Here’s another example of good writing. I found this set of rules just inside the door of a conference room at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where I was teaching Better Business Writing this week.
Conference Room Rules
If you use it, you are responsible to:
- Clean up after use, including catering items.
- Wipe table with a damp rag when necessary.
- Put all trash in the garbage.
- Push the chairs back into the table.
- Erase the white board.
- Turn the lights off.
We do not have a custodial service to clean between meetings, so your attention to these simple details will be appreciated by the next user.
Airport Facilities Manager
That brief set of steps is everything it needs to be. It’s short, just 83 words from beginning to end. It lists each of the actions the reader should take, and each action begins with a simple verb (clean, wipe, etc.). It’s clear and courteous.
Another great feature of this set of rules is its placement–on the wall just inside the door. People who use the room can’t miss it–when they are leaving, it’s right there at eye level to tell them what to do. Yet it doesn’t distract people during a meeting, and it doesn’t get in the way on a table.
Procedures or steps often fail because they aren’t in the right place at the right time. For example, emailing these rules would not make sense. People only need them when they are finished using the room.
I would make just one change in the opening words. I would write "If you use this room" rather that "If you use it." Although "it" is clear, I prefer the precision of naming "this room."
As I just reread the rules, I noticed that they could be used in many conference rooms. That’s another excellent feature. The shop that creates the signs can use this message repeatedly rather than tailoring messages to individual rooms.
Nice job, Port of Seattle! Your sign encouraged me to leave the conference room just as I had found it–clean and ready for use.