Ask people for words starting with “c” that describe good writing, and they will quickly toss out clear and concise, which are the backbone of good writing. But other important qualities also begin with “c.”
Cohesive — When you breeze through a message without pausing, easily absorbing the writer’s ideas, the sentences are cohesive, that is, seamlessly connected. Each one flows logically from the previous thought. To create cohesion, start a sentence with a noun, pronoun, or other words that refer to what you discussed previously, thereby continuing the thematic thread.
Let’s say the reader reads these two sentences in this sequence: We are introducing a new training program. The global fire-safety management team will deliver the training. Because the first sentence ended with a reference to a new training program, the reader’s brain starts the next sentence expecting to see words relating to the training. Instead, she sees The global fire safety management team and wonders how that relates to the training program. In linguistics, this is called the old / new principle. Position “old” information (a reference to something discussed previously) at the front of the sentence, and place a reference to new information at the end.
Build cohesion by starting the second sentence with The training will be delivered by … , and that pulls the reader into the sentence. (Yes, that would be a passive sentence, but it is the preferred structure in this instance. The appropriate time to use passive voice is often not explained correctly in schools.)
Writing is coherent when it is unified around a particular idea or theme. When you discuss one idea and in the middle of that veer off into a different topic, it can disrupt the forward motion of the reader, who suddenly wonders, where are we going? All your information in a section or paragraph needs to relate to the topic you are discussing. When you want to switch topics, insert a sentence that provides a transition, easing the reader into the new subject matter.
Convincing – Writing is convincing when it includes examples, numbers (where appropriate), suggestions, and specific reasons why an action is something is necessary. Providing specifics improves the clarity of your message and strengthens your credibility, which makes the communication more persuasive.
Constructive — All business communication should be helpful to the reader. Even when a manager needs to inform someone that project results did not meet expectations or that certain behavior was not appropriate, the language should be tactful and professional so that it encourages the reader to stay motivated. Having the skill to craft effective messages builds credibility, which makes you more persuasive.
Conversational – Most business communication today has a conversational tone, although, depending on the nature of the communication, people often try too hard to impress the reader. Being conversational does not mean writing everything means writing with the tone you would use chatting in person or on the phone.
This blog post would not be complete without emphasizing the importance of being complete in every message. People waste so much time by not including everything the reader will need to know. In their haste to hit send and get the message off the screen, people do not reread it closely enough, which causes an inconvenience for the reader and the writer. It forces the reader to send a text message or email asking for the missing information, and that request, in turn, interrupts the writer.
So take the time to weave together sentences cohesively, unify information around a central idea, and use specifics to present a clear, convincing message. And express your thoughts constructively in a conversational tone, which sounds more authentic. Using these C words as a guide will raise your profile as a careful writer.