Write More Effectively (Part 2 of 2)

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • How do I improve my writing?
  • What tools can I use to improve my writing?
  • How will I know when my writing is better?

Today, we finish up our two part series on writing effectively. If you missed last week's cast, go back and listen to it now. Why get only half the fun?

As a quick reminder, remember the word "SEVENTEEN" appeared in last week's introduction text (which as you may recall, I read word for word on the podcast). One note - in today's cast, Mark makes reference to THAT introductory blog post. Again, he is referring to LAST WEEK's introduction. Please keep that in mind as you listen.

Let's go...

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Here’s a BEHAVIOR you can do

Here’s a BEHAVIOR you can do today to start editing your writing. When responding to an email that doesn’t require a “right-now” response, write your reply, but instead of pressing Send, leave it in your Draft folder for a few hours. I guarantee when you open and review it, you’ll find ways to make it more effective (most likely, you’ll find that the point you’re trying to make is buried a few sentences down!). So: review, edit, then send. You’ll be trading a few hours of urgency for a whole lot of effectiveness!

HMacNiven, that's a great point. Plus,

HMacNiven, that's a great point. Plus, I'm sure you'll find that sometimes, you don't even have to send it at all.

Mark & Mike - great topic!!! I was on

Mark & Mike - great topic!!! I was on the edge of my seat for an entire week waiting to learn what seventeen meant!

I've already used your technique today... wow!

See you guys in a couple of days.

Dave: Or maybe find that you prefer to

Dave: Or maybe find that you prefer to pick up the phone! The trick, I admit, is getting out of the mindset that "all emails must be answered without immediately without hesitation" - like you win extra points for being speedy, or something... - Hugh

Thank you. Two superb and casts with

Thank you. Two superb and casts with immediate use for managers. You might have to wait 3 weeks to get one-on-ones into a calendar, but you can improve your writing immediately.

Technical environments challenge managers. IT particularly is a syllable-rich environment. It's also like any other business : lack of clarity leads to mistakes. Mistakes take time to fix and cost real money. Following the principles in your podcasts will improve managers' clarity.

I like the clarity index. It's simple. Two other useful resources to improve your writing:

1. BullFighter: http://www.fightthebull.com/bullfighter.asp
Plugs into Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Nothing is more humbling than a Bullfighter analysis on a piece of prose you rushed out.
Warning: it's a lot less simple than the clarity index, but it does also test for jargon use. For amusement, try running a press release through it.

2. The Plain English Campaign: http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/
Brought to the rest of us by those who invented the language, and still own the copyright, the Brits. OK, technically, the English.
As well as championing and awarding plain English in all media, they also present awards for various crimes against the language. A fellow Australian, Germaine Greer, was a joint recipient in 2006 for a column in the Guardian: "'The first attribute of the art object is that it creates a discontinuity between itself and the unsynthesised manifold".

Yes, quite. I'd comment on the "inaccessibility" of such language, but I wouldn't be putting SEVENTEEN at the end of my writing, would I? :-)

Mark and Michael, I enjoyed the last

Mark and Michael,
I enjoyed the last two podcasts on writing. I had two quick additions.

Acronyms are confusing to me because they often are new to me and too often are not explained. They seem to be created faster than they are spelled out. I prefer to spell out the term the first time it appears in a document (even e-mail) and then put the abbreviation in parentheses. I do this for all but the most well known acronyms or for e-mails to closest associates who I know understand the acronym from previous conversation.

Second: short emails that are high on your clarity index always seem less harsh to me if the words “please” and “thank you” appear somewhere in them. Also, opening and closing salutations to e-mail make me more likely to read and accept the message. If you are writing to me, the letter better be addressed to me.


I find funny that so many people

I find funny that so many people don’t consider good writing as an essential communication skill. When I was promoted from a programmer to a manager title, my director told me my writing skills weighted a lot in the balance. My native language is French, so many of the tips you gave didn’t directly apply to me. But a good knowledge of the grammar rules about punctuation will give you a very similar result to the word counting trick in most latine languages.

Also, fast typing save me a lot of time in a week. To any manager making heavy use of emails and still typing with two fingers: take a class or download a training software. You will find yourself not trying to walk around email/documentation task, but going through it faster, and moving to something else.

Yes,A very good topic. Writing is

Yes,A very good topic. Writing is important for me.

Hello, I was really intrigued by the


I was really intrigued by the concept of a "score" on my writing, so I looked up the writing clarity index (Flesch Reading Ease) you referenced: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flesch-Kincaid_Readability_Test

In word, to turn this measurement feature on, choose Tools // Options // Spelling & Grammar // and check the "Show readability statistics" box. To check a word document, choose Tools // Spelling and Grammar, and after the spell check it will give you a pop up with the rating and also convert that score into an approximate grade level for reading. One of my documents had a 16.8 so I suppose that means 4th year university? LOL.

Thanks for sharing - it was fun to learn about. I'm working my way through all your podcasts and appreciate the time you take to explain the skills and concepts. I've been evangelizing your podcasts all over the place! Well done!