Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Art of On-the-Job Writing, Part 5

The Art of On-the-Job Writing by writing consultant Philip Vassallo has been the recent focus of the WORDS ON THE LINE blog. The 231-page book provides numerous tips on getting started, organizing ideas, writing purposefully, editing difficult sentences, and a host of other work-related writing issues.

Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter 5, “Editing”:

The best advice any editor would give to fledgling on-the-job writers is this: “Read your document aloud to hear how it will sound to your reader; if you stumble over your words, so will your reader.” If you’ve revised carefully, chances are the idea is fine, but only the expression of the idea is off. Fix it the natural way. Interpret its meaning and restate it as if the reader were sitting in front of you. For example, say you wrote the following sentence:

As per Jim Armstrong’s request, the reason why I am writing this memo is to instruct you as to the proper methodology for installing a DVD drive into your laptop computer.

Most people do not talk like this. How would you actually say this to a reader? Probably something like this:

Jim Armstrong asked that I provide the following instructions for installing a DVD drive in your laptop computer.

Not only does the language sound more natural, but also you’ve reduced the word count from 31 to 18, and you’ve communicated more directly and clearly to your reader. You do not have to be a grammar expert dissecting sentences to edit documents successfully; you just have to rely on your natural fluency with the spoken word. Editing is no more mysterious than writing it like you would say it.

You may purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by clicking here: