Archives for posts with tag: business writing

Mrs. Halverson taught my fourth grade class. I fell in love with writing that year. And I am pretty sure it was because of the way she made writing and story telling come alive.

When I think back to the lessons I learned that year, three stand out that remain just as relevant now for me and my work. And because so many of us must write, blog, communicate and create content, these three things are great reminders for almost all of us grown-ups (who know a lot but sometimes forget the basics we learned in the first place.)

So, next time you need to create content or write something, take some tips from Mrs. Halverson and do these three things:

Start with a topic sentence

When you use a topic sentence to start each paragraph, it helps you write the rest of the paragraph. Here’s how you do it: Pick the one idea you want to get across in that paragraph. And then summarize it. That becomes the topic sentence. It is most convenient as the first sentence. Like the CEO of the paragraph, the topic sentence sets the tone, the direction and tasks of the other sentences in the paragraph.

A topic sentence helps readers, too. A good topic sentence directs the focus of a paragraph and signals what’s coming. It prepares the people reading your work for the information the rest of the paragraph gives. That means readers don’t have to work as hard to grasp the meaning. Why? Because all of the thoughts in a paragraph relate to each other and flow coherently from the main thought that started it.

(By the way, both of the paragraphs above start with a clear topic sentence that makes one point. And the rest of the sentences support that point with additional detail. Easier to write. Easier to read!)

Spot barks

Nothing is simpler in writing English than using this construction: subject/verb. Grass grows. Children play. Sun rises.

Even with an object that says what the subject did to (or with or about) something, it’s still joyfully simple. I cut the grass. The children played outside. The sun rose today.

When you get tangled up in a sentence and don’t know how to make it better, break it into more than one sentence. Then start each one with a subject followed by a verb. I promise you that doing this will let you make your point. It will also let your readers understand your point.

Here’s an example (with a topic sentence)

Fear hides sometimes. We dread change. We avoid new things. We form habits. And we like routines. We prefer what we know. Fear lurks in the unknown. We don’t always admit our fears. But our fears govern us, nonetheless. Sometimes we know it. Other times we don’t. Things that stay in the shadows stay scary.

Make it fun

Kids write stories for fun. They use their imaginations. They dream up amazing characters. And they love to tell people about their ideas. Remember that? Part of what made me love writing in Mrs. Halverson’s class was that it was just so darn fun.

We can all choose to reclaim some of that joy. Shake off some of the weight about writing that’s piled on top of many of us. Create like you can’t wait to show somebody. And have some fun.

Here’s another post about what to do when you get stuck for ideas.

Let me know if these three lessons help. I blog and Tweet about creating good content, among other things. So if you liked this post, please follow me for more ideas. I’m on Twitter here.

The advice to avoid jargon in writing is age-old and common. But it’s also smart.

We send out press releases, blog posts or content aimed at audiences because we want people to actually read and grasp the information and act on it in some way. That can’t happen if they have to struggle, even a little bit, to understand the message.

Knowing we’re supposed to banish jargon is the easy part. Doing it, though, can be excruciatingly hard – especially when a deadline looms.

So, here are 15 of the worst culprits from corporate communication, in my view. These words and phrases should never appear in a press release, email or other tool used to convey information.

Here, too, are suggestions for replacements for each one. The substitutes are not exact synonyms, in many cases. But, they are simple and clear words that could work in place of the jargon. Next time you get stuck and can’t find a way around “mission-critical” just take out this list and try to swap that phrase with something clearer.

       Kill          Use

  1. leverage  ➙ get, gain, use, pull, win, do, take
  2. utilize  ➙ use, show, fill, take, apply, push, work
  3. end-user  ➙ client, customer, audience, shopper, buyer
  4. synergy  ➙ team, powerful, effective, stronger, more, together
  5. strategic  ➙ smart, sharp, strong, vital, savvy, wise, clever
  6. best-practice  ➙ successful, prime, proven, winning, tested, solid
  7. mission-critical  ➙ main, big, major, central, chief, crucial
  8. win-win  ➙ good, smart, strong, clear, sound, skillful
  9. value-added  ➙ worthwhile, effective, better, helpful, ahead
  10. ideate  ➙ create, think, craft, whir, plan, test, solve
  11. operationalize  ➙ make, do, put, carry, finish, use, see, work
  12. scalable  ➙ grow, expand, wide, more, big, spread, include
  13. champion  ➙ support, push, press, sell, do, spread, lead, guide
  14. deliverables  ➙ results, value, outcome, change, effect
  15. outside the box  ➙ different, bold, striking, unique, brave, exciting

Let me know if these work for you. Also, if jargon isn’t tripping you up as much as writer’s block is, here’s another post to help you break free and get unstuck.