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Help Them Organize Their Writing

Many supervisors and managers ask me for help when their employees can’t organize information. Of course, organization depends on the document. But here are five solutions I offer supervisors and managers to help employees organize their messages.

  1. Insist that every document get to the point within 50 words. Tell employees you won’t read a document that doesn’t get to the point right away.
  2. Insist that employees use headings in reports, recommendations, and other messages to make information skimmable. Headings will force them to categorize information.
  3. Allow just one main idea per paragraph. In disorganized messages, a mishmash of ideas packs each paragraph.
  4. Allow just one idea per sentence. With just one idea in it, almost any sentence can get organized.
  5. Limit the words per sentence–no more than 15 to 20 words on average. It’s hard for short sentences to get out of hand.

For detailed ways to organize your business writing–or someone else’s–read my latest newsletter. The feature article is “Organize Information the Easy Way.” Although the information is valuable for business writers, the newsletter is free. Besides that, I don’t use your email address for anything besides sending you the newsletterI promise.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.