Workplace writing now competes with best practice blogging for eyeball time. But plenty of workplace writing still reads like a long winded story with dense text forcing readers to plough through and sometimes just give up.
1. Good bloggers stick to one theme per post.
What they say on that theme appears in prioritised paragraphs. I call it their High Reader Impact. They lead with the most important material so that readers are swept along the thinking trail. But doing this is not natural, because all writers come from storytelling cultures, so it’s natural to write in a narrative style. The trick is to cut and paste the paragraphs after you’ve finished the story so that you keep time-poor readers’ attention. All newspapers and magazines do this. Good bloggers do it, but much workplace writing sadly lags behind the times with Low Reader Impact content that often carries multiple themes. Look at pages 2-3 in this example, showing how to turn a Low Reader Impact into a High Reader Impact:
Good workplace templates will also be structured as High Reader Impact documents. Here’s another example showing how to modernize a Low Reader Impact template:
2. Good bloggers know when they’re satisfied with the content, it’s time for coffee, because you need to clearly separate content checking from language checking.
Language checking means you think about the efficiency of each sentence. The easiest way is to read each sentence aloud and ask yourself if you would speak this way. You need to get your language closer to the way you speak professionally. If you don’t think people would listen to the language you’ve used, change it or chop it out. You’ll be amazed at the efficiency gain in this sample after producing a High Reader Impact and then chopping and changing the language:
3. Good bloggers know that too many passive verbs will quickily turn readers away, but you have been educated to probably use too many passive verbs.
This is part of what I call your Style Stamp. It’s the style you’ve brought into the workplace from years of education. This page will give you power over passives and show you how to use them for a purpose:
4. Good bloggers also know that nominalisation will make readers nod off!
This is another part of your Style Stamp. From now on, I’ll call these words Ghost Verbs, because they look verbal but lack life. Reducing Ghost Verbs will give your verbs real purpose and shorten your sentences. Have a look at twenty of the most frequently used ghost verbs here:
5. Good bloggers know that a final spell check and punctuation check gives their writing a consistent professional edge.
Reading the writing aloud will pick up where to place punctuation. Contact me if you’d like a handy slide on punctuation. You’re now probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned sentence length averages. And here’s the good news! If you’ve controlled passives, ghost verbs, cut and/or changed excess words, your word count is as it should be and your sentence average won’t need adjusting.
Savvy business and government writers know that inefficient, Low Reader Impact writing wastes valuable time and big bucks. This slide says it all:
Since 2002, I have sampled over 5500 diversified websites across the world and found an average 35% inefficiency. This has little to do with sloppy writing. It is because writers are educated to write too much and too few know what you have just read about efficient, High Reader Impact documents: the way of the future.
Ron Denholm specialises in educating business, academic and government writers on using High Reader Impact content and efficient language.