3 Tips on How to Write Well

"Our organisation needed a more contemporary reimagining of our functional strategic hardware. This would involve recalibrating our KPIs and other quantifying and reporting mechanisms within the established framework in order to report back to the CEO and COO on or before COB on a date yet to be decided." (quoted in a church newssheet, August 2015)

This paragraph breaks so many rules about how to write well. How do we know that? Because it's unintelligible to anyone outside the organisation - and probably quite a few within!

Say what you mean

Let's look at the phrase, 'a more contemporary reimagining'.

As the process of reimagining takes place inside people's brains in real time, when is it never contemporary? Even the word 'contemporary' is contentious. It is synonymous with the word 'now' - it's impossible to be more 'now'.

If the writer of this paragraph meant to say that they needed to update their branding style, why not say so?

Written communication doesn't include the facial expressions, vocal intonation or body language to help with understanding when we speak to someone. The word must stand alone to communicate a message. So make sure it's simple and effective.

Acronymophobia (or TLA-itis)

If you don't know what acronymophobia is, don't worry. I just invented it for the feeling that overtakes me when I see and hear a surplus of three capital letters (or TLA, a three-letter acronym) in a row.

KPIs, CEOs, COOs, CFOs and COBs are standard business jargon and are appropriate when used in a business context. However, one must always be aware of the reader who doesn't know what they mean.

For many decades I worked in an industry that didn't use these terms. I now know that they refer to Key Performance Indicators, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Finance Officer and Close of Business.

Beware the Jargon!

The industry I used to work in was the Classical music scene. Some of my colleagues would introduce a wonderful piece to an audience like this:

The piece is in four movements. The first movement is a grand and stately Allegro maestoso and is in Sonata form, followed by a beautiful slow movement in the sub-dominant. We then have a Scherzo replacing the usual Minuet and ending with a Presto vivace that is rather fun to play.

I don't know about you, but I was almost asleep with boredom after such a description. Apart from a few adjectives, it says nothing about the piece - only musicians would understand the analytical terms.

Stieler, Joseph Karl: Beethoven mit der Missa solemnis Ölgemälde, 1819
Stieler, Joseph Karl: Beethoven mit der Missa solemnis Ölgemälde, 1819

Beethoven: boring, deaf, enjoying the countryside?

What the audience wanted to hear was whether Beethoven was deaf when he wrote it, how the slow movement describes his walks through the countryside and what is a Scherzo (it's an Italian word meaning 'joke').

How to write well

There are at least 10 blogs a week written on how to write well (which makes this the eleventh). The basic theme in all of them is - know your reader. Know who you are writing for - even create an avatar of them - and write to and for them. Not everyone has time, resources or the skills to write. If that is you, and you have blogs, newsletters or marketing that need quality content aimed at your target market, feel free to contact me at susan@creativetext.com.au.


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