Monthly Archives: January 2013

Learn To Create A Paper Trail As Part of Your Clear Writing Skills; Help The Economy As Well

Unfortunately, widespread unemployment still plagues the nation.  The development of clear writing skills will help to put you in a position where you can increase your opportunities for job placement, earnings potential, and career advancement.  It will also, in the process, help to improve the economy by adding your own writing skills to the labor force, thereby increasing your chances of getting hired and potentially contributing to the reduction of unemployment.  You can start adding to your writing skills by learning to create a paper trail.

As an integral component of my daily routine while practicing law, I developed the habit of memorializing everything I did.  This is an extremely valuable practice to use, and I urge you to follow suit.  Not only will the creation of such a paper trail be of immeasurable benefit to you as a personal or business reminder of important dates and events, but this habit will force you to write more, and thus will allow you to accomplish a necessary step on the road to learning clear writing skills.  As this blog has repeatedly advised, you must write as much as possible to teach yourself the clear writing skills recommended here.

Agreements, formal or informal, deadlines, important events, issues for future follow up, errands, etc., all deserve to be put in writing, whether by follow-up letter or by memo to the file.  It’s good personal and business practice to leave a paper trail whenever possible, not only as a reminder of matters requiring your attention such as deadlines, but to create a written backup to avoid any possible misunderstandings as to who said what, when it was said, where it was said, etc.  I still follow these practices today.

There is no better place to begin creating a paper trail than by writing letters.  Expertise in letter writing, including emails, should be an indispensable part of your writing arsenal and it is important to leave a trail for any follow up.

There are manifold uses for letters.  One of the most important uses is to help you find employment.  If you are in the market for a job, it is essential to use a cover letter to accompany any resume which you send out.  The cover letter will serve to introduce you personally to the prospective interviewer.  But, the letter must be well written; poorly worded letters will get you nowhere and will wind up in the trash.  If a letter is worded improperly, i.e., poor grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc., the reader may conclude on the basis of the letter alone, without even reading your resume, that you are not qualified for the position.  It will not make any sense for any interviewer to hire someone who does not write well because it will reflect badly on the company and may even cause it to lose business.  The letter should employ clear writing techniques, and be visually attractive.  It should specify the position you are seeking and state how you learned about it.  It should also explain why you are qualified for the position you are seeking and how your qualifications will benefit the company.  Close the letter by referencing your enclosed resume, requesting an interview, and stating when you will be available.

A properly worded letter of inquiry about a job opportunity may open a door of opportunity for you not otherwise available.  Clear writing skills are most important here.  Remember, you are selling yourself when you write.  Unless the letter establishes you as a credible writer, the reader may not consider your qualifications even if you are well qualified for the position.

Also, sending a thank you letter to acknowledge an interview may make a difference to the interviewer.  It is a good follow up to any interview and is an important part of the paper trail being discussed here.

Business letters should be clear, to th©e point, and correctly punctuated and formatted.  Properly written, visually attractive letters will reflect favorably on you individually as well as any company that employs you.  Written confirmation of all business transactions should be standard practice.

Leaving a paper trail for future reference is a good approach to the development of clear writing skills.  This habit will go a long way to avoid misunderstandings and is always a good business practice.

Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Basic Paragraphing Techniques Are Needed For Clear Writing; They Even Fit Well In A Brownie Recipe

Some writers predict that there will be a resurgence in the economy.  If so, will you be ready?   You must be able to write clearly to take full advantage of any job opportunity that comes your way because of a resurgence, or otherwise.  Clear writing cannot be achieved without the ability to write effective paragraphs.

The development of an effective paragraph entails four basic rules.

First, unify the paragraph by developing a topic sentence which encompasses its central thought and introduces the paragraph.  A good topic sentence goes hand-in-glove with a descriptive paragraph heading.  Together, they are the key to locking the reader into your writing.  A descriptive topic sentence establishes a basic context for the reader before the details are provided and gives the reader the incentive to read on.

A topic sentence should include only one principal subject and express but one thought.  It should summarize the paragraph for the reader.  The topic sentence should embrace the controlling thought and let the rest of the paragraph expand this thought.  Work on tightening a rambling paragraph by developing a good topic sentence and then building the paragraph around it.

A busy reader will often skim your topic sentences to get an overall understanding of you writing.  Well written topic sentences will make the reader’s task that much easier.

For example, if you were writing about a tip that might help other golfers groove their golf swing, a good topic sentence (or, as here, sentences) might read as follows:

The sweetest swing you ever saw once belonged to Slammin’ Sammy Snead.      Today, many say it belongs to Freddie Couples.  Now, it can belong to you.   Here’s why.  [Next, describe your tip].

Second, arrange sentences to provide coherence in the paragraph.  The sequence of expression should be orderly and arranged by time or importance to make the progress of the thought easy to follow.  Strive for connection between sentences using repetition of key words, reference words, and parallel structure.

Third, use words of transition.  These words are usually found at the beginning of the succeeding paragraph to help introduce a new thought.  They serve to provide a stepping stone to ease the progression from one paragraph to another.  Words such as also, further, and in addition, are typically used for this purpose.  In this fashion, paragraphs may be linked together into the entire writing.

Fourth, keep paragraph length relatively short to reduce dense text.  Short paragraphs create more white space, are more inviting, and are thus easier to read and understand.  Paragraphs may vary in length from fifty to three hundred words, depending on content, but the shorter the better.  If necessary, break up a long paragraph into two shorter ones.

Even though content determines paragraph length, take steps to highlight paragraph content when necessary.  These include use of bullet points and dashes to make it easier to scan listed information.  Here’s an example:

Before:  Our company sells only naturally developed products.  They contain no preservatives, artificial colors, or fillers of any kind.  Use of them will increase mental alertness, stabilize metabolism, reduce fatigue, and enhance your body’s ability to stave off disease through its immune system.

After:  The following benefits are provided by our company’s products:

                                      –  No preservatives, artificial colors, or fillers of any kind;

                                      –  Increased mental alertness;

                                      –  Stabilized metabolism

                                        -Reduced fatigue; and

                                       – Enhances the body’s ability to stave off disease through its immune system.

Finally, to add a final thought to this blog, and to illustrate the flexibility of one form of paragraphing, i.e., descriptive paragraphing, here is a recipe for California “Gold Rush” brownies.

This recipe is a piece of cake (no pun intended) and makes great brownies.

Only four ingredients are required, as follows:   30 whole Honey Maid graham crackers, 2 – 14 ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk, 1 tablespoon of milk, and 12 ounces of chocolate chips.

Break up the graham crackers and add them, a few at a time, to a food processor, grinding them until very fine.  Place the graham cracker crumbs in a bowl with the sweetened condensed milk and 1 tablespoon of regular milk.  Mix well and blend in the chocolate chips.  Add chopped nuts, if desired.

Place the mixture into a well buttered 9 by 12 inch baking pan, pressing down evenly.  Bake in a 350 degree oven about 25 to 30 minutes until the sides start to separate from the pan.  These brownies are best when soft, so don’t overcook them as they will become too dry.

Let the brownies cool before cutting them into squares.  This recipe makes 24 to 30 squares, depending on how big they are cut and what pan size is used.  WARNING:  These brownies are habit forming and disappear fast.  You’ll have to taste them to believe it!

Copyright©2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Clear Writing Requires Well Constructed Paragraphs

It’s my first anniversary for publishing this blog!  The first post was made January 22, 2012.  So, in honor of that event, my topic to illustrate the benefits of good paragraphing is one of my favorite subjects – baseball.

Paragraphs allow the reader to take a breath while continuing to read.  Without them, a reader  would face the daunting task of having to read and decide simultaneously when there is a change of thought or subject.                                

Clear writing flows directly from well composed paragraphing.  The effectiveness of any writing will depend directly on how well you have constructed the paragraphs.  All paragraphs should be unified in thought, well organized, and coherent.

Paragraphs may be long or short.  Moderation and common sense are keys to good paragraphing.  If a paragraph is too short, the reader may conclude the writer has given little thought to the writing.  If it’s too long, the reader may simply get discouraged.

                 

Paragraphs May Be Used For Different Purposes

          There are distinct types of writing available for specific purposes, including persuasive, expository, narrative, creative, descriptive, research, and (book) reporting.  Paragraphing does not of necessity completely follow the type of writing you are using, but may vary within the main body of the document being written, depending on the context.

Two main groups of paragraphs exist, narrative and descriptive.  Other forms of paragraphing may have different identifying labels placed on them, such as chronologic, compare and contrast, definition, and others, but it is simpler to place them in one of the two main categories.

For example, a chronologic or progressive paragraph is so-called because of its orderly progression from one point to another, often following a time sequence.  But it’s still descriptive or narrative in nature.  Describing a fishing technique or a golf swing are good examples of the use of such a paragraph.

Expository writing is used to provide information.  Here is an example involving a famous baseball player and the fatal disease which took his life.

Silently, New York Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig handed over the unopened ketchup bottle to teammate Bill Dickey.  There was nothing complicated about it, to unscrew the cap of a ketchup bottle.  Even a child could do it.  But Gehrig no longer had the strength in his hands to even handle this simple task.  Troubled by an uncertain future, he munched his hamburger and stared out the window of the speeding train as it headed toward the next exhibition game.

It was spring, 1939.  In recent months Gehrig had noticed a puzzling diminution in his strength.  Last year his batting average had dipped below .300 for the first time in years.  And when he did hit a home run it wasn’t hit with the usual Gehrig authority.   Some shrugged it off as creeping old age.   But there were signs that something was seriously wrong.  Earlier that year a teammate had complemented Gehrig on making a routine out.  Soon it became clear even to a casual observer that he could no longer hit or play his position.

Gehrig was experiencing the onset of the debilitating disease which ultimately was to bear his name, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, known medically as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or simply ALS.   It would progressively render his muscles useless but leave his mind intact.  On May 1, 1939, Gehrig voluntarily removed himself from the Yankee lineup, bringing to an end his consecutive game streak of 2,130 games, a record which stood for the next 70 years.  The press had justifiably dubbed him “The Iron Horse” because of his durability.  He was forced to retire from the game on June 27, 1939.

Gehrig had been a devastating hitter during his years in the Yankee lineup.  With Babe Ruth batting in front of him, the duo had formed a key part of “Murderers Row,” which terrorized opposing pitching during the mid-1920s to mid- 1930s, possibly the most famous 1-2 punch in baseball history.  The number of times Gehrig came to bat with the bases loaded is not known, but what is known is that he cleared them 23 times with “grand slam” home runs, still a major league record, and quite an amazing feat considering who was batting ahead of him in the lineup.

His feats on the baseball diamond had not gone unnoticed.   Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day was held in Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939.  In front of a sell-out crowd, surrounded by his teammates and others, Gehrig gave his memorable “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” speech.  Later that year, the stricken player was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Barely two years later, on June 2, 1941, shortly before his 38th birthday, the  disease was to tragically take the Hall of Famer’s life.

The important thing to remember from all these clear writing posts is that words are powerful things.  You can learn how to harness this power by following my clear writing tips.  They are tried and tested.  They work.  Words can persuade people.  They can improve a company’s performance.  They can be very helpful when used properly.  Learn how to craft powerful messages – it’s a skill which will open doors for you that you never knew existed.      

                           

 Copyright©2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved. 

 

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Clear Writing Requires A Strong Vocabulary

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Clear Writing Requires Polishing of Every Writing Project

Happy new year to all of my readers and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

One of your new year’s resolutions should be to write every day.  That’s the quickest way to improve your writing.  It will help you write faster, better,  and with more confidence.

Recent blogs have focused on the need to achieve mastery of your subject matter as part of the road to clear writing.  I have previously pointed out that  poor subject matter preparation will result in weak writing.  But even assuming you have written about a well-researched subject and know it like the back of your hand, your finished writing project must still be polished before it can be truly considered as “done.”

There are important polishing considerations to be kept in mind before you can consider any writing project as truly finished.  It is vital to polish your writing carefully and thoroughly so it flows as smoothly as possible.  No writing should be considered polished unless you have at least given consideration to the areas which follow below.

Highlight important information to0 help maintain readability.  Use extra white space, bullet points, capital letters, underlining, or italics to allow your reader to skim your writing.  But don’t overuse any of these items.  If you are truly knowledgeable about your subject, highlighting important information accurately will help to demonstrate your knowledge.

Be consistent throughout in whatever method you choose so your reader can recognize how you flag important information.

Make sure each paragraph covers what the heading indicates.  Otherwise, your writing will be jumpy and lack smoothness.

Explain all abbreviations and similar short-hand writing.  A sports fan will understand that the initials, “NCAA” stand for the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  A reader who is not a sports fan will be in the dark.

Question the need for everything in the writing.  If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, you can’t write it clearly.

Carefully review your document to determine if any important information is missing.

Maintain consistency in the document’s organization.  This will help the reader understand the different levels of information you have presented.  Typical organizational format includes document title, section headings, subsection headings, paragraph headings, and general text.

Before any writing is submitted to your reader, make sure you edit it thoroughly.   Careful spelling and punctuation review is an absolute, absolute must.  There is probably no other area which will stamp your writing as amateurish, or worse,  as poor spelling and poor punctuation.  These areas are important enough to warrant special consideration.

It is also important to make sure your draft is tight, i.e., uses the least number of words to get your thoughts across.  Make the tone of your writing easy to understand, conversational, and natural.  Don’t leave any gaps in your writing so that the reader must stop and wonder what you’re saying.

Once you know who you’re writing for and what you’re writing about, both of which have been recently covered in my blogs, you’re ready to take the next step: writing your first draft.

This should be your new year’s resolution, to write every day.  It will do wonders for your writing skills and enable you to do your part to help improve the economy in the process. It will help to increase your earnings potential, your chances of finding a job, or for job advancement if you’re already employed.  If you run a business, pass the word to your employees – improvement in their writing skills will help increase your sales. Pick a topic you’re familiar with or enjoy talking about and write about it!  Make it a daily habit.  You will find that the more you write, the easier it will become to write clearly.

.Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

                     

 

 

                   

 

 

                     

 

 

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