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Write to Express, Not to Impress

Industry Matters Newsletter

Often when writing for an audience, we try to use complex words to sound smarter. This train of thought is misleading, though. Complex words and sentences only make our writing unreadable to our audience. To write effectively, even for a scientific audience, we need to write in plain English. In this course from LinkedIn Learning, instructor Judy Steiner-Williams gives viewers advice on how to make their writing simple and clear.

To write in plain English means that your writing is clear and concise, easy to read and comprehend.  There are a lot of ways you can adjust your writing to achieve this goal. Steiner-Williams says to avoid wordiness or clichés, acronyms and convoluted wording. Use commonly understood words, and use the fewest words necessary to make your point. Present content so that it is readable—short paragraphs or bulleted lists—so it looks less overwhelming to the reader. When you write, use short sentences to emphasize key ideas.

Steiner-Williams tells viewers that you can catch mistakes in your writing by reading aloud, since our ears know to listen for word flow, idea connections and key ideas. Reading aloud reveals redundancies, lack of transitions and poor sentence structure. Most business writing should have a conversational tone— if you can’t picture yourself talking to your boss that way, don’t write it. When you read aloud, remember to read at the correct pace and picture who will be reading what you wrote.

Steiner-Williams says to revise your writing when you’re done, but keep a few tips in mind for that process. Wait up to 24 hours to start revising, so you can look at your writing with fresh eyes. Check that your writing has a clear purpose, questions your audience may ask are answered, irrelevant details are omitted, your tone is positive and conversational and your writing is easy to read with proper grammar.

Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to words, sentences and pages. To make your message clear, write in plain English.