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Friday, December 31, 2010

Elements of Style (on the web and elsewhere)

One of the chief issues with creating better looking and more professional documents for any workplace environment is the writer's belief in and commitment to a quality of style.

Many writers of workplace documents spend so much effort explaining that they are not natural writers and could never spell very well that they miss the main point about style in workplace documents:  it matters and the excuses we make about our perceived weaknesses don't improve the quality of the style or make the reader care more.

The reader has to read, and whether the writer of the document wants to admit it or not, style choices and stylistic mistakes can stop a reader from reading.  It's that simple.

The antidote?  Admit what your real weakness is:  you don't believe you can take charge of your style.

That's not true.  You can.  Good workplace style is not brain surgery.  With all of the tools inherent in word processing, you can solve many of your style issues by simply paying attention to what you consistently do wrong.

After that it's a matter of building your vocabulary the way you believe in building your wardrobe and developing a workplace voice on the page that makes you sound the way you want to be heard:  competent, reasonable, friendly and open to discussion.

Workplace writing is different than other kinds of writing.  It is logic based, and people in  business tend to be logical.  Test that theory the next time you have a workplace document to create.  For content, ask yourself if it fulfills the three primary objectives:  fulfill its purpose, meet its audience's needs and does it situate itself into the occasion?  When you consider that last one, you are thinking about style, too.

When you do, you have taken a major step away from needing to announce your weaknesses and toward your necessary destination where, as a confident writer,  you let your document do its job:  speak confidently and persuasively for you.

Daphne Simpkins' most recent book is Christmas in Fountain City

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