Thursday, July 16, 2009

12 Ways to Make Yourself Perfectly Clear, Part 3

Picking up where I left off yesterday, here are six more tips you can use to make your writing more appealing to Baby Boomers.

7. Learn to spell. It’s simply good manners to be an accurate speller, especially in an age when email and Twitter have encouraged people to get downright sloppy about spelling. Correct spelling shows that you care about your writing and have enough self-respect to use a dictionary when in doubt. Readers are sure to trip over a misspelled word because it sticks out like a sore thumb, and that’s guaranteed to derail the communication process. And, of course, don’t ever fully trust Spell Check in Word or any other program. The only proofreader you can rely on is yourself.

8. Listen to your writing. The ear loves clarity the way the nose loves freshly baked bread. Read your writing out loud so you can hear it flow. If it doesn’t sound good to you, it’s certainly not going to sound good to the reader. Elegantly rhythmic writing makes it easier for the reader to embrace and absorb what you’re trying to communicate. So be sure to choose your words and sentence construction with a tasteful ear so your writing really sings.

9. Give the reader concrete details. Your writing will always seem more real and less abstract when you engage and enliven the senses. Let the reader smell, feel, see, hear, and touch exactly what you are talking about. Don’t go overboard, though; a little of this goes a long way. Keep in mind that specifics are much clearer than generalities, and they give your writing more credibility, too.

10.Learn to cut without bleeding. It seems like the writer with the least to say often uses the most words to say it. But if you’re going to write like a pro, you have to be your own most ruthless editor. It’s easy to fall in love with your own words, but too many unnecessary ones just clutter the landscape and get in the way of what you’re writing about. Just remember that you’re conveying ideas not words, so make sure your writing gets directly to the point and stays there. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If it doesn’t move the Big Idea forward, cut it. Period.

11.Learn to use punctuation with good taste. Punctuation marks are like traffic signals that keep the reader’s eyes and thoughts flowing along the highways, side streets, and back roads of your writing. Whatever you’re writing about is unexplored territory for your audience, so be considerate. Tell the reader when to slow down or stop. And be consistent in the way you use punctuation—especially commas.

12. Maintain a unified point of view and voice. An orderly, logical flow paves the way for clarity, so once you get on track, stay there from start to finish. Your tone, style, and the tense of your verbs should also be consistent from beginning to end, unless you have a compelling reason to vary them. And your transitions from one sentence to the next and one paragraph to another should be logically consistent, as well.

Ultimately, there are no shortcuts to becoming a crystal clear writer. Use the tips I’ve given you as a starting point and do a lot more homework on your own. Then write and rewrite until everything you want to communicate is stated so perfectly that it’s simple, straightforward and easy to understand.

Is that clear?

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