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…
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.
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.
A 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.
A 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.
Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Send me the tips for taking effective minutes at meetings. Thanks.
- What was the purpose of your trip?
- Where did you go?
- When did you travel?
- Who traveled with you?
- With whom did you meet there? At what facilities?
(The questions above are the basics, which you can cover briefly.)
- What did you accomplish on the trip?
- What did you learn?
- What do you recommend based on your trip?
- Overall, how useful was the trip?
- Does anyone need to follow up on the trip? If so, who? How?
- What is this report about?
- What time period does this report cover?
- Are things on track?
- What has been accomplished since the last report?
- Have any important events taken place?
- Have there been any problems or obstacles? If so, how have they been managed?
- Is there anything I need to worry about?
- Where can I get more information?
- 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?
- 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.