Making Writing Easier to Read

Quick mechanical fixes
In today’s world, the demands on our attention are greater than ever. We receive information from many sources at any time of the day. There is so much information, we must choose which information we will read carefully and which information we will pass over.

But when you write an email, proposal, report or other type of business writing, you need it to be read carefully. Here are a few simple mechanical changes that make your writing easier to read.

Use acronyms sparingly
It’s ironic that something devised to make our lives simpler, can actually lead to more work. Acronyms are great if your readers recognize them immediately. But if they have to look up the acronym to find out what it means, you risk losing them altogether.

Most of us have come across this problem, especially when we’re new to a company or a specialized field of study. We’re given an important report or procedure, and it’s loaded with acronyms. Within a few paragraphs, we are exhausted and frustrated. We feel like secret agents trying to decipher code. The risk of losing your readers is not worth the letters saved.

Choose the best word
Sometimes when a writer is not certain of the best word, they offer their readers alternatives. Here are a few examples: “question/quandary”, “shifty/flexible”, and “writer/wordsmith”. This is like asking the reader to do the writer’s job. As the writer, it’s up to you to choose the best word.

Most people when they come across this kind of writing distrust the writer. If the writer wasn’t willing to work at choosing the best word, how can we trust that their ideas have been given the rigor they deserve?

Lead the way with meaningful headings
Even the shortest report can be made more readable by inserting headings. This gives the reader context, shows the basic structure of your logic, and allows the reader to skim content. If the headings are compelling, they will draw people in to read the details.

Simplify with lists
Bulleted and numbered lists are a great way to make your writing easier to read. This strategy works well regardless of the length of the document. Emails, reports and manuals are all improved by careful use of lists.

When you’re using bulletted points, choose an attention-grabbing stem and stick to parallel construction. If the first point in your list begins with a verb, all of the points should.

Readers need to be able to:

  • Trust your writing skills
  • Find the main points
  • See the logical structure of your ideas
  • Scan the content

Use tables and infographics
Complex information can often be presented more clearly in a simple table or infographic. The value of graphic layouts comes from the structure they provide. This fosters understanding.

Many of the strategies for improving business writing rely on a deeper understanding of grammar and other technical skills. But these mechanical fixes are simpler and they yield powerful results.

© Debbie Bateman 2019. Image purchased from Adobe Stock.

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