Proofread and Edit like a Professional Writer
The main goal in writing is to put your message across clearly and concisely. Readers want an effortless, readable and clear writing style. Experts and authorities on good writing have a name for this style – plain English. Plain English is clear English – it is simple and direct but not simplistic.
Newspapers such as the Financial Times or the Washington Post; magazines such as The Economist, Time and Newsweek; and best-selling books use the straightforward, plain English style. Why? Because professional writers and editors know a clear style helps their readers understand and absorb the information presented.
Newspaper subeditors spend around 90 percent of their time improving articles by cutting, simplifying and rearranging the words into a clearer style.
Plain English is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. It is language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sentence construction. It is not baby talk, nor is it a simplified version of the English language. Writers of plain English let their audience concentrate on the message instead of being distracted by complicated language. They make sure that their audience understands the message easily.
– Professor Robert Eagleson
Is plain English too simple for my readers?
No. Many people think plain writing means it’s simplistic, boring or childish. But plain English is clear English. Plain English editing cuts the complexity and redundancy in your writing to leave a clear, streamlined and flowing style your readers can understand effortlessly. It’s the writing style of the best professional writers and communicators. Here are some articles and writing tutorials on how to write common documents in plain English:
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Just about anyone who writes. Research has shown:
- Managers claim that 80 percent of their employees lack good writing skills.
- Employees claim managers are poor writers, set bad examples and offer little guidance to improve their documents.
- Whole professions, lawyers, government officials, social scientists, computer technicians have reputations for bad writing and poor communication.
- But when people were asked if they had good writing and communications skills, everyone claimed they did.
If you use a word processor to write, StyleWriter offers you better quality documents.
StyleWriter is for anyone who writes:
- Advertisers for better ads, leaflets and press releases.
- Editors who want to use software to develop a house style.
- Journalists to check and polish their writing style.
- Judges for legal briefs to be just that – brief.
- Lawyers trying to break centuries of bad writing habits.
- Scientists who want to write clearly about complex issues.
- Social Scientists who want to sound human.
- Students wanting to get A-Grade essays.
- Technical Authors for shorter, readable documentation.
- You, if you want to learn the secrets of clear, direct language.
The secret to becoming a better writer is to use these principles to proofread and edit your draft. Here is a typical business memo. Good editing, using these principles cuts its length by more than half and results in a clearer style.
The Staff Booking Database
The main purpose of the Staff Booking Database (SBD) is for the recording of staff booking requests which in turn provides the total recurring audit cost for each client.
As a result of the recent merger that has taken place and hence the increase in the numbers of staff and clients, it is important that each business unit (BU) be used in such a way as to track and collate all staff movements.
The use of the SBD allows managers in each BU to rethink on an annual basis, the way the audit was performed and make any necessary amendments to the amount of staff and the mix of skills required for the following year.
Implementing a formal process and system will not only make sure that all staff are receiving the right type of experience and exposure as they progress, but it should also be of assistance in guaranteeing our clients are receiving the most suitable mix of staff.
Style Index: 128 (Dreadful)
Bog Index: 109 (Bad)
Reading Grade 17.7 (Difficult)
Passive Index 50 (Poor)
Jargon 2.4% (Fair)
Glue 51% (Too wordy)
Plain English Redraft
The Staff Booking Database
This Database records staff booking requests to calculate the audit costs for each client.
Because the merger increased our staff and client numbers, each business unit can now use the Staff Booking Database to track and collate staff movements.
The Database allows managers to rethink how they perform the audit each year and change the staff and skills needed the following year.
This yearly review makes sure employees have the right work experience and our clients receive the best staff to carry out each audit.
Words: 89 (59% shorter)
Style Index: 11 (Excellent)
Bog Index: 15 (Excellent)
Reading Grade: 11.1 – (Standard)
Passive Index: 0 (Excellent)
Jargon: 0.0% (Excellent)
Glue 38% (Concise)
Most organizations and individuals recognize customer letters, brochures, emails, management reports should be clear and concise. Yet most documents fail any basic, plain English test. Why?
The traditional response has been for employees to go on business writing courses and expect one day’s tuition to transform the way they think and write. In tests, people going on traditional business writing courses showed little improvement (typically only a short-lived 10 percent measured by StyleWriter’s ratings). A month later most participants fell back to their old habits.
There are many reasons for this failure. Here are the important ones:
- The culture of business and government encourages poor writing. Most people’s writing style comes from the documents they see around them. So unless you train everyone in effective writing, improving writing standards is difficult.
- Most people think they do write clearly, although at least 80 percent of documents in organizations are badly written and full of poor style faults.
- Managers often believe the problem is never with their writing style, but with the style of their staff. Managers happily send their staff to writing courses. But after the course, the managers continue to redraft the new, clearer style back into management-speak. The unspoken message to the person trying to write clearly is: “Don’t write clearly, write as I do.”
- Most writers are so close to their jargon and style they cannot see their writing faults. They have no idea why others find their documents difficult to read and understand.
- Many people believe the long-winded, complex style of business and government is the expected and agreed style. Many employees look at existing documents and copy the style. This means people who normally speak clearly and write well, quickly pick up the stilted style of their colleagues.
- Many people learned to write at university and college where length and an impressive vocabulary seemed to be
a virtue. Yet in the workplace, everyone wants short, clear documents to communicate quickly and efficiently.
- Only one person in 50 attends training in effective writing. Organizing and running courses is time-consuming and expensive. If you use outside consultants to run them, they can cost up to $1,500 for ten people. Plain language software is much more economical.
- There’s no backup to writing training. Most people only remember one-third of the training ideas and put even fewer into practice. Plain English editing software means writers constantly learn ways to improve their style.
To guarantee everyone in an organization writes clearly, you need to change
the communication culture, train staff and give them the tools to back up
the training. This has proved impossible without good writing software.
In the same way running a spelling checker on your word processor
guarantees everyone writes without typing and spelling mistakes,
plain English writing software like StyleWriter can guarantee the
benefits of clear writing.
I work as a senior marketing manager at a Fortune 500 company.
StyleWriter showed us we’re not very good – no we’re dreadful –
at communicating with our customers. Since using StyleWriter,
I’ve gained the skill of writing clearly. It’s like shining a
searchlight through a sea of corporate fog.
– Marketing Executive