Better Online Letter Writing Rules
Better writing can result in proposals that win contracts, advertisements that sell
products and services, instruction manuals that users can follow, billboards that catch a driver’s attention. Stories that make us laugh or cry, and letters, memos, and reports that get your message across to the reader. Here are 5 tips on style and word choice that can make writing clear and persuasive.
1. PRESENT YOUR BEST SELF
Your moods vary. After all, you’re only human. But while it is sometimes difficult to
present your best self in conversation, which is spontaneous and instant, letters are written alone and on your own schedule. Therefore, you can and should take the time to let your most pleasant personality shine through in your writing. Be especially careful when replying to an e-mail message you have received. The temptation is to treat the message as conversation, and if you are irritated or just outrageously pressured and busy, the tendency is to reply in a clipped and curt fashion — again, not showing you at your best.
2. WRITE IN A CLEAR, CONVERSATIONAL STYLE
Naturally, a memo on sizing pumps shouldn’t have the same chatty tone as a personal letter. But most business and technical professionals lean too much in the other direction, and their sharp thinking is obscured by windy, overly formal prose.
3. BE CONCISE
Professionals, especially those in industry, are busy people. Make your writing less time-consuming for them to read by telling the whole story in the fewest possible words. Shorter is better.
How can you make your writing more concise? One way is to avoid redundancies — a needless form of wordiness in which a modifier repeats an idea already contained within the word being modified.
4. BE CONSISTENT
“A foolish consistency,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “is the hobgoblin of little
minds.” This may be so. But, on the other hand, inconsistencies in your writing will
confuse your readers and convince them that your information and reasoning are as sloppy and unorganized as your prose. Good writers strive for consistency in their use of numbers, hyphens, units of measure, punctuation, equations, grammar, symbols, capitalization, technical terms, and abbreviations. Keep in mind that if you are inconsistent in any of these matters of usage, you are automatically wrong at least part of the time.
5. USE JARGON SPARINGLY
Many disciplines and specialties have a special language all their own. Technical
terms are a helpful shorthand when you’re communicating within the profession, but they may confuse most readers who do not have your special background. Take the word, “yield,” for example. To a chemical engineer, yield is a measure of how much product a reaction produces. But to car drivers, yield means slowing down (and stopping, if necessary) at an intersection.