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Plain English business writing

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Template and resource for your integrated small business procedures manual ... ergo, ad hoc, per annum, carte blanche, panache, raison d'etre, zeitgeist, chutzpeh ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Plain English business writing


1
Plain English business writing
  • David Stephensen
  • QDT Management Consultants
  • 61 3 5443 9605
  • www.qdt.com.au

2
Our products and services 1
  • Q-TemplateTM
  • Template and resource for your integrated small
    business procedures manual
  • 250 related procedures, work instructions and
    forms ready for you to adapt to your business
  • Designed to give you a head start with TKO
  • www.qdt.com.au 61 3 5443 9605

3
Our products and services 2
  • TKO Sales and Consultancy
  • We supply TKO Business Modeler software
  • We support you as much as you need all the way
    through your systemising project
  • Charting the communication between roles
  • Designing your procedure framework
  • Building your customised TKO database
  • Training you and your staff in
  • Using TKO
  • Writing in state-of-the art business English
  • Rapidly creating forms and spreadsheets
  • www.tko.qdt.com.au 61 3 5443 9605

4
Our products and services 3
  • Documentation and training
  • All kinds of documentation
  • Business processes
  • Instruction manuals
  • Training materials
  • All kinds250 related procedures, work
    instructions and forms ready for you to adapt to
    your business
  • Designed to give you a head start with TKO
  • www.qdt.com.au 61 3 5443 9605

5
Business English best practice
  • Active voice
  • Short sentences
  • Bullets and numbers
  • Simple words
  • Verbs not nouns

6
What is the problem?
  • It takes time to read. Time is money.
  • If your message doesnt arrive, you lose.
  • Everybody wants quick access to information

7
What is the solution?
  • Know your audience.
  • Use plain English.
  • Structure your information for easy reading.

8
Knowing your audience (overview)
  • Understand their
  • Context
  • Viewpoints
  • Skills
  • Use tools
  • Personas
  • Scenarios

9
Plain English (overview)
  • Everyday words
  • Short sentences
  • Active voice and writing personally
  • Same words each time
  • No synonyms
  • Same word pattern
  • Clear meaning

10
Structure (overview)
  • Chunkingthe 72 rule
  • People only cope with about 7 things at a time.
  • People learn by grouping things into chunks.
  • Tables
  • Headings
  • Bullets and numbers

11
Knowing your audience
12
Knowing your audiencecontext
  • In what context will they read the information?
  • Motivation?
  • Pressure or distractions?
  • Other information available?
  • Access to experts for help?

13
Knowing your audienceviewpoints
  • What is the viewpoint of your audience?
  • Confident?
  • Caring about detail
  • Willing to use initiative?
  • Potentially hostile?

14
Knowing your audienceskills
  • What do they know already?
  • What detail do you need?
  • Is it OK to use jargon?
  • What is their reading age?
  • Do you have to use REALLY simple language?

15
Knowing your audiencetools
  • Personas
  • Create imaginary people who are your typical
    audience members.
  • Make them real create a past, present and
    future for them.
  • Scenarios
  • Create imaginary situations for your personas and
    make them real.

16
Knowing the audienceexamples
  • Directions around your suburb
  • With residents you can say Go to the hospital.
  • Industry jargonuse it when needed.
  • neoplasm (to doctors)
  • tumour (to other people)

17
Knowing the audienceexamples
  • Absolute location
  • Melways Map 30, A7
  • Third shop along Mitchell St from the High St
    corner (partly relative)
  • Relative location
  • Take the third turn left and then the second turn
    right.

18
Plain English language
19
Same words each time
  • Always use the same word for somethingDont
    change names for variety.
  • Use the same word patternDont change for the
    sake of it.
  • Dont worry about being boring.
  • Transfer information, dont entertain.
  • Use pictures and colour to reduce boredom.

20
Everyday words
21
More verbs, fewer nouns
  • Avoid making verbs into nouns.
  • Dont say Make application.
  • Say Apply.
  • Watch out for noun strings.
  • tank restraint safety lock emergency release
    lever Being brief is good, but you can go too
    far!

22
Foreign words
Quiz Point What do these mean?
  • i.e., e.g., etc., vs, et al, viz, via
  • ergo, ad hoc, per annum, carte blanche, panache,
    raison detre, zeitgeist, chutzpeh
  • Some people dont know foreign words.Use
    English!
  • Do keep enjoying them outside your business
    writing!

23
Old fashioned words
  • These (and many others) have no place in business
    English!
  • hereto hereinafter hereby aforesaid
    bequeath asunder

24
Short sentences
  • Break sentences up.
  • Aim for 12 clauses per sentence.

This uses simple language, but it is too long! An
orange is a round reddish-yellow fruit, which
comes from a medium-sized tree harvested in the
winter, and contains Vitamin C, essential for the
vitality of human blood.
25
Short sentences
  • Break sentences up.
  • Aim for 12 clauses per sentence.

This is better! An orange is a round
reddish-yellow fruit. It comes from a
medium-sized tree harvested in the winter.
Oranges contain Vitamin C, essential for the
vitality of human blood.
26
Short paragraphs
  • Have one idea per paragraph.

27
Write personallywe and you
  • Address the reader directly.
  • Use we and you.
  • This helps you to be clear about who does what.

28
Write personallywe and you
Impersonal Refunds may be given to customers
who consider that they have not received
satisfactory service.
Personal If you are not satisfied with our
service, we may refund your money.
29
Write personallyuse commands
  • When writing instructions, use commands
    (imperative).

Statement (not imperative) Passengers are not
permitted to open the doors. Doors may only be
opened by crew members.
Command Do not open the doors. Ask a crew
member to open them for you.
30
Use active voice
  • Quiz Point
  • Translate into active voice
  • The engine is started by the driver.

31
Use active voice
  • Quiz Point Answer
  • This is in active voice
  • The driver starts the engine.

32
Use active voice
  • Who is the agent?
  • The person doing the action.
  • We usually want to know who the agent is.

33
Use active voice
  • Passive voice
  • Object goes first.
  • Subject (agent) last or missing.
  • Reader has to mentally turn it around.
  • Sometimes not clear who does what.
  • The form must be signed.The notice was
    posted by the manager

34
Use active voice
  • Active voice
  • Subject (agent) firstnever missing
  • Object last
  • Quicker to read
  • Clear who does whatApplicants must sign the
    form.The manager posted the notice.

35
Reifyingwhen you reify, you
  • Say that something inanimate is an agent.The
    report forces us to consider three
    optionsChecking helps you avoid mistakesThe
    picture shows how to wrap the parcel
  • Do not correctly identify the agent. (Agent is
    not real!)
  • Do not communicate the sequence ltAgentgt ltActiongt
    ltObjectgt.

36
Reifyingpossible cures
  • Refer to the author of the document. The
    authors of the report force us to consider three
    options.
  • Describe action and consequence. If you check,
    you may make fewer mistakes.
  • Describe action to get information. See the
    picture to find out how to wrap the parcel.
  • Use an appropriate verb for the agent, such as
    is or contains.

37
Reifying is an advanced topic
  • Do not worry too much about reification.
  • Even this presentation has it.
  • If you worry too much you may
  • Waste time and effort
  • End up with more verbose results
  • Just watch out for missing agents. People need
    to know who is responsible.

38
Is your meaning clear?
  • Simple language can be ambiguous
  • Check your work.
  • Get someone else to read it.

Hotel Signs Norway Ladies are requested not to
have children in the bar. Budapest Please do not
feed the animals. If you have any suitable food,
give it to the guard on duty.
39
When to use plain English
  • When you want to give
  • Information
  • Instructions
  • Warnings
  • Business communication

40
When to use creative English
  • Creative writing
  • Poetry
  • Fiction
  • Personal letters
  • Essays
  • Journalism

41
Structure for easy reading
42
Chunking and 72
  • Only have 7 items at a time.
  • If you have more than 7, create groups.
  • Give groups names (subheadings).
  • If you have more than 7 groups, group the groups
    and give them names.
  • This is the natural way that everyone learns.

43
Chunking and 72 example
  • Party pies
  • Pizza
  • Potato chips
  • Cup cakes
  • Lamingtons
  • Birthday cake
  • Sauce
  • Ice
  • Cordial
  • Drink jugs
  • Cups
  • Serviettes
  • Plates
  • Candles
  • Sparklers
  • Matches
  • Balloons
  • Streamers
  • Game prizes
  • Tablecloths
  • Twister game
  • Donkey poster
  • Blu-tack
  • Donkey tails
  • Treasure hunt prizes
  • Send invitations
  • Warm pies
  • Mix cordial
  • Set out food
  • Set up donkey game
  • Set up treasure hunt

44
Chunking and 72 example
  • Food
  • Party pies
  • Pizza
  • Potato chips
  • Cup cakes
  • Lamingtons
  • Birthday cake
  • Sauce
  • Ice
  • Cordial
  • Equipment (food)
  • Drink jugs
  • Cups
  • Serviettes
  • Plates
  • Candles
  • Sparklers
  • Matches
  • Equipment (other)
  • Balloons
  • Streamers
  • Game prizes
  • Tablecloths
  • Games
  • Twister game
  • Donkey poster
  • Blu-tack
  • Donkey tails
  • Treasure hunt prizes
  • Tasks
  • Send invitations
  • Warm pies
  • Mix cordial
  • Set out food
  • Set up donkey game
  • Set up treasure hunt

45
Chunking and 72
  • In what way is information the opposite of food?

46
Chunking and 72
  • In what way is information the opposite of food?

To digest food, we break it down into
components. To digest information, we build it up
into chunks.
47
Tables
  • If you have more than two pairs of items, use a
    table.
  • The Blue team has 5 members, the Red team has 7
    members and the Green team has 4 members.

48
Tables
  • If you have more than two pairs of items, use a
    table.
  • The Blue team has 5 members, the Red team has 7
    members and the Green team has 4 members.

49
Headings
  • Put headings and subheadings in your text
  • Readers can quickly see what it is about.
  • Readers may only need to read some parts.
  • The headings chunk the information for easy
    digestion.

50
Headings
  • Make a hierarchy
  • Normally uses level 1, 2 and 3.
  • Shows the structure of your document.
  • Makes it easy to generate a table of contents.

51
Lists
  • If you list 3 or more items, show them on
    separate lines.
  • If there are 9 or more items, split the list into
    two levels (chunking).
  • Know when to use bullets and numbers.

52
Bullets and numbers
  • Numbers
  • Use when there is order or rank
  • Steps
  • Ranking
  • Bullets
  • Use for other lists.
  • Neither
  • OK for single line lists.

53
Bullets and numbersexample
  • 1 Heat the pan.
  • 2 Fry onions.
  • 3 Brown the meat.
  • 4 Add the curry paste.
  • 5 Fry for two minutes.
  • 6 Add stock or water.
  • 7 Simmer for 20 minutes.

54
Bullets and numbersexample
  • 1 Heat the pan.
  • 2 Fry onions.
  • 3 Brown the meat.
  • 4 Add the curry paste.
  • 5 Fry for two minutes.
  • 6 Add stock or water.
  • 7 Simmer for 20 minutes.

55
Bullets and numbersexample
  • Favourite pastimes
  • Going to the movies, but only to see shows that
    cheer people up
  • Watching football on TV
  • Walking in the bush
  • Having coffee with friends

56
Bullets and numbersexample
  • Favourite pastimes
  • Going to the movies, but only to see shows that
    cheer people up
  • Watching football on TV
  • Walking in the bush
  • Having coffee with friends

57
Bullets and numbersexample
  • Shopping list
  • bread
  • lettuce
  • pasta
  • milk
  • bananas

58
Parallel form in lists
  • Have the same word patterns for all list
    itemsdont mix
  • Words
  • Phrases
  • Questions
  • Commands

59
Parallel form in lists
Dont do it this way!
  • Favourite pastimes
  • Going to the movies, but only shows that cheer
    people up
  • Do you like watching football as much as I do?
  • I go walking in the bush every week.
  • Coffee with friends

60
Parallel form in lists
  • Favourite pastimes
  • Going to the movies, but only to see shows that
    cheer people up
  • Watching football on TV
  • Walking in the bush
  • Having coffee with friends

?
61
Punctuation and grammar revision
! . , ? Misplaced! Dangling! Squinting!
Agreement!
62
Commas 1
  • Use when the phrase is not essential
  • Tim, who smokes, may get cancer.
  • Not when the phrase is essential for the
    sentence
  • People who smoke may get cancer.

63
Commas
  • Separating items in a list, but
  • Not separating subject and verb
  • The large, grey object fell from the ceiling.

64
Which and that
  • Which clauses add information and have a comma.
  • Go to the main menu, which shows all options.
  • That clauses help to identify or distinguish.
  • List all orders that have status Approved.

65
Misuse of modifiers gt ambiguity
  • Changes we are considering will affect all new
    members. (misplaced)
  • People who jog often have knee injuries.
    (squinting)
  • Walking around the town, the prosperity was easy
    to see. (dangling)

66
Subject and verb agreement
  • One of the boys has arrived.
  • Several have gone home.

67
Subject and verb agreement
  • Any, none, some, most depend on the context
  • Most of the money is in the bank.
  • Most of the crew are aboard.
  • Collective nouns depend on the context
  • The team has arrived. (as one)
  • The team are getting changed. (as individuals)

68
Pronoun-antecedent agreement
  • The leader and the sponsor have played their
    parts.
  • My friend and brother, Ian, lent me his car for
    the occasion.
  • Everyone has his own path in life.

69
Tense
  • Present tense
  • He eats the cake.
  • Past tense
  • He ate the cake.
  • Future tense
  • He will eat the cake.

70
Person
  • First person (I, we)
  • I eat the cake.
  • Second person (you)
  • You eat the cake.
  • Eat the cake!
  • Third person (he, she, they, it)
  • She eats the cake.

71
Verb form
  • Indicative (narrative)The Line Manager
    authorises the Application for Leave.
  • Imperative (command)Authorise the Application
    for Leave.
  • Progressive (in the act of -ing)Authorising
    the Application for Leave

72
The greengrocers apostrophe
  • Apostrophes have two correct uses
  • PossessiveJohns book, the dogs collars.
  • Shortening wordsI wasnt hungry.
  • Never use apostrophes just for plurals. These
    are correct
  • Three cappuccinos, please.
  • The bank has two new ATMs.

73
The greengrocers apostrophe
  • Bob the Angry Flowers Quick Guide to the
    Apostrophehttp//angryflower.com/aposter.html

74
Writing instructionsGeneral best practice
  • Tips for better instructions For use anywhere!

75
Tense
  • Present tense
  • Use most of the time.
  • Past tense
  • Only use to show something in the past.
  • Future tense
  • Only use to emphasise a time delay. Otherwise
    use present tense.

76
Shall, Will
  • Shall
  • Do not use. It sounds pompous and legalistic.
    Just say Do it.
  • Will (future tense)
  • Only use to emphasise a time delay. Otherwise
    use present tense.

77
Must, Please
  • Must
  • Use sparingly for very important things or people
    will ignore it.
  • If you put it in for something that is optional,
    you could fail an audit.
  • Please
  • It is nice to be nice, but please creates word
    clutter.

78
AND, OR in bulleted lists
  • Put AND or OR at the end of each item if it is
    not clear whether
  • All items apply OR
  • At least one item applies

79
Common terms
  • Use consistent naming for everything.
  • Build a list of terms
  • Let everyone contribute.
  • Store in common area.
  • Categorise the terms (72!).
  • Later on, add definitions to make a useful
    glossary.

80
Slash /, (s)
  • Do not use slash / It creates ambiguity and
    confusion. Does it mean or or and?
  • --- or --- or both is better than and/or
  • Do not use (s) or /s to allow for a possible
    plural. Just make it plural anyway.

81
Plain English examples
  • Rescuing the reader

82
Plain English example
83
Plain English example 2
84
The QDT PackageUsing TKO and Q-Templates
forBusiness Documentation
Questions info_at_qdt.com.au 03 5443 9605
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