A short report, presentation, letter, memo, or document is often many times as hard to write than its long counterpart. Anyone can write a 20 page report, it takes talent to condense all that information in to a one page briefing. So why do you see such poorly written documents both online and offline?
The amount of effort required to draft, edit, and produce any type of document increases exponentially as you approach one page. However, short documents are many times more effective at conveying the message and initiating action.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain
An example of a writing program
Washington State Governor Gregoire issued Executive Order 05-03 which requires all Washington State public agencies to use simple and clear language when communicating with the public and businesses. The “plain talk” guidelines include:
- Understand customer needs
- Include only relevant information
- Use words your customers use
- Use the “active voice”
- Use personal pronouns
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short
- Design clear pages
Simplify your writing to effectively communicate your ideas
Writing is a life long learning process. It takes years to develop an effective style and voice. I’ve found that my best work often is the shortest documents but also took the most of my time to develop. All my writing is customized based on need, audience, and subject matter. In all cases, it’s written so a layperson can understand it without needing to know background context and technical jargon.
“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.” – Another Mark Twain quote