Making the World More Understandable

Writing Powerfully

LitPencilWriting powerfully is not the same as having a powerful message. Instead, it is conveying a message – any message – in a way that everyone who should understand it does understand it.

The first rule is to Be Clear. Do not use technical language unless you know your audience understands it. As an example from my previous life as a Mining Engineer: hydrophobic. If I were writing a paper for a group of mineral process engineers (the people who separate the dirt for the valuable stuff) I could use that word and everyone would know exactly what I meant. For the rest of the world, hydrophobic is a property of something that repels water – like oil.

The same is true for words with many syllables. You may have an excellent vocabulary, and your readers my have excellent vocabularies, but that does not mean that you have the same excellent vocabulary. Avoid confusion, use the simple words.

Next, when writing in Word, use the Grammar Check. And turn on some of the style checks – especially the check for passive voice. Unfortunately, Word does not make suggestions for removing passive voice, but you will become a better writer figuring it out with each case. The problem with avoiding the passive voice is that you (or, at least I) can end up writing lots of fragments. Check for fragments, but do not be afraid of them. If your previous sentence implies the subject, and if you are not confusing your reader, an occasional fragment is fine. The other style to check is long sentences. Unless you have a very clear list, using semicolons, cut those long ones back. Even if you have a very clear list, using semicolons, think about using bullet points instead.

Get To The Point. I am not talking about poetry here; I am talking about conveying a message understandably. So, skip the flowery language, extra words, and compound sentences. Say what needs saying and stop. But, do not be rude either.

Following these points does not guarantee a powerful document, but not following them will make your document hard to read.

– Lorrie Nicoles

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