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Chapter 4. Making Your Writing Easy to Read. Good Style Half Truths Better Style Ten Ways to Make Writing Easier to Read Readability Formulas Organizational Preferences. Good Business & Administrative Writing Style. Closer to conversation Varies by audience

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Chapter 4

Making Your Writing Easy to Read

  • Good Style

  • Half Truths

  • Better Style

  • Ten Ways to Make Writing Easier to Read

  • Readability Formulas

  • Organizational Preferences

Good business administrative writing style
Good Business & Administrative Writing Style

  • Closer to conversation

  • Varies by audience

  • Contains easy-to-read words, sentences, and paragraphs

  • Attention to visual impact

  • Less formal than academic writing (except reports)

Half truths about style
Half-Truths about Style

  • Write as you talk

  • Never use I

  • Never begin sentence with and or but

  • Never end sentence with preposition

  • Big words impress people


Write as you talk yes but
Write as You Talk: Yes . . . But

  • Yes

    • Do it for first draft

    • Read draft aloud to test

  • But

    • Expect awkward, repetitive, badly organized prose

    • Plan to revise and edit

Never use i yes but
Never Use I: Yes . . . But

  • Yes

    • I can make writing seem self-centered

    • I can make ideas seem tentative

  • But

    • Use I to tell what you did, said, saw—it’s smoother

Never begin sentence with and or but
Never Begin Sentence with And or But

  • And may make idea seem like afterthought

  • And gives effect of natural speech

  • But serves as a signpost, signals a shift

  • But can make writing smoother

Never end a sentence with a preposition yes but
Never End a Sentence with a Preposition: Yes . . . But

  • Yes

    • A preposition may not be worth emphasizing this way

    • Readers expect something to follow a preposition

    • Avoid in job application letters, reports, formal presentations

  • But

    • OK now and then

Big words impress people yes but
Big Words Impress People: Yes . . . But

  • Yes

    • You may want to show formality or technical expertise

  • But

    • Big words distance you from readers

    • Big words may be misunderstood

    • Misused words make you look foolish

Building better style
Building Better Style

  • Write WIRMI: What I Really Mean Is

  • Read draft aloud to person three feet away

  • Ask someone to read draft aloud

No stiff words

Fix words where

reader stumbles

Building better style continued
Building Better Style, continued…

  • Read widely; write a lot

  • Study revised sentences

  • Polish your style with 10 techniques

Ten ways to make your writing easy to read
Ten Ways to Make Your Writing Easy to Read

As you draft—

  • Use accurate, appropriate, and familiar words

  • Avoid technical jargon; eliminate business jargon

Ten ways to make your writing easy to read continued
Ten Ways to Make Your Writing Easy to Read, continued…

As you write and revise—

  • Use active verbs most of the time

  • Use verbs—not nouns—to carry weight of sentence

  • Eliminate wordiness

  • Vary sentence length and structure

  • Use parallel structure

  • Put readers in your sentences

Ten ways to make your writing easy to read continued1
Ten Ways to Make Your Writing Easy to Read, continued…

As you draft and revise paragraphs—

  • Begin most paragraphs with topic sentence

  • Use transitions to link ideas

1 use accurate appropriate words
1. Use Accurate, Appropriate Words

  • Denotation—literal meanings; dictionary definitions

    • Bypassing—two people using same word to mean different things; causes mix-ups

  • Connotation—emotional association; attitude

    - / +

    • nosy / curious

    • fearful / cautious

    • obstinate / firm

    • tax / user fee

2 use familiar words
2. Use Familiar Words

  • Words most people know

  • Words that best convey your meaning

  • Shorter, more common words

  • Specific, concrete words

Use short simple alternatives
Use Short, Simple Alternatives

  • StuffySimple




    finalizefinish, complete


Avoid jargon mostly
Avoid Jargon—Mostly

  • Jargon—special terms of technical field

    • Use in job application letters

    • Use when essential and known to reader

    • Replace with plain English, when possible

Omit business jargon
Omit Business Jargon

  • Businessese—needless, old-fashioned wording


    Enclosed please findHere is

    As per your requestAs you asked

    I acknowledge receipt of(begin reply)

    The undersigned Me

3 use active verbs
3. Use Active Verbs

  • Active—subject of sentence does action the verb describes

  • Passive—subject is acted upon

    • Usually includes form of “to be”

    • Change to active if you can

    • Direct object becomes subject

Passive vs active verbs
Passive vs. Active Verbs

  • P: The program will be implemented by the agencies.

  • A: The agencies will implement the program.

  • P: These benefits are received by you.

  • A: You receive these benefits.

  • P: A video was ordered.

  • A: The customer ordered a video.

Passive vs active verbs continued
Passive vs. Active Verbs, continued…

  • Active verbs are better because—

    • Shorter

    • Clearer

    • More interesting

  • Passive verbs are better to—

    • Emphasize object receiving action

    • Give coherence by repeating word in previous sentence

    • Avoid placing blame

4 use verbs to carry weight
4. Use Verbs to Carry Weight

Replace this phrase with a verb

  • make an adjustment

  • make a decision

  • perform an examination

  • take into consideration

= adjust

= decide

= examine

= consider

5 eliminate wordiness
5. Eliminate Wordiness

  • Wordy—idea can be said in fewer words

  • Concise; a mark of good writing

    • Omit words that say nothing

    • Use gerunds and infinitives

    • Combine sentences to save words

    • Put the meaning in subject and verb

Omit words that say nothing
Omit Words that Say Nothing

  • Cut words if idea is clear without them

    • . . . period of three months

    • . . . at the present time

  • Replace wordy phrase with one word

    • Ideally, it would be best to put the. . . .

    • If possible, put the…

    • There are three reasons for our success…

    • Three reasons explain the…

Use gerunds infinitives
Use Gerunds & Infinitives

  • Gerund—“ing” form of verb used as noun

  • Infinitive—verb preceded by “to”

    • The completion of the project requires the collection and analysis of additional data.

    • Completing the project requires us to collect and analyze more data.



Combine sentences to save words example
Combine Sentences to Save Words: Example

  • Infante projected sales of $43 million in the first quarter. Our actual sales have fallen short of that figure by $1.9 million.

  • Although Infante projected first-quarter sales of $43 million, actual sales are $1.9 million less than that.



Put meaning of sentence in subject verb example
Put Meaning of Sentence in Subject & Verb: Example

  • The reason we are recommending the computerization of this process is because it will reduce the time required to obtain data and will give us more accurate data.

  • Computerizing the process will give us more accurate data more quickly.



6 vary sentence length structure
6. Vary Sentence Length & Structure

  • Edit sentences for tightness

  • Use short sentences when subject matter is complicated

  • Use longer sentences to

    • Show how ideas link to each other

    • Avoid choppy copy

    • Reduce repetition

Vary sentence length structure continued
Vary Sentence Length & Structure,continued…

  • Group words into chunks

  • Keep verb close to subject

  • Mix sentence structures

    • Simple – 1 main clause

    • Compound – 2 main clauses

    • Complex – 1 main, 1 subordinate clause

7 use parallel structure example
7. Use Parallel Structure: Example

  • During the interview, job candidates will

    • Take a skills test.

    • The supervisor will interview the prospective employee.

    • A meeting with recently hired workers will be held.

  • During the interview, job candidates will

    • Take a skills test.

    • Interview with the supervisor.

    • Meet with recently hired workers.



8 put readers in your sentences example
8. Put Readers in Your Sentences: Example

  • An election to name a beneficiary other than the participant’s spouse must be made with spousal consent, for any participant who is married.

  • If you are married, you need your spouse’s consent to name a beneficiary other than your spouse.

“You” gives the second example more impact

9 begin most paragraphs with topic sentence
9. Begin Most Paragraphs with Topic Sentence

  • Unity—¶ discusses one idea; a mark of good writing

  • Topic sentence—states main idea

    • Tells what paragraph is about

    • Forecasts paragraph’s structure

    • Helps readers remember points

10 use transitions to link ideas
10. Use Transitions to Link Ideas

  • Transition—signals the connections between ideas to the reader

    • Tells if next sentence continues or starts new idea

    • Tells if next sentence is more or less important than previous

Use transitions to link ideas
Use Transitions to Link Ideas

  • To add or continue an idea

    • also likewise

    • in addition similarly

    • first, second, finally consequently

  • To introduce an example

    • For example To illustrate

    • For instance Specifically

    • Indeed As shown in Table 2

Use transitions to link ideas1
Use Transitions to Link Ideas

  • To show contrast

    • or on the other hand

  • To show contrast more important than previous idea

    • but however nevertheless

  • To show time

    • after in the future next

    • until when before

Readability formulas style
Readability Formulas & Style

  • Measures text features, such as

    • Average word length

    • Average sentence length

    • Syllables per word

  • Ignores real difficulty factors

    • Complexity of ideas

    • Organization of ideas

    • Layout and design

Instead of readability formulas
Instead of Readability Formulas—

  • Test drafts on actual audiences.

    • How long to find information they need?

    • Do they make mistakes using it?

    • Do they think draft is easy to use?

Organizational preferences in writing style
Organizational Preferences in Writing Style

  • Good writing varies by organization

    • Preferred style should be used

  • When preferred style is bad

    • Use techniques in this chapter

    • Help boss learn about good writing

    • Recognize that a style may serve a purpose

    • Ask about poor examples you find