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Business Writing with Heart - How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time
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Business Writing: <body class="layout-three-column"> <div id="container"> <div id="container-inner" class="pkg"> <!-- banner - rev2 --> <div id="banner"> <div id="banner-inner" class="pkg"> <h1 id="banner-header"><a href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com" accesskey="1">Business Writing</a></h1> <h2 id="banner-description"></h2> </div> </div> <div id="pagebody"> <div id="pagebody-inner" class="pkg"> <div id="alpha"> <div id="alpha-inner" class="pkg"> <!-- sidebar1 --> <!-- user photo --> <table border="0" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" id="about"> <tr> <td valign="top" class="photo"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/about.html"><img src="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/.a/6a00d8341c02a553ef01a3fa91debe970b-pi" alt="Lynn Gaertner-Johnston" border="0" title="Lynn Gaertner-Johnston"/></a></td> <td width="80" valign="top"><ul class="aboutus"> <li><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/">Visit Lynn's Website</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/about.html">About Lynn</a></li> <li><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/contact_us.html">Contact Lynn</a></li> </ul> <strong>Subscribe</strong> <ul class="subscriber"> <li class="email"><a href="http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=2863746&loc=en_US" title="Receive a link to the latest post in your inbox.">Email</a></li> <li class="rss"><a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/businesswritingblog/BwB09" title="Receive the latest post to your favorite newsreader or Outlook.">RSS</a></li> </ul> </td> </tr> </table> <!-- about page link --> <div id="syntax_training" class="module-typelist module"> <h2 class="module-header">Syntax Training</h2> <div class="module-content"> <ul class="module-list"> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Read about upcoming public classes, both online and in person. 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"href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/signup.html">Email Tips: 25 Tips for Email Etiquette</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="The main article of the current issue is titled "Take Control of Your Jargon.""href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/signup.html">Free Monthly Ezine on Business Writing</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Visit Lynn's website for more articles on business writing."href="http://syntaxtraining.com/articles.html">Lynn's Articles on Writing </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title=""href="http://syntaxtraining.com/heart.html">"Business Writing With Heart": Lynn's New Book</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Lynn talks about "Business Writing With Heart""href="http://youtu.be/VXsKN3YeKdY">YouTube Book Interview</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title=""href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com">Visit Lynn's Website</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> <div id="writing_resources" class="module-typelist module"> <h2 class="module-header">Writing Resources</h2> <div class="module-content"> <ul class="module-list"> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Fine blog on writing, marketing, and business"href="http://badlanguage.net">Bad Language</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Lynn's picks for best books"href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/recommended_books.html">Business Writing Books</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Tips from Syntax Training"href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/business_writing_tips.html">Business Writing Tips</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Q&A on questions of style and consistency"href="http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/CMS_FAQ/new/new_questions01.html">Chicago Manual of Style</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Useful statistics on Internet use and traffic"href="http://www.clickz.com/stats">ClickZ Stats Toolbox</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Hundreds of errors listed alphabetically"href="http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/index.html">Common Errors in English</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Review 440 lessons in grammar and punctuation in the archives"href="http://www.dailygrammar.com">Daily Grammar</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Photos to inspire and stretch"href="http://dailywalks.com/">Daily Walks | Diane Varner</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Thought-provoking pieces on marketing "href="http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/weblog.php">Duct Tape Marketing Blog</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="With 150 excellent interactive quizzes"href="http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/">Guide to Grammar and Writing</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Over 1000 interactive quizzes at varying levels of difficulty"href="http://a4esl.org">Interactive ESL Quizzes</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Games and exercises for everyone, including native English speakers"href="http://www.manythings.org">Interesting Things for ESL/EFL Students</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Resources for lawyers who write"href="http://raymondpward.typepad.com/newlegalwriter/">Legal Writer</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="In celebration of punctuation"href="http://www.nationalpunctuationday.com">National Punctuation Day</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Get results from as many as 18 dictionaries"href="http://www.onelook.com">OneLook Dictionary Search</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Join the fight for clear writing"href="http://www.plainenglish.co.uk">Plain English Campaign</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Proofreading symbols listed and illustrated"href="http://www.journalismcareers.com/articles/proofreadingsymbols.shtml">Proofreading Symbols</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Explore the site for MLA & APA Style guidance, rules, exercises, and presentations "href="http://owl.english.purdue.edu/">Purdue's Writing Lab</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Test your spelling at five levels of difficulty"href="http://eslus.com/LESSONS/SPELL/SPELL.HTM">Spelling Tests</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Words spelled differently in British, Canadian, and American English"href="http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/BritishCanadianAmerican.htm">Spelling: British, Canadian, American</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Syntax Training (Lynn's company) website"href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com">Syntax Training</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A test on which Lynn got 3 wrong! "href="http://books.guardian.co.uk/quiz/questions/0,5957,1303707,00.html">Tough Spelling Test</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Take a free typing test. Available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, and Finnish. "href="http://www.typingtest.com">TypingTest.com </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Words with different meanings in British, Canadian, and American English"href="http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/britishcanadianamericanvocab.html">Vocabulary: British, Canadian, American</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A list that allows you to search by misspellings--not correct spellings"href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_common_misspellings">Wikipedia: List of Common Misspellings </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="New words defined, a great resource"href="http://www.wordspy.com">Word Spy</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A search engine to hundreds of online dictionaries, and much more"href="http://www.yourdictionary.com">YourDictionary.com</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div id="beta"> <div id="beta-inner" class="pkg"> <div id="sharethis" style="text-align:right;"> <span class='st_twitter' displayText='Tweet'></span> <span class='st_facebook' displayText='Facebook'></span> <span class='st_linkedin' displayText='LinkedIn'></span> <span class='st_pinterest' displayText='Pinterest'></span> <span class='st_sharethis' displayText='ShareThis'></span> <span class='st_email' displayText='Email'></span> </div> <script type="text/javascript"> window.ZemantaBlogSettings = ""; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://content.zemanta.com/static/typepad/js/recommend.js"></script> <!-- entries --> <h2 class="date-header">February 25, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-proofreading entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0dc58f0970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/how-to-lose-your-readers-trust-.html">How to Lose Your Readers' Trust </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>When I pay for my groceries at the supermarket, the cash register spits out coupons based on what I have bought. Recently I received one with this offer:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Buy any large [brand name] pizza between 2/23/15 and 3/22/15 and SAVE up to $3.00 on a future order with coupon. </p> <p>Because I occasionally buy frozen pizza, I put the coupon in my pocket, then read it later. Here is the "fine print": </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">PURCHASE REQUIREMENTS:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Buy 2, get $1 OR</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Buy 3, get $2 OR </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">But 4 or more, get $3 coupon for your next shopping order.</p> <p>I am annoyed. Can you determine why?</p> <p>"Buy any large pizza" was misleading. <em>Any</em> means "one," yet there was no savings if I bought just one. </p> <p>False or misleading promises erode readers' trust in us as writers. This problem exists even beyond coupons and offers trying to sell products. Whenever we write, we must be sure our messages do not damage our readers' trust and confidence in us.</p> <p>Consider these situations, imagining you are the reader:</p> <ol> <li>A writer provides a link to a web page, noting that it will give you the specific information you need. When you click the link, it takes you to a generic home page, with none of the information you seek. How do you feel? </li> <li>A consultant emails you saying you will receive her proposal by the end of the week. But when you leave on Friday at 6 p.m., you still have not gotten it. Does this delay affect your opinion of the consultant? </li> <li>A meeting agenda says attendees will be able to ask questions about a new program. When you attend the meeting, the entire hour is taken up by the presentation. How do you feel about the meeting organizer? </li> <li>Your new assistant's resume describes him as proficient in Microsoft Office. When you ask him to edit a PowerPoint presentation, he can't seem to make simple changes in it. What is your reaction? </li> <li>Your manager gives you the written go-ahead to update the company's Contact Us page. As soon as you do, he calls you in, upset that you didn't ask his approval on the new content. How does this situation affect your relationship? </li> </ol> <p>All five situations erode trust. And writers can avoid all five if they do one simple thing: ask themselves the question "Is this completely true?" and make changes when the answer is no. </p> <ol> <li>If the writer had asked "Is this true?" and clicked the link to confirm it, it would have been obvious that the page did not provide the information. He or she could have found the correct page and given you that link. </li> <li>If the consultant had questioned herself about the feasibility of her promise, she might have recognized that her week was too hectic and committed herself to a later date. </li> <li>The meeting organizer might have talked with the presenter to be sure the meeting would include time for questions. </li> <li>The new assistant's resume might have said "proficient in Word, Excel, and Outlook" rather than claiming expertise in Microsoft Office. </li> <li>Your manager might have realized that he wanted to approve changes.</li> </ol> <p>And the store coupon I received might have said "Buy large pizzas" rather than "Buy any large pizza."  </p> <p>Ask yourself "Is this completely true?" before you click Send, Publish, or Post. That simple question can help you maintain your readers' trust and confidence. ("Is this true?" may be sufficient, but I add the word <em>completely </em>to push to the heart of the content.) </p> <p>How have business writers diminished your trust in them? </p> <p>Get my guide <em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/clarity.html" target="_self" title="Learn more about the guide">Clarity, Conciseness, Zing, and More</a> </em>for 27 articles of tips and strategies for writing well on the job.</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn </span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training </a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">February 25, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/proofreading/">Proofreading</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/how-to-lose-your-readers-trust-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/how-to-lose-your-readers-trust-.html#comments">Comments (3)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/how-to-lose-your-readers-trust-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">February 19, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-books entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0d9cf71970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/stephen-king-on-writing.html">Stephen King on Writing</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>If you have never read a book by Stephen King, the bestselling author of horror, fantasy, and suspense fiction, we had that in common--until now. Over the past two days, while waiting as a potential juror at the King County Courthouse, I read Stephen King's <em>On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. </em></p> <p>If you want to write fiction, you must read this book. A gem of story-telling advice shines on every page. Mr. King's enthusiasm and love of his craft almost made me want to quit teaching business writing and start trying to tell the stories all around me. </p> <p>But I read <em>On Writing</em> in search of treasures to apply to business writing. I quote a few of Mr. King's beauties for you below. </p> <p><strong>On Vocabulary<br /></strong>"Don't make any conscious effort to improve it. . . . One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed. Make yourself a solemn promise right now that you'll never use <em>emolument</em> when you mean <em>tip</em>."</p> <p>When you are tempted to write <em>concordance </em>instead of <em>agreement, </em>or <em>utilize </em>instead of <em>use</em><em>, </em>think of Mr. King's household pet in evening clothes. </p> <p><strong>On Paragraphs<br /></strong>"You can tell <em>without even reading </em>if the book you've chosen is apt to be easy or hard, right? Easy books contain lots of short paragraphs--including dialogue paragraphs which may only be a word or two long--and lots of white space. They're as airy as Dairy Queen ice cream cones. Hard books, ones full of ideas, narration, or description, have a stouter look. A <em>packed </em>look. Paragraphs are almost as important for how they look as for what they say; they are maps of intent." </p> <p>Do you want your business writing to look stout and packed? Or would short chunks of text and bullet points make your writing easier and more appealing to read? Whenever I receive an email or a report with long paragraphs, I look for something else to read. </p> <p><strong>On Passive Voice <br /></strong>"The timid fellow writes <strong>The meeting will be held at seven o'clock </strong>because that somehow says to him, 'Put it this way and people will believe <em>you really know.' </em>Purge this quisling thought! Don't be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write <strong>The meeting's at seven. </strong>There, by God! Don't you feel better?" </p> <p>Mr. King offers another illustration of numbing passive verbs: "My first kiss will always be recalled by me as how my romance with Shayna was begun." </p> <p>Here is his revision: "My romance with Shayna began with our first kiss. I'll never forget it." </p> <p>The passive memory of the kiss doesn't get or keep your attention. The revision communicates energy and excitement. Think of that kiss when you write your next policy or procedure. </p> <p>In <em>On Writing </em>Stephen King comes across as a passionate, clear-headed fiction writing champion. The book inspired me to finally read a Stephen King novel. Do you have one to recommend? </p> <p><em>On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft </em>came out in the year 2000, published by Scribner. If you want to have Stephen King's reading list, the things in his writer's toolbox, and lots of comparisons between powerful and puny writing, I recommend it.</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">February 19, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/books/">Books</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/stephen-king-on-writing.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/stephen-king-on-writing.html#comments">Comments (10)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/stephen-king-on-writing.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">February 10, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0d3c0b3970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/way-to-earn-more-valentines.html">10 Ways to Earn More Valentines</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Where I live, bright red signs of Valentine's Day are everywhere--hearts, flowers, candies, cupids, and sugary cookies. You can buy a special valentine for almost anyone: sweetheart, lover, wife, husband, mother, someone like a mother, friend, child, sister, brother, grandpa, nana, teacher, boss, etc. </p> <p>If you would like to earn more valentines at work--in other words, to be liked and appreciated more by coworkers and others--try these business writing tips:</p> <ol> <li>When you send an email or a text, greet your reader by name, just as you would in person or on the phone. Use <em>Hi, Hello, Good morning, </em>or another greeting. Diving into the message without a greeting ignores the fact that your reader is human.</li> <li>Take time to double-check the spelling of people’s names. Kathryn will not feel appreciated if your message calls her Catherine. At least once or twice each week, someone addresses me as Lynne rather than my name, Lynn. </li> <li>Use positive phrases such as <em>glad to, happy to, </em>and<em> look forward</em> to communicate warmth and helpfulness.</li> <li>Use <em>please</em> and <em>thank you</em> even in routine messages. Begin most of your replies with a thank-you, for example, "Thank you for letting me know," "Thanks for reaching out," or "Thank you for asking." </li> <li>Keep yourself on a first-name basis with your reader. Include your first name at the end of an email—not just your signature block. Using your first name helps you come across as a person rather than a position. </li> <li>Avoid abrupt one- and two-word messages that confuse people and damage relationships. Curb any desire to go crazy with punctuation. Writing "Why??!!!!!" or "Why NOT?!!!!" boots you off the Nice list. </li> <li>Reply quickly whenever you can. Don’t leave coworkers, employees, and customers watching the clock and waiting for your message.</li> <li>Take time to write thoughtful messages such as thank-yous, congratulations, sympathy notes, and positive feedback. If you invest in people with these messages, you'll be forgiven an occasional gaffe. </li> <li>Avoid replying to all or copying others on an email in which you blame the reader or even hint at a criticism. Public shaming can earn you a permanent bad reputation. </li> <li>Even though you want to warm up a relationship, avoid words like <em>hon </em>and <em>sweetie, </em>which are too sticky sweet for business messages. Instead, use the person's name--and spell it correctly. </li> </ol> <p>To celebrate Valentine's Day, we are offering $5 off <em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/heart.html" target="_self" title="Learn more about the book">Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time</a> </em>through Friday, February 20. Just use the coupon code "heart" (no quotation marks) in the <a href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/heart.html" target="_self" title="Find the buy button here">shopping cart</a>.</p> <p>The 436-page paperback version of <em>Business Writing With Heart </em>can be a thoughtful gift for someone you like (including yourself), with detailed advice on the challenging relationship side of writing. The e-book is available from Amazon around the world. (The coupon code applies only at Syntax Training, not Amazon.)  </p> <p>Do you have relationship-building communication tips to share? I would love to read them. </p> <p><span style="font-size: 13pt; color: #c00000;"><strong>Happy Valentine's Day! </strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> <p> </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">February 10, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/way-to-earn-more-valentines.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/way-to-earn-more-valentines.html#comments">Comments (9)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/way-to-earn-more-valentines.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">February 04, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb07e94e3c970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/7-tips-for-communicating-data.html">7 Tips for Communicating Data</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>After you have worked hard to collect meaningful data, the big challenges are how and how much to communicate. Consider these tips when you work on your next report or presentation that includes data.</p> <p><strong>1. Focus first on your message, not on the numbers.</strong> <br />When planning your communication, focus first on the big idea or points you want to make. Then incorporate the data that will help your audience understand and appreciate your points. Be sure your big idea gets center stage--not the numbers.</p> <p><strong>2. Explain the data.</strong><br />Numbers mean nothing on their own. They need interpretation. Avoid asking readers or your audience to "review the attached spreadsheets." <em>Why</em> should they review them? Which numbers should they pay attention to and why? What do the numbers indicate?</p> <p><strong>3. Put data in context.</strong> <br />Make it clear whether numbers are positive, negative, or neutral. If you tell a sales rep that she visited an average of six prospects per day, compare that number to the goal number of prospects. If a client walks 5500 steps in a day, state whether 5500 is the magic healthy number or only halfway there. If expenses are 18 percent over income, say why the reader should care. Explain that the account balance will be €0 by 2018 if nothing changes.</p> <p><strong>4. Paint a picture with your numbers so people can see them.</strong> <br />Even simple expressions like "a tenfold increase" or "a 30 percent drop" can seem vague unless your audience can see them. If numbers have decreased dramatically over a decade, do not use words and numbers alone. In a bold-colored graph, show the deep drop year by year, month by month over 10 years.</p> <p>If your numbers are so large as to be abstract, paint them in recognizable mental pictures such as an area as large as Italy or a distance of 100 Greyhound buses. (Think of your audience when you choose the image.) How hot is 158 degrees Fahrenheit? Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.</p> <p>Or show the numbers reduced to their essence. Jack Hagley's graphic <a href="http://www.jackhagley.com/The-World-as-100-People" target="_self" title="See the world">The World as 100 People</a> presents the world as though it were only 100 people. For instance, 83 of the world's 100 people are able to read and write; 17 are not.</p> <p><strong>5. Highlight important numbers.</strong> <br />A wall of numbers is as intimidating as a wall of text. Pull out essential numbers and focus on them. If you are presenting financial data, show just a small portion of it at a time on a slide or a page--just the portion you are discussing now. If you refer to and show just a small part, your audience will not say, "Where are you?" and "What are you talking about?" And always render numbers in a large enough font that you do not have to apologize for it.</p> <p>Make it easy for your readers to find important numbers. If a client has asked for your fee, for example, don't bury the number in a paragraph. Instead, render the number alone on a line or as part of a short heading, like this: <br />Your investment: US$19,000</p> <p><strong>6. Prominently display the legends for tables and charts of numbers.</strong> <br />Ensure that your audience will know instantly that 3000 indicates 3,000,000 and that your balance is positive rather than negative. Use abbreviations such as <em>K</em> and <em>M</em> only if you are certain your readers understand them. (To some people, <em>M</em> means thousand; to others, it means million.)</p> <p><strong>7. Use only the essential, compelling numbers in the body of your document. </strong>If numbers weigh down your document, your readers may forget your main point. So move most of the supporting tables, lists, charts, and graphs to the appendices. In a presentation, hold back some slides of data, and show them only upon request. Remember: The numbers are not the message; they serve the message. </p> <p>If you think of your communication as music, your most important message comes through the soloist. The numbers are the accompanists. They play an essential role, but they should never drown out the soloist. If they do, your communication will not reach and change your audience.</p> <p>**********************</p> <p>I excerpted this article from my newsletter, <em>Better Writing at Work. </em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html" target="_self" title="Subscribe to "Better Writing at Work"">Subscribe</a> to get a practical article focused on business writing each month.</p> <p>Do you have tips or comments on communicating data? Please share them.</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">February 04, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/7-tips-for-communicating-data.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/7-tips-for-communicating-data.html#comments">Comments (3)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/7-tips-for-communicating-data.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">January 28, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-proofreading entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c740e776970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/whats-missing-from-this-reminder.html">What's Missing From This Reminder?</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>My husband, Michael, is planning to participate in an event on Saturday. Below is the entire content of the reminder email he received today. Can you identify what's missing?</p> <p>Subject: Three More Days Until the Run! </p> <p>We hope you are getting excited about participating in Saturday's group run/walk! A few things to remember:</p> <ol> <li>Please plan on arriving early to find parking.</li> <li>Bring a food donation for the University Food Bank (optional).</li> <li>We are meeting at the basketball courts (if you look to the east, you can see Starbucks).</li> <li>If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at (425) 610-XXXX.</li> <li>Please LIKE us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/XXXXXXX</li> <li>GO SEAHAWKS!</li> </ol> <p>If you were sending this reminder to people who had registered for the event, what essential information would you also include? </p> <p>Proofreading is not just identifying errors. Sometimes it involves recognizing what isn't there. If you would like to increase your proofreading skills and confidence, take our Proofreading Like a Pro class online on Wednesday, February 11. <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/Proofreading_Like_a_Pro_Feb_11_2015.pdf" target="_self" title="Learn more">Read about the proofreading class</a>. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">January 28, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/proofreading/">Proofreading</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/whats-missing-from-this-reminder.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/whats-missing-from-this-reminder.html#comments">Comments (11)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/whats-missing-from-this-reminder.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">January 26, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c73d9c1b970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/who-are-you-tell-resume-readers-fast.html">Who Are You? Tell Resume Readers Fast</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>The other night I helped a young friend with her resume by phone and email. I have known "Alicia" for many years, so I know her story--her job and education history, her strengths, and her accomplishments. I know the essential Alicia.</p> <p>But her resume readers--potential employers--would know nothing about her at first glance, and Alicia needed to fill that information gap instantly. But instead, her resume draft went from contact information to Work Experience, then Education, all in the typical bullet point format. Readers would not have a clear picture of who Alicia is until the very end of the resume--if they got there. </p> <p>The resume was missing an opening summary. And Alicia was missing an opportunity to shape her readers' first impression of her. </p> <p>Variously labeled Summary, Summary of Qualifications, Professional Summary, Skills Summary, and Professional Profile, it's a section that appears after the name and contact information. It helps readers see the whole picture in a quick snapshot. And it helps them avoid having to create a picture on their own, pulling together all the resume pieces. </p> <p>Notice in these examples how the writer presents a clear picture of his or her qualifications: </p> <p>**********************************</p> <p><strong>Summary of qualifications<br /></strong></p> <ul> <li>Significant experience in a print production environment. </li> <li>Strong mechanical aptitude and trouble-shooting skills.</li> <li>Excellent attendance, with years of perfect attendance on the job.</li> <li>Reliability, focus, inventiveness, and good common sense.</li> </ul> <p>**********************************</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><strong>SUMMARY</strong></strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Award-winning communications manager with proven ability in project management, strategic planning, business writing, and mass communication. Strong background in communicating corporate messages through wide-ranging media, including social media, publications, films, exhibits, conferences, and special events. Expert in Word, Excel, and InDesign. Fluent in Spanish.</p> <p>**********************************</p> <p><strong>Professional Profile</strong><br />An accomplished manager and individual contributor with solid experience in corporate and educational settings, providing management and information technology solutions.</p> <ul> <li><strong>Systems and software experience:</strong> Solomon, Ceridian, and CAMS; Paradox, object PAL, Crystal Reports, SQL, HTML, ASP, and MS Office.</li> <li><strong>Traits:</strong> Resourcefulness, adaptability, optimism, empathy, and calm under pressure. </li> <li><strong>Satisfiers:</strong> Facilitating the work of others, simplifying processes, solving problems, establishing good relationships, and providing high-quality reports and information.</li> </ul> <p>**********************************</p> <p><strong>Summary: Warehouse and Shipping Professional</strong> <br />Over 11 years in warehouse and shipping. Experienced training and supervising seasonal workers. Accustomed to working in fast-paced, high-volume environments focused on first-class customer service. Recognized for reliability, safety, and excellent attendance.</p> <p>**********************************</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Summary Statement</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center; text-align: left;">10+ years of experience supporting the success of individuals, groups, and organizations. Notable achievements as a non-profit director, project manager, and consultant. Excellent presentation, writing, and relationship-building skills developed through working with diverse groups. Methodically organized yet energized by change.</p> <p><strong>**********************************</strong></p> <p>When adding an opening summary to your resume, consider these tips about its content:</p> <ol> <li>Include words and phrases your readers will be looking for: <em>manager, project management, trouble-shooting, training design, non-profit, diversity, MS Office, Arabic.</em></li> <li>Use words that paint a positive picture: <em>award-winning,</em> <em>achievements, success, significant, strong, excellent, expert, proven, </em><em>accomplished.</em></li> <li>Use phrases that summarize: "warehouse and shipping professional," "10 years of experience in," "experience handling large portfolios," "background in operations, sales, and customer service."</li> <li>Choose words that describe you precisely while avoiding clichés. For instance, rather than calling yourself a "results-driven self-starter," use words that uniquely describe you. </li> <li>Consider a maximum length of about 75 words. The examples above range from 33 to 69 words, including their headings. </li> <li>Include areas you want to highlight, and omit others. For example, if your resume includes five years as a kindergarten teacher but you are looking for a job as a technical writer, do not mention kindergarten in the summary. </li> <li>Tell the truth. Do not exaggerate or mislead in the summary or anywhere in your resume. </li> <li>Write your resume first. Then create your qualifications summary. </li> </ol> <p>Yesterday Alicia sent me her revised resume featuring a summary of qualifications. The summary transformed her resume from lists of details to a powerful strategic document. It packaged her six years of experience (some of it in college) as a solid professional background.  </p> <p>Now readers of Alicia's resume can know her as I do in just a glance. That's the power of a professional summary. </p> <p>Do you have comments or questions about qualifications summaries, including the ones above? Please share them. </p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com%20" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">January 26, 2015 </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/who-are-you-tell-resume-readers-fast.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/who-are-you-tell-resume-readers-fast.html#comments">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/who-are-you-tell-resume-readers-fast.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">January 20, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-proofreading entry-category-punctuation_pointers entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c73b3033970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/need-a-punctuation-class-try-this-test.html">Need a Punctuation Class? Try This Test.</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>In response to client requests, I have designed a new online class, <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/Punctuation_for_Pros_class_March_19_and_26_2015.pdf" target="_self" title="Flyer for the class">Punctuation for Professionals</a>. It's a lively, interactive review of the essential rules of punctuation.  </p> <p>Would you benefit from a punctuation class? See whether you can identify punctuation errors in 8 of the 16 sentences below. </p> <ol> <li>We submitted the proposal last week, however, we have not received approval yet.<br /><br /></li> <li>The plan includes: goals, timelines, and a budget.<br /><br /></li> <li>Several one-hour webinars are available as complimentary downloads.<br /><br /></li> <li>Lori needs a weeks notice to arrange catering for meetings.<br /><br /></li> <li>Appendix 7 includes details on all four transportation companies (see page 294).<br /><br /></li> <li>Hiroko is taking an early shuttle to Los Angeles and Han is planning to drive his car.<br /><br /></li> <li>Thank you, Clare, for filling in at the reception desk last week.<br /><br /></li> <li>Bill and Hillary Clintons’ home is in New York.  <br /><br /></li> <li>Teo moved from Vancouver, British Colum­bia, to Seattle before settling in Calgary.<br /><br /></li> <li>Two employees’ cars were under the awning when it collapsed.<br /><br /></li> <li>When customers click this button a dropdown box with three choices appears.<br /><br /></li> <li>Here are the winners: Michael Grace, Accounting; Davida Banks, Finance; and Elray Davis, Member Services.<br /><br /></li> <li>December 15, 2014, is the last day we accepted the vouchers.<br /><br /></li> <li>Carl will manage the volunteers on Friday; Renee will manage them on Saturday.<br /><br /></li> <li>Hala has asked that everyone review the long range plan before the meeting.<br /><br /></li> <li>The course he wants to take is “Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector.” </li> </ol> <p>This <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/punctuationtest.pdf" target="_self" title="Answer key for the punctuation test">answer key</a> indicates the errors but not the corrections. To learn more, take Punctuation for Professionals!</p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">January 20, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/proofreading/">Proofreading</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/punctuation_pointers/">Punctuation Pointers</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/need-a-punctuation-class-try-this-test.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/need-a-punctuation-class-try-this-test.html#comments">Comments (0)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/need-a-punctuation-class-try-this-test.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">January 19, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0c2c250970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/how-email-readers-differ-from-dogs.html">How Dog Training Differs From Emailing</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Outside the supermarket the other day, I walked past a man who was trying to get his dog to sit. He said, "Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit, Rudy. Sit." Each word was followed by a short pause during which the man's dog, an American Staffordshire Terrier, did not sit.</p> <p>I have learned not to butt in when my help has not been requested. But I wanted to tell the man that he was teaching his dog the command "Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit, Rudy. Sit." Dog owners should say a command just once, "Rudy, sit." If the dog does not sit, then the owner should put the dog in a sit position. That way, the dog learns the command "Sit" rather than "Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit."  <a class="asset-img-link" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/.a/6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c739b715970b-pi" style="display: inline;"><img alt="American Stafforshire Terrier" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c739b715970b img-responsive" src="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/.a/6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c739b715970b-800wi" title="American Stafforshire Terrier" /></a></p> <p>Email readers are different from dogs. Readers of email need to receive the command--the request for action--repeatedly in order to pay attention to it and respond the right way. </p> <p>Take this example:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Subject: Agenda Items for Jan. 27 Planning Meeting: Please Submit by Jan. 21 [Sit.]</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hello everyone,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">By Wednesday, Jan. 21, please send me your agenda items for the Jan. 27 planning meeting. [Sit.]</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">If I receive your items by Jan. 21 [Sit], I will include them in the final agenda I send out on Jan. 22. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I look forward to receiving your agenda items. [Sit.]</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Gail </p> <p>Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. If the email writer had said "Sit" only once--let's say in the first sentence--the reader would likely overlook the request while speeding through an email inbox. The specific request for action needs to appear in the subject AND in the first sentence AND typically in one other place in the message. </p> <p>Do you agree about this difference between dog training and email communicating? Feel free to extend the analogy. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em> <br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training </a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">January 19, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/how-email-readers-differ-from-dogs.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/how-email-readers-differ-from-dogs.html#comments">Comments (5)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/how-email-readers-differ-from-dogs.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">January 12, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-frequently_asked_questions entry-category-grammar_and_usage entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0be66cd970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/comprised-of-vs-composed-of-a-test.html">"Comprised of" vs. "Composed of": A Test</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>At lunch today I read the following sentence in an advertising supplement in <em>The New York Times:</em></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Our wine team is comprised of devoted wine lovers who are some of the most respected professionals in the industry. </p> <p>Your test: Is the phrase "comprised of" correct, or should "composed of" replace it? Why? </p> <p>The phrases "composed of" and "comprised of" appear in business documents daily, raising doubts in writers' and readers' minds. Which one is correct? Or are both correct? </p> <p>The word <em>comprise</em> means "contain" or "consist of." With that definition in mind, let's replace <em>comprise </em>in the original sentence:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Our wine team is contained of devoted wine lovers.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Our wine team is consisted of devoted wine lovers.</p> <p>How do those sound to you?</p> <p>The word <em>compose </em>means "make up" or "form." If we replace <em>comprise </em>in the original sentence with those definitions, we get:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Our wine team is made up of devoted wine lovers.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Our wine team is formed of devoted wine lovers. </p> <p>Better? </p> <p>Yes, "composed of" is the correct form. The phrase "comprised of" is <em>never</em> correct to usage purists despite its regular appearance in writing. If you want to be correct in the eyes of discriminating readers, use "composed of." </p> <p>If you like the look and sound of <em>comprise, </em>you can still use it correctly. Be guided by its meaning "contain" or "consist of":</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Our wine team comprises devoted wine lovers. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">The trio comprised two violins and a cello. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">The panel comprises experts from four industries. </p> <p>Fill in these blanks with correct words or phrases:</p> <ol> <li>The new book ___________ four sections. </li> <li>The team ____________ Joe Black, Andrea Rogers, and Rabin Gupta. </li> <li>The benefits package ____________ salary, health insurance, and three weeks of vacation.</li> </ol> <p>Did you choose a phrase or a single word for your answers?</p> <p>For each item, you may correctly use either "is composed of" or "comprises." </p> <p>Remember, even though you see "comprised of" often (even in <em>The New York Times</em>) careful writers use "composed of" and "comprises." </p> <p>Which phrasing do you prefer? </p> <p>Our <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/errorquests.html" target="_self" title="Learn more about Error Quests">Error Quests</a> booklet contains 50 short paragraphs, each with just one error. Test yourself! </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a> </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">January 12, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/frequently_asked_questions/">Frequently Asked Questions</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/grammar_and_usage/">Grammar and Usage</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/comprised-of-vs-composed-of-a-test.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/comprised-of-vs-composed-of-a-test.html#comments">Comments (5)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/comprised-of-vs-composed-of-a-test.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">January 06, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c72fd8ac970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/dont-make-us-slog-through-long-sentences.html">Don't Make Us Slog Through Long Sentences</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>People often complain about jargon slowing down and confusing readers. But long sentences create as much drag on readers as unexplained abbreviations.</p> <p>This opening sentence from a recent news article throws too much at readers at once: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">The frustration and defiance of the nation’s police officers were on display again Sunday in New York City, where tens of thousands of them gathered for the funeral of the second of two officers who were slain at the height of the ongoing protests and scrutiny after several high-profile deaths of unarmed black males.</p> <p>Count the ideas crammed into that 54-word sentence. How many do you notice? </p> <p>If it were a clear, clean sentence, you would count one or two ideas--not these four:  </p> <ol> <li>The frustration and defiance of the nation’s police officers were on display again Sunday in New York City.</li> <li>New York City is where tens of thousands of them gathered for the funeral of the second of two officers.</li> <li>The officers were slain at the height of the ongoing protests and scrutiny.</li> <li>The protests and scrutiny come after several high-profile deaths of unarmed black males.</li> </ol> <p>I was doing okay with the complicated sentence until "slain at the height of the ongoing protest" tripped me up. If the protests are ongoing, can we determine when the height is? I probably would have made it past that oddity if I were not already holding about 37 words' worth of ideas in my head, waiting for the conclusion. </p> <p>I like Ann Handley's comment on length. In her terrific book <em>Everybody Writes, </em>she states, "The longer the word, sentence, or paragraph, the longer the brain has to postpone comprehending ideas until it can reach a point where all of the words, together, make sense." That 30-word sentence is rich and dense, but it communicates just one idea, beautifully. </p> <p>Take a moment to break that news article sentence into several logically flowing ones, with each sentence communicating just one or two ideas. Try it before reading my revision below. Feel free to change the wording. </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p>My revision uses three sentences of 18, 17, and 17 words:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">The frustration and defiance of the nation’s police officers were on display again Sunday in New York City. Tens of thousands of them gathered there for the funeral of the second of two slain officers. The two were slain as protests and scrutiny continue, following several high-profile deaths of unarmed black males.</p> <p>Each of those short sentences allows readers to understand its meaning quickly. There is no need to suspend comprehension until a long-anticipated end.</p> <p>Don't make us slog through long sentences! </p> <p>Was your revision similar to mine? And do you have any long sentences to share? I would love to read any that are giving you trouble as a writer or reader. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">January 06, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/dont-make-us-slog-through-long-sentences.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/dont-make-us-slog-through-long-sentences.html#comments">Comments (6)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/01/dont-make-us-slog-through-long-sentences.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <div class="pager-bottom pager-entries pager content-nav"> <div class="pager-inner"> <span class="pager-right"> <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/page/2/"><span class="pager-label">Next</span> <span class="chevron">»</span></a> </span> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div id="gamma"> <div id="gamma-inner" class="pkg"> <!-- sidebar2 --> <!-- Google Search --> <script type = "text/javascript"> function clickFocus(input){ input.className = 'focus'; if (input.value == input.defaultValue){ input.value = ''; } } function unFocus(input){ input.className = 'entered'; if (input.value == ''){ input.value = input.defaultValue; input.className = 'normal'; } } </script> <form method="get" action="http://www.google.com/search"> <div class="googlebox"> <input type="hidden" name="ie" value="UTF-8" /> <input type="hidden" name="oe" value="UTF-8" /> <div align="center"><input type="text" name="q" size="14" maxlength="255" value="Search This Blog" class="searchbox" onfocus="clickFocus(this)" onblur="unFocus(this)" /> <input type="submit" name="btnG" value="Go" style="padding:0; margin:0; text-align:center; width:28px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-weight:bold; font-size:11px;" /></div> <span style="font-size:0px;"> <input type="hidden" name="domains" value="www.businesswritingblog.com" /> <input type="hidden" name="sitesearch" value="www.businesswritingblog.com" /> </span> <div align="center"> <a href="http://www.google.com/"><img src="http://www.google.com/logos/Logo_40wht.gif" alt="Google" width="128" height="53" border="0" /></a> </div> </div> </form> <!-- end Search --> <!-- photo adspot --> <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/heart.html"><img src="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/assets/images/business-writing-with-heart.png" alt="Business Writing with Heart - How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time" width="177" height="292" style="margin-left:8px;" title="Learn about Lynn’s award-winning book"/></a> <!-- End photo adspot --> <!-- rss / bookmarking --> <div class="subscribebox"><h2>Subscribe</h2> <!-- social subscribe --> <div id="followthis" style="text-align:center; padding:10px 0;"> <span class='st_twitterfollow' displayText='Twitter Follow' st_username='SyntaxLynn'></span> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/likebox.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsyntaxtraining&width=180&height=270&colorscheme=light&show_faces=true&header=true&stream=false&show_border=false&appId=649758471713658" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="padding:0; border:none; overflow:hidden; width:180px; height:270px;" allowTransparency="true"></iframe> </div> <!-- end social --> <div class="module-syndicate module" style="padding:0px; margin:0px;"> <div class="module-content" style="padding:4px 0px 0px 0px; margin:0px; border-bottom:0px #C4D4E5 solid;"> <strong style="font-size:13px;">By Email</strong><br /> <a href="http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=2863746&loc=en_US" target="_blank"><span style="font-size:12px; line-height:14px;">Have the latest posts delivered to your inbox!</span></a> <p> <strong style="font-size:13px;">By RSS Feed</strong><br /> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/businesswritingblog/BwB09" title="Works with all email clients such as Outlook, Yahoo! 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