When it comes to crafting, there is one simple rule that makes your writing more natural, ensures your thinking is clear and guarantees your meaning will be understood, says Kristel Brown, Operations Director at Writing Machine.
A key principle of our Structured Writing Method™ is that writing is the very last thing you do. Only once you’ve identified a truly audience-focused objective, translated that into a clear key message and defined a structure to bring your messages to life should you ever think about actually writing.
When it comes to final step in the process – crafting – our Structured Writing Method training covers everything from writing in the active voice to avoiding jargon to knowing when to use a semi-colon rather than a colon. It looks at numerous ways you can ensure your writing is as clear and engaging as possible.
But there is one golden rule we value above all others – write like you speak.
The Structured Writing Method four step process
Write like you speak
This simple rule will make your writing seem more natural. It will help to ensure your thinking is crystal clear and it will guarantee your point is understood by the widest possible audience.
When we speak, we naturally simplify our language to help people understand what we have to say. We vary the length of our sentences to create an engaging rhythm. We move logically from one idea to the next, maintaining a consistent thread through what we are saying.
Readers will welcome all of those qualities, and yet so often we all see business communications written completely differently. Long words are used necessarily – or incorrectly. Sentences carry on for line after line, leaving readers breathless and confused. An argument jumps from one stage to another, forcing readers to re-read.
How to check if you are writing like you speak
To check if you are writing like you speak, simply read your writing out loud.
To keep your writing as simple and straightforward as possible, try to keep to:
- Between 15 and 25 words per sentence (but make sure you vary the length of your sentences too).
- One idea per sentence.
- One topic per paragraph.
And always ask yourself if there is a simpler way of saying what you want to say.
For example, do you need to write…
- Leverage, or do you actually mean use?
- Obtain, or would you say get if you were talking to someone?
- In the event that, or would will work just as well?
- Methodology (which is a system of methods), or are you using the wrong word while trying to make a method sound more impressive?
Similarly, check your sentences…
Will you help your readers by writing…
High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for the facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process.
Or could you write more like you speak…
Quality classrooms help to improve learning
Is this really one sentence…
The ideal, optimum length for sentences is twenty words, any longer than that and your writing could become confusing to the reader, and always stick to one idea for each sentence, and one topic for each paragraph.
Or should it be three…
The ideal, optimum length for sentences is twenty words. Longer sentences could confuse your reader. And always stick to one idea per sentence and one topic per paragraph.
Crafting your words in this way is the natural final stage of everything covered by the Structured Writing Method up to this point. It’s completely audience-focused, because it enables the widest possible audience to understand what you are discussing. It ensures your messaging comes across loud and clear. And it helps to reflect and reinforce the quality and effectiveness of your thinking – which is exactly what good writing should do.