A Newsletter Dedicated to Helping Businesspeople Write Smarter and Faster in Plain Language
Ten Writing Reminders (Part 2)
Last month’s Writing Tips included the first five “writing reminders” in Joan Stewart’s article, “10 Easy Solutions to Business Writing Problems.” Here are the remaining five:
6. Remove speed bumps.
Look for the forms of the verb “to be” (is, was and were), especially near the beginning of sentences. Try to replace each one with a stronger verb, even if you must rewrite the sentence.
Weak: The delivery man is frightened by the noises he hears in the dark factory.
Strong: In the dark factory, the delivery man hears noises that frighten him.
7. Cut unnecessary words.
Edit text to remove unwarranted wordiness. Pretend you can earn a $1 for every word you remove. How much money can you make?
Change “due to the fact that” to “since.”
Substitute “fast” for “on a timely basis.”
Change “at the present time” to “now.”
8. Write in the active voice not the passive voice.
In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action expressed by the verb. In the passive voice, the subject is acted upon. Using the active voice leads to crisper, livelier writing.
Active voice: The cleaning crew throws scrap paper into the recycling bins.
Passive voice: Scrap paper is thrown into the recycling bins by the cleaning crew.
9. Provide sufficient details to explain points.
Don’t write in vague terms.
Weak: It took us a long time to read the thick proposal.
Strong: We spent two hours reading the 25-page proposal.
10. Trim down big blocks of uninviting type.
For some readers, fat paragraphs convey an unpleasant message: “This is going to be difficult to read.”
Slice and dice large paragraphs into shorter ones.
Break up copy with subheads that tell readers how the piece is organized.
Consider creating numbered or bulleted lists that are easy to read.
- The earliest recorded festivities for ringing in a New Year date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.
- For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year.
- Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world chose an agricultural or astronomical event as the first day of a new year. In Egypt, for example, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile.
- In 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar chose January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future.
- The dropping of a ball each New Year’s Eve in Times Square began in 1907. The first ball was a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb, but today’s ball is a sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing nearly 12,000 pounds.
- Which country is the last one to reach 12 midnight on New Year’s Eve: Mongolia, American Samoa, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea?
(Fun Facts Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
Word of the Month
reprise | rih-PREEZ | noun
• a repeated performance; recurrence; renewal
“Keith’s motivational speech to the sales staff was a reprise of the one he gave last year and therefore not well received.”
Wacky & Wise Websites
Click here to watch a video that shows how truly massive the Pacific Ocean really is.
Click here to learn all about the history of nachos.
American Express, Amgen, Cisco Systems, Department of the Navy, Fluor Corporation, General Electric, Motorola, The New York Public Library, Procter & Gamble, SEAL Team Six, State of Utah, Supreme Court of Virginia, United Way, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Writing Tips & More
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SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Select the pair of words that expresses a relationship similar to that expressed in the original pair.
ABSTRUSE : COMPREHEND
- antique : renovate
- valid : authenticate
- indistinct : discern
- unethical : expurgate
- practical : utilize
(SAT Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
On July 1, 1946, the United States conducted the first post-war test of an atomic weapon at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Four days after the test, fashion designer Jacques Heim exhibited a two-piece swimsuit which he dubbed the bikini in an attempt to ride the publicity wave created by the well-publicized detonation. Months earlier, Heim had marketed another two-piece swimsuit that he named the Atome, because it was so small. Heim, however, did not invent the style of suit; skimpy two-piece bathing suits had been in existence since at least the 1930s.
Answer: Just as something abstruse is difficult to comprehend, something indistinct is difficult to discern.
Fun Facts Answer