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close this bookHundred Tips for a Better Management (Aga Khan Foundation, 1993, 70 pages)
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View the document66. Learn to write effectively
View the document67. Write clear instructions

66. Learn to write effectively

[References - 55]

Clear writing is clear thinking. (Anonymous)

Learn to write well, or not to write at all. (John Dryden, English poet.)

The great art in writing well, is to know when to stop. (Josh Billings, Writer.)

People make judgements about you from the way you write even the shortest memo. And, of course, sloppy, ineffective writing can cause all kinds of misunderstanding, confusion and take a great deal of effort to correct. Writing effectively means that your thoughts are clear, concise, and prepared as quickly and efficiently as possible.

If you would like to improve your writing, here are some tips to help you.

  • Know your subject matter. Don't begin writing until you know what you are going to say. Take ten minutes to develop an outline of the key points that you want to make. Make sure that the sequence of these points is logical. If not, reorganise them. Then fill in the key points you want to make under each main point.

  • Reduce the amount of material. Look over your points and the evidence or data that you plan to present to back up your argument. Is everything necessary? Can you eliminate some supporting data? Don't let your writing become bogged down by a large number of facts. Just present the minimum needed to support your position. Drop the rest. You only need to make your point once. Don't confuse the reader by restating the same point several times, especially in different ways.

  • Keep the reader in mind. Be clear who your audience is and write to that person or group. Tell the reader what he or she needs to know. Don't waste the reader's time by repeating what he or she already knows or does not need to know.

  • Keep it simple and active. Make your sentences short. Don't use big words. Make only one point in a sentence. Use the active tense (subject-verb-object) as much as possible, like, "John wrote the letter," rather than the passive (object-verb-subject), "the letter was written by John."

  • Don't forget to edit heavily. Take the time to read what you wrote and revise it to make it clearer and shorter. If you know someone who is a professional writer, ask him or her to edit your work and to explain any changes made. You can quickly learn a lot about clear writing this way.