How you can communicate clearly and persuasively
Doing something with pizazz means to do it with flair, energy and excitement. Though few of us aspire to winning Pulitzer Prizes with our writing, we do want our writing to be a credit to us.
In her book Writing on the Job: Quick, Practical Solutions to All Your Business Writing Problems, (Prentice-Hall, 1995) author Cosmo Ferrara tells how to add pizazz to writing:
- Turn being verbs into doing ones.
Verbs such as is, are, were, and has been make your writing sound flat and bureaucratic. To turn dull writing into engaging prose, change being verbs into doing ones. For example:Being verbs: "I was at the church last week, and was given a tour of the building."
Doing verbs: "I visited the church last week and toured the building."
- Write concretely, instead of abstractly.
Expressing your thoughts concretely gives the reader a clear picture of what you are saying. Having trouble thinking of a concrete phrases to replace abstract ones? Then, think of how you would communicate that same ideas in a conversation. We tend to speak in a more concrete manner than we write.
- Write precisely.
Imprecise writers use extra words and syllables. Precise writers use fewer words to communicate the same ideas. As you proofread, look for places to substitute one word for two of them or a shorter word for a longer one.
- Ask rhetorical questions.
As you write, think of the questions that might pop into your readers' minds. For example: "What purpose do rhetorical questions serve?" Because human beings are curious, rhetorical questions encourage people to continue reading. They will start looking for an answer to the question you have posed.
- Personalize large numbers.
When readers think information affects them personally, they will pay more attention. Engage your readers by expressing numbers in human or visual terms. Here's an example:Original sentence: "There are 200,000 car accidents due to drunk driving in this country each year."
Improved version: "One in three car accidents in our city involves a drunk driver."
- Write in the active voice.
Passive sentences: "At last week's meeting, it was agreed that the old software must be replaced."
Active voice: "At our last meeting, we agreed to replace the old software."
If you need to conceal the identity of the person or group involved, use the passive voice. Otherwise, write in the active voice.
Adapted from an article in "The Office Professional," Copyright © 1999, Used with permission.
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