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Viewing posts for category: Writing Best Practices

What Clear Writing Looks Like - Part One

Do you know what clear writing looks like? Do you know when a sentence needs to be rewritten in plain language? In this three-part series on “what clear writing looks like”, we want to give you an opportunity to test your editing skills.

At IWCC, clients and writing-workshop participants often ask us to assess writing style. We teach participants that style falls into two categories:

  • High Impact style – concise, to-the-point, plain language that is easy-to- understand
  • Low Impact style – vague, puzzling language that is confusing and difficult to understand

We thought you might like a chance to assess some sentences. Complete the task below to give it a try.

Your Task – Demonstrate your ability to perceive and evaluate style differences – what’s clear High Impact style and what’s Low Impact style.

Your Instructions – You are giving feedback to business writers in your organization. Follow the link to our survey "Giving Feedback to Business Writers". Read each sentence in the survey and indicate whether you think the sentence needs work or whether you think it is written in a clear, plain-language style.

Giving Feedback to Business Writers Survey

In our next blog, we will review your choices. Join us on February 21 for part two of this series.

Posted: February 7, 2013 at 09:11 AM
By: IWCC Training
(1) Comment/s | Categories: Writing Best Practices
No excuses about your communication skills – not this year!

We make New Year’s resolutions about things we feel are important…losing weight, exercising, saving money, planning effectively, etc. What about communication? In order to accomplish anything, we have to be good communicators. Have you made resolutions about that? Maybe you should. Here are some ideas to get you started. First, an overriding vow:

”I vow to stop taking communication for granted and give it the respect it deserves. I will no longer make excuses that I don’t have time to apply the techniques that I know will help my readers, my listeners and me – no matter how busy I am.”

“I will stop” Resolutions…
Here are three habits you might want to stop in 2013:

  • I will stop frivolously sending e-mail without thought or planning.
  • I will stop thinking about what I want to tell my readers/listeners and consider what they need.
  • I will stop using “Any Questions?” as a close for my presentations.

“I will start” Resolutions…
You may resolve to establish some good communication habits in 2013. Below are some ideas for writing e-mail, delivering presentations and leading meetings.

Goals for Improving Your E-mail Communications
Here are some good habits for writing e-mail that you might consider adopting:

  • Taking a few moments to plan each e-mail before sending
  • Thinking about what your readers need to know (not what you want to tell them)
  • Using more descriptive subject lines
  • Including a statement telling your reader about the topic and how urgently you need a response
  • Checking that you have used a professional and constructive tone

Goals for Improving Your Presentations
Presentations give you opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge and establish your credibility. To polish your presentation skills, you might consider:

  • Taking care to keep your words, voice and tone and body language in sync so they are all sending the same message
  • Planning questions ahead of time to ensure you involve your audience
  • Listening respectfully and actively to others - even when you don’t agree with them

Goals for Better Meetings
As meetings are such time-consuming events, you might also consider sprucing up some of your meeting habits. As a good leader, make an agreement with yourself to:

  • Only have meetings when a meeting is the best way to accomplish the task at hand
  • Send out an agenda ahead of the meeting and ensure all attendees are clear about the objective
  • Stick to the agenda and pre-announced meeting start and stop times

Let’s make 2013 the year of clear communication. You know what you need to do to improve your communications at work. So stop procrastinating and do it! Or stop doing it!

Posted: January 10, 2013 at 12:16 PM
By: IWCC Training
(0) Comment/s | Categories: Meeting Skills Series Presentation Skills Series Writing Best Practices
Trip Through Time - Describe YOU

You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere.
— Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca definitely knew what he was talking about. In business, people develop an impression of you through your communication skills – your ability to impart what you know and what you can do.

In IWCC’s communication skills workshops, we often ask our participants to travel through time with us to learn about the image they reflect through their communications. Here’s your chance to take the trip…

Let’s say that it is December 7, 2013. You happen to be sitting in a room filled with people who have been receiving communications from you all year. Some of them have never met you face-to-face. They have been reading your e-mails and reports, and some of them have attended your presentations. As luck would have it, they are all talking about you and your work. The intriguing part of this trip is that you are invisible. You can see and hear what everyone is saying about you, but they cannot see or hear you.

What words or phrases would you like to hear them use to describe “YOU” and your work?

Now you need to get busy! It’s time for you to brainstorm all the words and phrases you would like to hear these folks using to describe you.  I will give you a few minutes to brainstorm. And, don’t be afraid to be a little outrageous!

Now look through your list of words and highlight your top three … the three words or phrases you would like to hear people use over and over to describe you and your work. Now, review those top three. Can you reflect those images in your written documents and/or through your presentation skills?

Of course you can!

The sobering side of this exercise is that you can also reflect the exact opposite of these images. If you want people to view you in a particular way, you have to represent that image or brand through everything you do, everything you write and everything you say.

Now, let’s return to today, 2012. Here is our challenge to you:

  1. Gather a variety of samples of your writing – e-mail, reports, proposals, texts – anything you write. Read them as if you are seeing them for the first time. If you were the reader, would you use your three favourite words or phrases to describe you?
  2. Look at a video of a presentation you have delivered…or video your next presentation. If you were a listener in the audience, would you leave that presentation using your three favourite words or phrases to describe you?

Are you reflecting the image you want through your communication skills? If not, now is the time to start.

Posted: December 7, 2012 at 09:29 AM
By: IWCC Training
(0) Comment/s | Categories: Meeting Skills Series Presentation Skills Series Writing Best Practices
"Less is more" quiz - the answers

Have you been more judicious about using lengthy phrases over the last two weeks? Read below to see if your responses to the “less is more quiz” are similar to ours.

First, here is the answer to the definition question…

This is the definition for what word: “the use of more words than necessary to express something”?

The answer is “circumlocution”. Yes, that’s right, when you use lengthy phrases along the lines of  like the ones below, you are guilty of “circumlocution”. Now there’s a simple word for you!

Here are some possible ways to shorten the phrases in our “less is more quiz” 

with the exception of                   except                               

afforded an opportunity to          allowed

until such time as                        when

provide an introduction               introduce

on a regular basis                       regularly

the majority of                               most

furnish an explanation for           explain

as a consequence of                   because

at an early date                              soon (or say the date)

at the present time                        now, currently

despite the fact that                       though, although

due to the fact that                         because, as

during which time                          while

for the duration of                           during, while

for the purpose of                           to, for


for the reason that                            because

on numerous occasions                 often, frequently

on receipt of                                        when we/you get

on the grounds that                           because

along the lines of                                similarly, like

on the occasion that                           when, if

until such time                                     until

with reference to                                  about

with respect to                                      about, for

you are requested                                please

In the near future                                  soon

let me draw your attention to              please see, please notice, look at

had to place a restriction on               restricted

are in concurrence with                       concur, agree

came to the realization that                 realized

conducted a review of                          reviewed                       

Thanks for sharing your wordy phrases with us. And as you write, think about your readers – they want clear and concise – not circumlocution!

Posted: November 8, 2012 at 11:31 AM
By: IWCC Training
(1) Comment/s | Categories: Writing Best Practices
Do you use more words than you need to express ideas?

Here is a fun BLOG to test how succinct you can be. Many business writers today often use more words than necessary to express an idea. Sometimes they may be trying not to sound too direct…other times they just don’t realize they are doing it. Let me give you an example:

a)    In the event that you need to carry out an analysis of the department’s processes in the near future, I will be the representative for the sales team.
b)    If you need to analyze the department’s processes soon, I will represent the sales team.

Sentence “a” above uses 28 words to say what sentence “b” says in 15 words.

“So what” you ask? Put your reader’s hat on for a moment and think about all the messages you receive every day. Does it matter to you if the e-mails you receive are almost twice as long as they need to be? You don’t need to answer that…we know the answer. YES, it matters!

Readers today want clear and concise. And when reading messages on Smartphones and tablets, readers want mega-clear and mega-concise. They definitely think it matters!

Our job as good writers is to give our readers what they need and want. Take the “less is more” quiz below and start conserving words to help your readers.

First question on your quiz:

This is the definition for what word: “the use of more words than necessary to express something”? _______________________________

Okay, now down to the business of shortening wordy phrases. Below we have listed a few of the drawn-out phrases that we often see from participants in our writing workshops. How would you shorten these phrases? Try to replace each phrase with one word, if you can. Tune in to our next BLOG, November 8, to see IWCC’s answers to the quiz.

with the exception of     ______________________
afforded an opportunity to ____________________

until such time as   __________________________            

provide an introduction    _____________________

on a regular basis    _________________________             

the majority of    ____________________________                  

for the purpose of   __________________________           

furnish an explanation for   ____________________

as a consequence of  ________________________       

at an early date  ____________________________                 

at the present time  _________________________         

despite the fact that  ________________________       

due to the fact that  _________________________         

during which time  ___________________________            

for the duration of  ___________________________  

for the purpose of   __________________________     

for the reason that     ________________________

on numerous occasions    _____________________

on receipt of    ______________________________              

on the grounds that     _______________________        

along the lines of ___________________________

on the occasion that  ________________________           

until such time  _____________________________                

with reference to   __________________________              

with respect to _____________________________                

you are requested  __________________________            

In the near future    _________________________

let me draw your attention to  _________________

had to place a restriction on  __________________

are in concurrence with  ______________________

came to the realization that  __________________

conducted a review of    ______________________

Do you have any examples of “using a bunch of words” when one or two will do? Respond to our BLOG and send in your words. Remember, we will include our answers to the quiz in our next BLOG.

Posted: October 25, 2012 at 02:19 PM
By: IWCC Training
(1) Comment/s | Categories: Writing Best Practices

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