Sunday, October 30, 2016

Am I Supposed to Know What That Means?

A little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way for business and technical writers. Are you unsure of what some of these terms mean?

  • adze (from carpentry)
  • anaphylaxis (from medicine)
  • capias mittimus (from law)
  • consist (from railroad)
  • critical path method (from project management)
  • metacognition (from education)
  • phenotype (from biology)
  • recidivism (from corrections)

If you don't know them all, and even if you do, remember to define your technical terms for unfamiliar readers the next time you write.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tips from Fiction Writers

Whether you are a serious novelist, dramatist, poet, journalist, memoirist, or business writer, you will find the Twenty Writing Tips from Fiction Authors helpful. Suggestions like "Read everything you can lay your hands on" and "Protect the time and space in which you write" are timeless, inspirational, and practical.   

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to Get to My Webinars

Since I often get the question about where my webinars are available online, I have decided to share some of those key places:
Other webinar sites are available for the asking.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

What's a MOOC?

Coursera and EdX, premier sites of practical massive open online courses (MOOCs), offer several helpful full-semester writing courses. If you want to sharpen your writing skills conveniently and inexpensively, you can start here:



Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Courage (or Insanity) of Using Active Voice

Auditors can be in a tricky position when auditing the very people who pay them. We often hear that active voice is better than passive. But which of these sentences would you choose when writing to a client you are auditing?
Active: The CFO directs Accounts Payable to withhold vendor checks until 30 days past the due date.
Passive: Vendor checks are withheld until 30 days past the due date.
Of course, the active version is clearer because it indicates the guilty party, but you might want to choose the more diplomatic passive version in this case—unless you want your check to be withheld until 60 days past the due date. 

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Focus Your Purpose, Part 2: Make It One Sentence

Regardless of its length, a business message should have only one purpose. This means we do not want to split our purpose among different sentences. Here is an example of an unfocused purpose:
This document describes the protocol for Procedure X. It also ensures operational safety and efficiency.
The writer seems to believe the messages has a dual purpose, to describe a protocol and to achieve two operational benefits. But the benefits are actually the result of following the protocol. The purpose would have been more focused if he had written one of these sentences:
This protocol for Procedure X ensures operational safety and efficiency.
To ensure operational safety and efficiency, follow this protocol for Procedure X.
Follow this protocol for Procedure X to ensure operational safety and efficiency. 
Building on the previous WORDS ON THE LINE post, the idea is start the message with the purpose, and to assert it in one sentence.