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Tag Archive | how to write

Intelligence or emotion word choice | Vocabulary

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Business Writing Truths and Myths

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

For the 25 years I have taught classes in business writing, I have heard and rejected a few myths. And I have learned and applied some important truths. Don’t let yourself be fooled by false rules that others may follow. Recognize and apply what makes sense.  

Is each of the five statements below a truth, a myth, or a mix of both depending on the situation? You decide. Read More…

Effective communication is “BRIEF”

We send and receive dozens of e-mails and have tens of conversations daily. More often than not one needs to read an e-mail thoroughly several times before understanding the actions needed or despite carefully listening the ramble of someone misses the point of the conversation.

“43% of people who received long-winded emails deleted or ignored them.”

Be more effective in your communication by following the BRIEF rule.

Fast Company have created the following formula for better communicating your information and/or needs:

B (Background): Provide a quick context—what happened beforehand?

R (Reason): Explain why you’re contacting them now— why should they engage?

I (Information): Give two to three pieces of information. What are the three main points or bullets of the topic?

E (End): Decide what do you want to be remembered. Tell the next steps – you will do what OR you expect the other site to do what.

F (Follow-up): Try to predict the questions asked at the end of conversation or (as a reply to the message) and prepare answers in advance.

Read why less is more HERE.

No more boring sentences

write well, fiction, how to write, writer

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like we, as writers, do get so wrapped up in the actions, thoughts and relationships of our characters that we completely forget to dress it up. Sentences get so long-winded in action and thought that any descriptive narrative is just left in the dust. With this tutorial, we will remedy that. Hopefully.

You may ask: What am I to do? And I shall tell you: You just need to start small, using basic descriptive words and work up to more complicated and sophisticated sentence structures.

  • Let’s start with a plain, basic sentence.

Ollie sat underneath the tree.

  • Let’s replace Ollie with a pronoun and give the tree a species.

boy sat underneath the willow tree.

  • Ask yourself this. How old is the boy? Is he very young? Or is he more of a teen? Is the tree dying? Is it a young tree? Use words like “young” or “lively” to give your character (or any other living things in the scene) an age group and a starting point to visualizing your character for the reader. We’re just going to call the boy “young” for right now.

young boy sat underneath the willow tree.

  • Now we need some sort of action the boy (or the tree) could be doing. just sitting isn’t going to cut it. when adding more action to a sentence, it would range anywhere from a single word to an entire phrase. just make sure that when you add the action that it moves with the rest of the sentence in a coherent fashion and that there is proper punctuation to accommodate it. for our little example sentence, we’re going to add a phrase.

A young boy sat underneath the willow tree, watching a breeze.

  • “Watching the breeze” sounded all nice and fluffy when we first put it, but after we’ve read it a few times it sounds sort sort of ridiculous. One can’t literally watch a breeze, right? Here we can just add an action for the breeze to be doing simultaneously with the action of the boy. The boy doesn’t even have to have any awareness of what the breeze is doing at all. So, we will just change a few words around and add something for the breeze to do.

A young boy sat underneath the willow tree, as a breeze flitted through the bulrushes.

  • Now that you are starting to get the hand of this, we can just skip a bunch of the steps and get to the end part, where we have a lovely and descriptive sentence worthy of opening your post. Below, as you can see, we added a few more choice words, replaced some things and moved some phrases around.

As a gentle breeze flitted through the bulrushes, a young boy sat contemplating underneath the ancient willow tree.

How to write much better

write well, how to write, ielts, toefl, English exam, language, learn

or not.

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

2. Prepositions are not to end sentence with. 

3. Avoid clichès like the plague (They’re old hat.).

4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

5. One should never generalize.

6. Comparisons are as bad as clichès. 

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Sentence fragments. Eliminate.

9. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

10. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

11. Who needs rhetorical questions?

How to Ask a Stranger for a Favor

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
business-English learn correspondence, how to write email
I regularly receive email from strangers who would like answers to their writing questions or help with their writing. Some of the messages, like this one, annoy me: 

Send me the tips for taking effective minutes at meetings. Thanks.
As you can see, that message includes no greeting, no introduction, no close, no name, and no identifying information. 

The following message is just the opposite: 

Read More…

5 Weird Things About Writing That Actually Work

by KAMAL SUCHARAN BURRI

 Being a filmmaker and writer, I’ve discovered some ridiculous but enlightening tips that increase the potential of a writer. I was totally astonished by the fact that they worked for me.

1. Use a notepad for drafting, rather than a notebooknotebook

I’ve just noticed this a few days back. I have the habit of writing scripts in notebooks and sometimes in separate pages. One day I went to the bookshop and accidentally purchased the “NOTEPAD”, the one where you flip off pages vertically. I started writing on it; to my bewilderment the writing flow of mine was awesome. It might be due to fewer distractions from the previous page as I obviously flip off to the new page every time. I don’t know why, but trust me, it works. Read More…

How to Know What Belongs in Your Reports

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Imagine that someone asks you for a report. If the person who asks is your manager, you may know what he or she wants in the document. But if the individual is from the executive team or another department or even a client company, you may not know what or how much to include. Here are tips that will help you recognize the best content.  

1. Imagine that instead of a report, the individual asked to interview you on the topic. What do you think he or she would ask? For example, imagine that you just returned from a trip to another country to visit a division of your company, a client’s office, or a factory. What would the other person ask you?
Here are some ideas:
  1. What was the purpose of your trip?
  2. Where did you go? 
  3. When did you travel? 
  4. Who traveled with you? 
  5. With whom did you meet there? At what facilities?
    (The questions above are the basics, which you can cover briefly.)
  6. What did you accomplish on the trip?
  7. What did you learn
  8. What do you recommend based on your trip? 
  9. Overall, how useful was the trip?
  10. Does anyone need to follow up on the trip? If so, who? How? 
You can use this question method to recognize what belongs in any report. Here are sample questions for an update: 
  1. What is this report about?
  2. What time period does this report cover?
  3. Are things on track?
  4. What has been accomplished since the last report?
  5. Have any important events taken place?
  6. Have there been any problems or obstacles? If so, how have they been managed?
  7. Is there anything I need to worry about?
  8. Where can I get more information
If you are writing a very important report, such as one to the president of your organization, you may want to have someone else review your list of questions to see whether you are on target before you write the report.  

When you feel you have a good list of questions, you are ready to write a draft. Just answer the questions. You can even use parts of the questions for headings, for example, “Purpose of the Trip” and “Trip Dates.” 

2. Recognize the purpose of the report. Will your director use the report to make a decision about financing a project? Will another team use your report to design software tests? Will your peers read the report to incorporate information into a proposal? Will the report go into a file to document a current situation? Write a sentence that states the purpose of the report, and use that statement to help you recognize what must be included (and what should be left out) to support that purpose. 

3. Consider your larger purpose for writing the report. Think beyond the fact that you are writing the report to satisfy someone’s request or a job requirement. What would you like the report to do for you or others? For example, for the trip report: 
  • Is your purpose to help build a better relationship with the overseas office? 
  • Is your purpose to illustrate the critical need for more involvement with the factory? 
  • Do you want to show the monetary value of the trip to get approval for travel in your 2015 budget?
  • Do you want to impress your new manager with the clarity of your thinking and writing
As you think about what to include, keep your larger purpose in mind so that you can be sure your report supports that goal. 

4. Ask for a sample report if you are unsure what your reader wants. Especially if you are new in a job or have never written the kind of report requested, ask whether sample reports are available. Review those samples and notice what works for you as a reader. Pay special attention to the kind of information that is included and its relevance. 

5. Recognize that your readers have asked for a report–not a book. They want the essential information–not all the details. To restrain yourself from including too much, try these approaches: 
  • Leave out any information that does not answer a reader’s question. For instance, if your reader would not ask what hotel you stayed at or whether you had any great meals, do not include those details. 
  • Avoid using chronological order to report. Chronological order may cause you to include irrelevant details just because they happened.
  • Use headings, preferably descriptive headings such as “Recommendation: Send a Team to the 2015 Conference” and “Budget Required: $85,000.” Headings will stop you from including information that does not belong in that section.  
  • Summarize. For example, in a report on a client meeting, do not include he said-I said details. Instead, report agreements and outcomes. In a financial or technical report, do not include raw data in the body of the report. If it’s essential, put it in an appendix. 
  • Include links to more information and offers to provide more. For instance, in a report on a conference, link to the conference program or offer to provide certain conference handouts. 
  • Use fewer examples. One or two powerful examples can achieve your goal. Additional examples provide length–not strength. 
  • Use tables and charts rather than sentences to capture numerical information. Graphical illustrations help you leave out extraneous information. Be sure to label each graphic so its relevance is clear to you and your reader. 
When you succeed with a report, keep it in an electronic folder of model reports. Its success will give you confidence, and its strengths will inspire you the next time someone asks for a report. 
Business Writing With Heart won two Silver Benjamin Franklin Awards from the Independent Book Publishers Association last month. You can order the paperback book from Syntax Training or your favorite bookseller, and you can get the e-book and paperback from Amazon and  Barnes & Noble
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5 editor’s secrets to help you write like a pro

by

Professional writers get work because they hit their deadlines, they stay on their message, and they don’t throw too many tantrums. Some pros have a great writing voice or a superb style, but as often as not, that gets in the way. When you know that the best word is “prescient,” it’s hard to swallow when an account manager tells you the client won’t know what it means.

Professional writers rely on editors to fix their clunks. Like good gardeners, sensitive editors don’t hack away—we prune and gently shape. When we’ve done a great job, the page looks just like it did before, only better. It’s the page the writer intended to write.

Editing, like writing, takes time to learn. But here are five fixes I make with nearly every project. Learn to make them yourself and you’ll take your writing to a more professional, marketable, and persuasive level.

1. Sentences can only do one thing at a time.

Have you ever heard a four-year-old run out of breath before she can finish her thought? I edit a lot of sentences that work the same way. You need a noun, you need a verb, you might need an object. Give some serious thought to stopping right there.

Read More…

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