Archive: Effective Writing

Pity the Poor Passive

“Avoid passive sentences” is writing advice that almost everyone has heard more than once, but unfortunately, they didn’t get a full explanation.  Passive is not wrong and never has been, but avoid it when you can. Here are a few snippets to remember: As readers of...

Make the Most of the Subject Line

A major reason people do not read e-mail messages is because writers are sloppy about subject lines and, as a result, fail to pull the reader in. The subject line is the first place you are communicating with a reader, the first place you are saying to the reader,...

The 5Ws: Important, but Not All at Once

Most people have heard that it is important to include the five Ws (who, what, where, when, why, and we add in “how”) to make a message clear and complete, and that’s true. But do not try to squeeze them all in the opening paragraph. A surprising...

Stockpiling Modifiers Muddies Your Writing

Stringing a series of modifiers before a noun creates confusion. One or two adjectives are fine, but avoid long chains. This is a pervasive problem in technical industries. When we refer to a “communication program” (one modifier), we have no problem...

The Power of Strong Verbs

We commonly are reminded to use strong verbs, but some people associate “strong verbs” with storytelling, and they wonder if it’s possible in everyday business communication. Sure it is. Convert forms of the verb be to something that contains more action or imagery,...

Interviewing Tips

You gnash your teeth as you sit on deadline and realize you don’t have the information you need for your writing task. It might be because you didn’t get the most out of your interviews. When you do research to gather information for a story, a news...