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Getting your message across. (Publishing).

When you write, you invariably have a message to get across, and that message is usually important. Whether you are writing a letter, a newsletter article, or even a simple e-mail, you want to be sure that the reader will understand your meaning and be able to respond appropriately.

Little tricks that make a difference

Once you start the actual writing, strive to use diverse, lively sentences, which will help you create a clear and readable message. Here's how:

* Use the active voice. (Passive voice: The conflict was handled well. Active voice: The executive handled the conflict well.)

* Vary sentence lengths. Long sentences are fine, but intersperse them with five-or six-word sentences.

* Lean heavier on nouns and verbs and lighter on adjectives.

* For variation and emphasis, start a few sentences with a connective (and, but, or) and end with a preposition. (The formality of the writing situation dictates whether or not you do this, of course.)

* Accentuate the positive. Write He ignored the regulations, instead of He did not observe the regulations, and It will be ready on Monday, instead of it won't be ready until Monday.

* Use more verbs. Effective writers use 13-16 verbs per 100 words.

* Watch your that's. That is a word that people that are not careful writers use to write sentences that should be broken into sentences that could be shorter.

* Keep related words nearby each other so as to avoid ambiguity, as in, Susan told Jane she was fired. (Who was fired--Susan or Jane?)

* Write from the reader's point of view. Your writing will be stronger if you put yourself in the reader's shoes.

* Be natural: Writing the way you talk makes your message more readable and interesting.

* Personalize your writing. In a letter, use the receiver's name not only in the greeting but in the body as well. In a newsletter article, refer to the relevant profession often in the text.

The importance of the look

You can format newsletters and letters to help the receiver understand the message and move through it quickly. Such formatting also makes material more appealing to the eye. Techniques to assist in the creation of great print material include:

* wide margins;

* short paragraphs;

* bullets, bold, italics, and underscores (caution: don't overdo it);

* informative headlines (five times as many people read headlines as read body copy); and

* subheadings.

On a practical note, display your name on all pages. For a newsletter, the organization's name, contact information, and copyright (if applicable) should be on every page. If someone later copies a page and distributes it to someone else, the information is there. Pages of a letter should also include such information.

The most important step

The best tool of all that the sender can use is the red pencil. Edit, edit, edit. Every receiver is overwhelmed with information, so the writer needs to make sure that his or her message is clear, complete, and concise. And after you've edited your message: Proof, proof, proof--and then have someone else proof it again. No typos, no misspellings, no factual errors. By taking care to perform all of these steps, you show you care.

Submitted by Linda Chreno, CAE, executive vice president, Florida Society of Association Executives, Tallahassee (staff size: 4; annual operating budget: $600,000). E-mail:
COPYRIGHT 2002 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Chreno, Linda
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2002
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