Good writing is divided very simply - heading, paragraph, and sentence. These three must relate very tightly backwards - all the sentences in a paragraph must contribute information to the topic of the paragraph, and the paragraphs must contribute very tightly to the topic of the heading.
THE KEYWORD LIST
The fastest way to get this going is by setting up a list of keywords. The list is a linear formation that helps gain control over the logical procession of ideas. Each keyword generated becomes a topic for a paragraph in the final piece.
The list can start very roughly. Some people like to start with an organogram. The looseness of the organogram allows the mind to think inclusively - gathering keywords that represent pertinent information. However, once the organogram is made, go one step further and create a linear list. The linear list tests the logic of the order the ideas are presented in.
Group words under headings, link ideas by grouping relevant keywords. Once this process is done, it is a mere formality expanding the list into sentences.
THE DREADED COMMA
Limit your use of commas. Commas essentially allow more and more information to be stuffed into a sentence. In order to be clear, a sentence should be about one thing. Put a toothpick under your comma key and only take the toothpick out if absolutely necessary.
MSWord has two useful functions: a Table of Contents Generator and a Spelling and Grammar Check.
If writers use the default heading styles in a standardized way then the content will become more important than the appearance of the document. It will also be easier for the readers to situate themselves in the levels of information.
If you would like to see how a correctly formatted MSWord document works, download this article [here].
Making up a Table of Contents (TOC)
By using the provided styles, you can organize a document quickly and produce a TOC in seconds. The TOC also allows you to test the structure of your argument.
Step 1: Applying styles to your document
• Top left - see the word Normal in a drop down list of styles
• Place your cursor in your typed heading
• Drop down the style list
• Select the heading level you desire (the TOC function only looks at the heading styles)
Step 2: Generating a TOC
• Once you have applied styles to all the headings
• Place your cursor on the first page of your piece, before the introduction and after the main heading and author bits.
• Select Insert, Index and Tables
• Select the Table of Contents tab
• Select the style of TOC that you want on the left
• Select OK
Spelling and Grammar Checker
Use it. You may have noticed, I have chosen to go over to American spelling. In the Internet age, the dominant language is American and using American makes googling simpler.
The Readers Digest's How to Write and Speak Better is a useful book for anyone - it covers everything from 'how to fire someone' to 'how to deliver a speech at the United Nations'. The book is accessible, anecdotal and fun.
MS Word document
Posted 21 October 2005, www.face.org.za, author: Tanya Pretorius.