Why Parallel Structure Matters You’re unlikely to be praised for writing lists using parallel structure. Yet fail to do so, and people will take note. It’s easy to recognize lists that are not parallel because they don’t make sense or sound right. As a result, your writing will come across as sloppy and confusing. . . . → Read More: The Hidden Value of Writing Lists in Parallel Structure
The Problem When writing procedures, a surefire way to create confusion is to assume that your readers can complete multi-step activities without explicit instructions. When you make this assumption, you risk creating confusion, frustration, and inaction. You’ll also burden other employees, subject matter experts, and/or help desk workers with unnecessary questions. This defeats the . . . → Read More: Never Assume Knowledge
It Works Like Magic When writing procedures, an ample use of white space can transform a cluttered confusing mess into a beautiful set of instructions. By increasing the readability (reading ease) of your procedures, you reduce confusion which helps your readers be more productive. The simple step of adding nothing (empty space) can magically . . . → Read More: White Space – How to Make Something from Nothing
A Small Investment Now Well written procedures (instructions) are worth their weight in gold, so to speak. Think about it. A single set of instructions can be used over and over by dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of employees (or customers) over a period of many years, with no additional effort or expense. By . . . → Read More: Cumulative Return on Investment (ROI)
An engineer at the United States Norfolk Naval Base asked, “Why are so many procedure manuals impossible to read?”
The answer is two-fold. First, most instructions are written from the wrong point of view:
Users want a reading as I work viewpoint that answers the simple question, “What do I do next?” (Think recipe . . . → Read More: With Procedure Writing, Point of View is Everything
A Sure Way to Confuse Your Readers In school and throughout our lives, we’ve learned to write using the academic model, i.e., introduction, body, and conclusion. In business writing, this approach greatly limits our ability to get things done.
We can think of the academic model as a movie, where the plot gradually builds . . . → Read More: How to Write from the Readers’ Perspective
Vague Niceties Lead to Inaction When a friend ends an email with a vague statement like, “We should get together sometime.” what happens? Nothing! Until someone offers a more specific suggestion, e.g., “Are you free on Saturday?” any talk about getting together is just a nicety.
Business Writing is No Different The same . . . → Read More: Get Things Done by Communicating a Sense of Urgency
The Productivity Problem Poorly written emails create confusion, hinder progress, and derail projects. Most people ramble as they type in the hope that something will get done.
The Productivity Solution Well-written emails, on the other hand, help people solve problems, meet important deadlines, and keep projects on target. When you write, remember: clear writing . . . → Read More: The Productivity Checklist
Eighty percent of all emails and reports that you write has a list of key points. This could be a list of reasons, alternatives, findings, conclusions, chronological events (background), steps in a process, and so forth. How you frame your list determines whether people will understand it. Most people hide their list buried within . . . → Read More: Find Your Hidden List
Finesse with Tone Tone is the Sweet in the KISS principle: Keep it Short and Sweet. This principle reminds you to get things done in paragraph one using a positive tone. Tone is not what you say; it’s how you say it.
Your tone should create a spirit of cooperation and leave your readers . . . → Read More: Finesse With Tone