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Successful Writing Skills 2015 IIA Mid-Atlantic District Conference.

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Presentation on theme: "Successful Writing Skills 2015 IIA Mid-Atlantic District Conference."— Presentation transcript:

1 Successful Writing Skills 2015 IIA Mid-Atlantic District Conference

2 2 Successful Writing Skills Dewitt H. Scott

3 Agenda Know Your Readers Three Key Points to Every Problem- Solving Writing 18 Successful Writing Tips 3

4 4 Know Your Readers  You have a structure of who gets your reports. Other elements that are helpful to remember when writing:  When you write have ten people of different types in mind and “talk” to them – with respect  Most people read to obtain information so write to address their need to get information quickly and painlessly.  Average newspaper and magazine writing is on a sixth to eighth-grade reading level. This is sufficient to communicate most information.  Use Flesch-Kincaid Ease and Grade Level to adjust your writing to make it easier to understand. In MS Word, go to File, Options, Proofing and select Show Statistics.  Use Grammatik to automatically compute your readability score but it does not make judgments like, how many sentences, how many paragraphs, or how to present points.

5 5 Three Key Points to Every Problem-Solving Writing 1. Clear writing begins with clear thinking  Audit documentation should fully support the audit report finding  Try free-writing if you have difficulty with beginning your writing

6 6 Three Key Points to Every Problem-Solving Writing 2. Roadmap – There should be a structure – best if there is a beginning, middle, and end  Set up the problem – let the reader experience it. This is your main point.  Present why the reader is interested in it so include a ‘so what’ statement.  Lastly, include what you should do about it. This is the goal or purpose.

7 7 Three Key Points to Every Problem-Solving Writing 3. Focus  You may have many points but each finding should have a ‘theme’ or idea.  Think about the same type of findings, same causes of the findings or same solution to the findings for grouping.

8 8 Successful Writing Tips

9 9 Successful Writing Tip #1  Talk in a conversational language  Use language you would use in a serious business conversation  Simple sentences and active verbs  Simple words immediately brings an image to mind, complex words have to be translated  Don’t use ‘tech’ words or other jargon  Be honest, don’t exaggerate or overstate  Think of the reader, not a big audience, and write to them – with respect  Use of I, we, or your dept. name you are communicating on your terms and not on the other person’s terms.

10 10 Examples for Tip #1 Double Vocabulary – simple words for speaking, longer ones for writing SayWrite He quit his job.He resigned his position. AboutApproximately BuyPurchase MethodMethodology FixRepair

11 11 Successful Writing Tip #2  Simple Sentences  Subject, verb, object of the verb, period  One idea or fact but vary the length  The more complicated the subject, the shorter the sentences  Don’t bury your most important point in the middle – end for emphasis  Backing into a sentence adds variety but can slow it down  Avoid starting with because

12 12 Example for Tip #2 “The hearing, which began Monday, is the first step toward possible revision of the code, which the home construction industry considers essential to development but which critics call a tax giveaway.” “The hearing began on Monday. It’s the first step toward possible revision of the code. Home builders consider it essential to development but critics call it a tax giveaway.”

13 13 Successful Writing Tip #3  Be specific and precise  Avoid pronouns  Be direct  Each word has a specific meaning and shouldn’t be used merely for variety.  Write so that the reader is seeing or you are showing – uses senses for exact and concrete information. “I don’t tell. I don’t explain. I show.” Tolstoy

14 14 Examples for Tip #3 Avoiding pronouns: “Mary’s mother says she can’t go out Friday night.” Who can’t go out? Direct: “Period of unfavorable weather set in.” Say, “It rained every day for a week.” Seeing or showing: Rather than saying someone is nervous say, “She kneaded her fingers and slid her rings back and forth, working them over her knuckles.”

15 15 Successful Writing Tip #4  Brevity  By selection, not compression  Short cuts could waste reader’s time – do not use abbreviations unless everyone knows what they mean  Effective – saying the right things  Efficient – saying things right

16 16 “The Elements of Style” “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outlines, but that every word tell.” Professor William Strunk

17 17 Successful Writing Tip #5  Move it along  Don’t just stack facts, tell a story  One sentence naturally leads to another without too many transitional phrases  Use simple transitions  Don’t begin a paragrph with “the” or “a”

18 18 Examples for Tip #5 Use: now, later, today, still, yet, nevertheless, subsequently, & but Overused so watch how often you use it: ‘meanwhile’ Do not use however at the end of a sentence.

19 19 Successful Writing Tip #6  Stay in Touch  Write about people and to people  More interesting than writing about things Time Magazine uses 8 personal references for every 100 words.

20 20 Example for Tip #6 “If the surface is scratched, its glass can be restored with sandpapering and buffing.” Or “If you scratch the surface, restore its gloss with…”

21 21 Successful Writing Tip #7  Punctuation. When in doubt, punctuate. When not, don’t.  Period is the best punctuation. Use it often.  Comma – more use, abuse and overuse  Colon – most common use is at end of sentence to introduce lists  Semi-colon – close relationship, amplifies point, signals contrast  Hyphen – for compound adjectives but do not use after ‘ly’ (two-car family, high-level job) and it also distinguishes like words from each other (recreation and re-creation)

22 22 Successful Writing Tip #8  Be an activist  Avoid nouns ending in ‘tion’ and ‘ion.’  Caution with the solo use of verb ‘to be’  Look for other endings that smoother verbs: ing, ance, ment, ancy, ant, ent, able  Prepositions smother verbs – of, for, by, at, on  When you add ‘up’ to a verb, you slow it down  Look at the distance of the action from the one who acts  Avoid starting a sentence with, “there was,” or “there were.”  Turn negative to positive by avoiding using “not.”

23 23 Examples for Tip #8 Examples of ‘ion’ or ‘tion’ words He offered an explanation.He explained. They came to an agreement.The agreed. They are in violation of…They violated. They gave consideration to…They considered. Examples of prepositions Coming upon somethingDiscover it Take a hold ofGrab it Putting up with painBear it

24 24 Example for Tip #8 Strung-out prepositions joining passive verbs that slow a sentence. “The executive committee of the company voted for approval of the change, which will be ratified by the board of directors at its meeting on June 15.” Rewrite: “The executive committee approved the change, which the directors will ratify on June 15 th.”

25 25 Successful Writing Tip #9  Adverbs often are redundant  Avoid sentence opening with adverb such as basically, typically, consequently, or significantly  Look for verbs with precise meaning and add an adverb that carries same meaning can be wasteful such as, clench tightly  Most often used: currently, presently, & clearly. Test the sentence without the word.  Interpretations may vary: what is your definition of significantly or successfully?

26 26 Successful Writing Tip #10  Pick out nouns carefully  Adjectives added to a noun can add nothing to the noun like an adverb adds nothing to a verb  Select a noun that doesn’t require an adjective  Use only – “a”, “an”, and “the”  Good example: crisp presentation  Not so good: big surprise

27 27 Successful Writing Tip #11  Write Like Your Reader Is In Front Of You  Don’t use loaded words  Be yourself. Keep it simple.  Avoid stereotyping  Avoid sexism. Try using “they, associates, manager, loan officer” versus he, she, him, her  Avoid words that trick, for example, claim, enhance, forced, qualified, quality, sound, straightforward, warn

28 Examples For Tip #11 Unbiased language: Entries in the computer log were carelessly recorded. Very confidential employee records were simply filed in an unsecured file cabinet to which any number of unauthorized employees had access. Connotation: The purchasing department had failed to follow procedures. The purchasing department had bypassed procedures. The purchasing department had circumvented procedures. Tone: Use of term “not.” Unrestricted access to blank checks does not prevent their misuse or theft. Restricted access to blank checks helps prevent their misuse or theft. 28

29 29 Successful Writing Tip #12  Avoid Clichés  They are used so much, no longer noticed  Viewed as lazy man’s shorthand  They bounce in, stay too long, and lose their bounce  “Quote” marks don’t make them respectable  Don’t pretend you are an expert by using jargon

30 30 Examples of Tip #12 We want to draw the line By the same token Don’t want to rock the boat Get the ball rolling Swept under the rug It remains to be seen Cold facts are A sense of direction When the dust settles Handwriting on the wall Powers that be To be ironed out Get your money’s worth Fly in the face of…

31 31 Successful Writing Tip #13  Metaphors Enrich  Not used in report writing but metaphors (contain an implied comparison) enrich language. Same with similes  But, when they don’t work – people laugh at you and remember them!  Only use sparingly

32 32 Successful Writing Tip #14  Don’t be a show off  Every year there are ‘big’ words; use them correctly and sparingly  Sometimes educated people use elegant words or complicated sentences to show off.  Check Webster’s if you are unsure that a new buzz word has been accepted.

33 33 Examples for Tip #14 U.S. Commerce Department ‘Hit List’ What is on your ‘Hit List’? I would hope, I would like to express my appreciation, as I am sure you know, as you are aware, as you know, at the present time, best wishes; Bottom line, delighted, different than, enclosed herewith, finalize, glad, great majority, happy, hereinafter, hopefully, however, image, input institutionalize; It is my intention, maximize, meanwhile, more importantly, needless to say, new initiatives, ongoing, orient, personally reviewed; Prior to, prioritize, serious crisis, share, subject matter, therein, to impact, to optimize, untimely death, very much, viable; I share your concern, contingent upon, effectuated, inappropriate, management regime, mutually beneficial, responsive, specificity, thrust, utilize.

34 34 Successful Writing Tip #15  Watch out for ‘slips’  Dangling or misplaced modifiers  Wrong words  Subjects and verbs don’t match  Subject-verb problems  Missing words  Missing commas  Misspellings  Misplaced words  Parallelism  Missing apostrophe

35 35 Examples for Tip #15 Placement of a modifier Only MIS had been included in the planning of the October system assessment. MIS had been included only in the planning of the October system assessment. MIS had been included in the planning of the October system assessment only. Dangling modifier “Mark Mason is one of the EPA scientists who is testing mice for possible links between carpet fumes and sickness at the agency’s labs in r Research Triangle Park.” “It’s hard to understand why parents are reluctant to take their children to the police with drug problems.”

36 36 Examples for Tip #15 Wrong word example: “They convinced him to go along with the deal.” Should be: “They persuaded him to go along or the convinced him that he should.” Subject-verb problem: “The reason you brought your car in for was not corrected.” Reason was not corrected. Missing words: “He maintained the building was unsafe.” “He maintained that it was unsafe.”

37 37 Successful Writing Tip #16  Fight clutter – it is imprecise  Avoid words that pad and don’t add value  Watch ‘between’ – it can clutter  Little qualifiers  Showy substitutes or showy terms  Rethink use of terms: conditions, situations, activities  Avoid near synonyms

38 38 Examples for Tip #16 Padding – personal friend Between – it will take between 6 and 10 years. Little qualifiers – bit tired, little annoyed, sort of confused Showy – in relation to, as it relates to, having to do with, in the process of, in terms of Showy terms – numerous for many, facilitate for ease, remainder for rest, initial for first, implement for do Unneeded – the cost, in terms of money or the altitude, in terms of feet Rethink – bad weather conditions or bad weather Near synonyms: null and void Use of about and most saves lots of words

39 39 Clutter Phrases The fact that Made up his mind Best of health In the final analysis The foreseeable future With the exception of In the event of In order to Filled to capacity At present, at this time Accordingly That Decided Well Finally Soon Except If To Full Now So

40 40 Redundant Words Consider the phrases without the lighter typed words Plans for the future He owns his own home Face up to the problem Prior notice Past experience New developments End results Contributing factor

41 41 Successful Writing Tip #17  Watch for misused words  Dictionaries may disagree on use of term, go with local consensus  Common ones: Affect, effect Imply, infer Persuade, convince That, which

42 42 Successful Writing Tip #18  Rewrite and Editing  Sleep on it  Everyone rewrites  Asks colleague to read  Look for: Active voice Subjects close to verbs Words express meaning precisely Many long, difficult sentences Cut out any needless words Tone shifts

43 43 Successful Writing Tips Summary 1. Talk in a conversational language 2. Use simple sentences 3. Be specific and precise 4. Brevity by selection 5. Move it along, use transitions 6. Write to the reader 7. The period is your friend 8. Be an activist 9. Adverbs often are redundant 10. Pick out nouns carefully 11. Write like the reader is in front of you 12. Avoid clichés 13. Metaphors enrich 14. Don’t be a show off 15. Watch out for grammar ‘slips’ 16. Fight clutter – is it imprecise 17. Watch for misused words 18. Rewrite and editing – do it

44 44 “SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL WRITING” “Writing that works is writing that communicates.” Dewitt H. Scott

45 45 Closing Remarks Any further questions/comments?

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