Tips and tricks

My articles aim to help you improve the quality of your writing and create documents that suit your audience and achieve their intended purpose.

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Get rid of unnecessary words

Have you ever been told your work is longwinded? You can fix this problem by following my tips for writing succinctly and editing your work before you finalise it. Why bother writing succinctly? Compare succinct writing with longwinded writing and you’ll find it’s not only shorter, but also: easier to read quicker to read more … Continue reading Get rid of unnecessary words

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Does my work need editing or proofreading?

When people ask me to proofread their work, nine times out of ten their document needs editing. As a writer, you don’t need to be an expert in editing process and tasks (that’s my job), but it can help to understand the basics. It’s not surprising that people confuse editing and proofreading — after all, … Continue reading Does my work need editing or proofreading?

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Use acronyms thoughtfully

If you work for a government department or NGO, you probably use acronyms in your writing. It can be tempting to use lots of acronyms, as they shorten your sentences and save space on the page. But paragraphs full of acronyms can confuse your readers, slow down their reading and mean your well-crafted messages are … Continue reading Use acronyms thoughtfully

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What is a style guide, and do I need one?

Any organisation that writes documents will benefit from having a style guide. If you’re not sure what a style guide is, or how to use one, this article will help you get started. What do we mean by ‘style’? Every time you write a document you make choices about style. For example, how to spell … Continue reading What is a style guide, and do I need one?

Use apostrophes correctly

Apostrophes act as signals to readers. They may seem insignificant, but when they are used incorrectly they confuse readers and slow down their reading. Are you’re sometimes unsure about whether a word needs an apostrophe? This article will help you understand the general rules. It’s actually quite simple: there are only two occasions when you … Continue reading Use apostrophes correctly

Blade of grass

Streamline your document review

Does it take longer than you expect to finish writing a document for your organisation or business? Do you find that too many people want to change your draft and re-negotiate the contents? These are common problems that have a significant impact on productivity. When many people review a document, sometimes more than once, it … Continue reading Streamline your document review

Woman looking quizzical

Do you need an editor?

Your first draft is never your best If you write documents, you’ll know that your first drafts are never the best versions. Let’s face it, they can be long, repetitive, muddled, badly organised, full of mistakes and untidy. If your documents are poorly written it’s hard for readers to hear what you want to tell … Continue reading Do you need an editor?

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Get into good writing habits

Do you want good writing technique to come naturally? Here’s what I’ve learnt about creating good habits, from a change I’ve made to what I eat. I think the same principles apply to making good writing a habit. Some of you may know I’m an amateur triathlete; swimming, cycling and running most days is very … Continue reading Get into good writing habits

Now or never written in capital letters

Use capitals wisely

Do you get confused about when to capitalise words? There are times when words must be capitalised, but often capitalising words is simply a style choice. Because people find it quicker and easier to scan and understand lowercase words, many organisations now prefer to keep the use of capitals to a minimum. Read my four … Continue reading Use capitals wisely

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Be consistent

Consistency matters. It makes your documents and webpages easier for people to read and find their way around. It also makes them look professional. You achieve consistency by making and applying rules to several aspects of your writing. Your organisation may have its own set of rules (these are often defined in a style guide). … Continue reading Be consistent

Woman pointing

Get your tone right

Have you wondered what people mean when they talk about tone and voice in writing? If so, read on! First, let’s look at the difference between voice and tone. Voice means your personal voice. If something’s been written in your voice, people who know you will be able to tell it’s your writing. It’s important … Continue reading Get your tone right

Women with her head in her hands

Kill zombie nouns in three easy steps

Zombie nouns are one of the most common problems I see in non-fiction writing. By learning how to identify and replace zombie nouns, you’ll instantly improve the quality of your writing. And your readers will thank you for it! Nominalisations, or zombie nouns, are nouns formed from other parts of speech like adjectives or verbs. … Continue reading Kill zombie nouns in three easy steps

Bottle of plain yoghurt.

Use plain English

Have you come across the term plain English? It’s a style of writing that uses language, structure and presentation that readers can understand and act on by reading just once. Plain English is language that: uses commonly understood words and phrases is clear and concise avoids unnecessary technical jargon is appropriate to the audience’s age, … Continue reading Use plain English

Coloured pencils. These are a good tool to help you plan your writing.

Plan your writing

Investing time in planning your writing is one of the best ways to improve it. Effective writers devote 40 percent of their time to planning, 25 percent to writing and 35 percent to editing. Yet many people dive straight into writing. This approach often means your writing takes longer, but the quality isn’t as good. … Continue reading Plan your writing