Eclectic Blog

Use Transition to Make Your Writing More Compelling

Do you think much about using transition in your writing? It’s one of many practices that separate good writing from mediocre writing.

Transition words and phrases link your ideas together smoothly and allow readers to make predictions about what will come next in your document. For example, if you see the word therefore in the middle of a document, you know the writer is establishing a cause and effect. But, if you see the word however in a document, you know the writer is about to establish a contrast.

Transition words help your readers identify the progression of your content through multiple paragraphs in both shorter and longer documents.

How to Use Transition

Using transition words and phrases (such as also, moreover, because, since, although, next and finally) is the most common way to create transition, but there are three other techniques you can use.

First, use repetition of words or ideas. For example: We offer multiple workshops in communication. These workshops can teach you about writing effective emails and letters.

Second, use a specific reference to numbers instead of vague references such as few, many or some. For example: You will learn three types of report formats in this webinar.

Third, use a reference to time. For example: During the last five years, we competed with three other software suppliers. Now, two of those companies have gone out of business.

Help make your messages clear, precise and compelling by including transition in your writing. (But be careful you don’t overdo it!)

Do You Want to Persuade Your Readers? Remember The Need

Sometimes we need to write persuasive documents, such as proposals or recommendation reports. The main goal of these types of documents is to persuade your readers to take some sort of action.

Features and Benefits

Too often, these types of documents only focus on features (what a product or service does) and benefits (the outcome of choosing a product or course of action). What’s missing? The need.

If you want to persuade people to do something or make a significant change, you need to start by focusing on a problem you are trying to solve for them.

For example, let’s say you want to convince your management team to buy a new photocopier/printer for the office. You might write about the great things a new photocopier/printer can do for you, such as copying 100 sheets a minute and using trays that hold 1000 sheets of paper. These are features.

You might also talk about the benefits of these features, such as staff spending less time refilling trays since the new trays hold so much paper. 

The Need

But don’t forget to start with the need. Why do you need to spend money on a new photocopier/printer? When trying to assess the need, ask yourself: what is the problem and why is this a problem?

Going back to our photocopier/printer example, maybe your current machine jams regularly, so staff members waste too much time trying to remove paper jams, which keeps them from doing their actual work. And maybe your current photocopier/printer has trays that only hold 100 sheets of paper, so your staff also wastes time (and therefore money) with constant refills.

The best persuasive documents discuss needs, features and benefits with clear details. It’s difficult to convince people to make a change if they don’t first see a problem. 

Are Emails Costing Your Organization Money?

For many of us, email is an integral part of our workday, whether we deal with a few emails each day or dozens. Whatever the volume of our email output, we should strive to always write clear, concise and specific email messages.

This should be everyone’s email writing goal: for your audience to be able to read your email quickly and with complete understanding. What if you don’t achieve that goal?

Ineffective emails can result in confusion as well as delays in work processes. They can also cost organizations a lot of money, but most of us have never calculated exactly how much that cost can be.

To estimate this cost, we have a helpful email cost calculator on our website. On the calculator, enter the following information:

  • number of staff in your organization or department
  • estimated number of emails sent each day
  • average staff salary (in thousands)

Then click calculate to see how much money you might be wasting with your work emails.

Need to Improve Your Email Writing? We can help you write more effective emails in your workplace. We offer in-person, online and virtual workshops. One of our books, “Using Writing and Editing Methods that Work”, also has a section on email writing. Email us at: administration@eclectic.ca for more information.

 

 

11 Tips for Proofreading Your Own Work

If you write anything at all, chances are you’ll sometimes have to proofread it yourself. Here are 11 tips to make the job easier.

  1. Get a friend to do a quick once-over
    Even if you have to do the detailed proofreading yourself, a quick read-through by a colleague or friend will still help. Spotting mistakes in other people’s work is much easier than checking your own work.
     
  2. Leave it a while
    Time away from your writing gives you fresh perspective and helps you see where the problems are. Leave it for as long as you can before you re-read it. You’ll be amazed at what you spot with fresh eyes.
     
  3. Print it out
    Reading your work on paper instead of on the computer screen helps you see it in a new way. It also makes it easier to cover bits up, get closer, and focus on one line at a time.
     
  4. Keep your style sheet and style guide handy
    If you’re working on a long document, you might keep a style sheet while writing to record things like specialist words, capitalization, and hyphenation. If your organization has a style guide, get to know it. Keep both of these things handy while you’re proofreading. They’ll help you make everything consistent.
     
  5. Get rid of distractions
    Perhaps the hardest thing about proofreading is concentrating. Make it easier to focus by clearing away clutter, switching off the internet, and taking the phone off the hook.
     
  6. Slow down
    Because we usually read for meaning, we’re not used to focusing carefully on each word. To pick up errors, you need to slow down and look at each word in turn. Be aware that this sort of concentration is hard. Your mind will wander. Focus hard for short bursts and give yourself plenty of breaks.
     
  7. Know what you’re looking for
    As well as checking spelling and punctuation, proofreading means checking numbers, headings, page headers and footers, page numbers, graphics, tables, cross-references, and formatting, among other things. You need a good list to keep you on track.
     
  8. Check one thing at a time
    You won’t be able to check for everything at once. For example, you can’t check formatting while you’re concentrating on spelling. A better approach is to check one thing at a time.
     
  9. Sound it out
    Find some space away from other people and read the text aloud. If you prefer, read silently but sound out each word in your head. For long words, you can even sound out each syllable to help you spot missing letters.
     
  10. Use your technology
    Use Microsoft Word’s spellchecker. Set the proofreading language to make sure you’re applying the spelling used in your country, then use the ‘Ignore’ and ‘Add’ commands to build a dictionary customised for you. Zoom in so any mistakes will be easier to see. Also, use Word’s ‘Find’ function to check the consistency of terms you’ve used a lot.
     
  11. Accept that nothing’s ever quite perfect
    Your best proofreading often happens after you’ve sent or published your writing. This is known as Murphy’s Law. Don’t worry — even award-winning novels have the occasional typo. This just shows that writers, editors and proofreaders are human too.
     

This guest post is by Write — a world-class plain language consultancy based in New Zealand. Like Eclectic, Write helps individuals and workplaces transform how they communicate. As well as offering insightful consultancy, expert writing services, and bespoke training, Write is the founding sponsor and host of New Zealand’s Plain English Awards. They also write a much-loved blog, where this post first appeared.

Use Bulleted Lists for Visual Appeal

How you format a document is just as important as the words you put on your page. Documents that are visually appealing are compelling and easier to read than poorly formatted ones. One of the things you can do to add visual appeal to your documents is to use bullets.

If you have a list that contains more than three items or a brief set of instructions to follow, use bullets for readability. Bullets allow you to create white space and chunk out key points.

When using bullets, here are general guidelines to help you format your list:

  • Keep lists to a maximum of six or seven bullets for easy scanning. Longer lists are harder to scan through.
  • Use white space between points to enhance readability, especially if each bullet is two lines or longer.
  • Ensure that all text is properly aligned on the left if your bullets are longer than one line. (Using the bullet function in Microsoft Word will take care of this for you.)
  • Only use numbers instead of bullets if the order of your list matters.
  • Don’t split a list over two pages; this makes it harder to scan.

 

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