Who’s your audience?

Oh joy! On 17th February 2012, The Economist’s Style Guide came back online, in a browsable alphabetised format.

I think this style guide should be manadatory reading for all writers, especially in business and government.

Here’s one piece of essential advice:
Readers are primarily interested in what you have to say. By the way in which you say it you may encourage them either to read on or to give up.

Too often writers focus on crafting a fine piece of prose instead of thinking about who’s  going to read it. That’s why we include the concept of audience in the first two modules of our Professional Writing Course.

If you want people to read your writing, following these hints from The Economist is a good start:

  • Don’t be stuffy. Avoid showing off and using pompous and obscure words.
  • Use everyday language. Don’t sound like a lawyer or a civil servant!
  • Don’t be arrogant and tell the reader what to think. Instead persuade them (and avoid too many ‘shoulds’ or ‘oughts’).
  • Don’t be pleased with yourself, unless you want to irritate your readers.
  • Be clear, which means use simple sentences and avoid complicated constructions.

Communication is about other people hearing your message.

So, before writing anything, ask yourself this simple question. Who is going to read this?

Thank you to our guinea pigs!

Well, our first Foundation Course is over, and all our guinea pigs survived the last module. We are so grateful for their commitment and positive feedback.

We learned that there is only so much grammar that a person can take! Therefore, in our next courses, we will infiltrate grammar into the earlier modules. We have also extended the course from four to five modules, as sentences and paragraphs each deserve their own module.

We were happy that everyone enjoyed themselves and learned something. It proved to us that our methodology works, and reinforced our belief that anyone can learn to write concisely and clearly!

Finally, here are some comments from our participants:

“I never thought that sentences could be such fun.”
“I found it clear and easy to understand.”
“I learned something new every week.”
“It was good to work on business writing in a playing context without a looming deadline.”
“It was such a good learning experience.”

Foundation courses in 2011

Our Foundation Course runs over 5 weeks (choice of morning/evening classes in City Bowl or Southern Suburbs) and consists of weekly, classroom-based workshops, with email support between classes. Classes start are run in the City Bowl and the Southern Suburbs.


  • Commit to completing homework outside of the workshops.
  • Submit a short piece of writing (2-3 paragraphs) prior to the first workshop, on a topic of your choice.
  • Be computer literate and have access to Skype, email and the Internet.

Week 1: prewriting tools: Exercises to help overcome writer’s block, structure thoughts, and begin to get  ideas/information down on paper. You will learn how to use free writing, brainstorming and clustering (mind mapping).

Week 2: purpose—audience—planning: Good writing is all about purpose, audience, and planning. You will learn how to clarify your purpose, identify your audience, and plan your document using two common structures: outline (beginning, middle, end) and argument (both sides of an issue).

Week 3: paragraphs: Paragraphs flesh out the bones of your structure. You will learn how to create a coherent flow, use linking sentences, and write logical, well-developed paragraphs and effective topic sentences.

Week 4: sentences: Sentences are the building blocks of writing. You will learn how to write clear sentences, recognise three common sentence errors, and join sentences using conjunctions.

Week 5: basic grammar and style: Knowing what not to do often makes writing well easier. You will learn about grammar gremlins and the basic elements of good style.

For more information, email

Pilot foundation course

We are halfway through our pilot foundation course, finally putting into practice our ideas and theories. And, it is such fun! We have seven intrepid guinea pigs who are testing the course, and the feedback has been wonderful.

We have already had three of the four workshops. Week 1 was all about prewriting tool and included exercises to help over writer’s block. Our guinea pigs tried out free writing, brainstorming and clustering (what we call mind mapping). Then, Week 2 was the PAP module – purpose, audience and planning. We looked at how to clarify your purpose, identify your purpose and plan your document. We experimented with two structures for planning documents: an outline (beginning, middle, end) and an argument (both sides of an issue).

This week, we got down to the nuts and bolts of writing: sentences and paragraphs, the building blocks of writing. We looked at the three most common sentence errors (sentence fragment, comma splice and run-on sentences), how to structure a paragraph using an outline, and the importance of transitional words and sentences to link sentences and paragraphs.

Our intention of this course was to have fun – learning as play. And, judging from the reaction of our participants, we seem to be succeeding. However, the litmas test will be next Tuesday, when we run our last module (Get Writing 2) and tackle common grammar and spelling words!

Musings on blogging

Will I look back on this, my first post, in a few months time and wonder why it took me so long to get around to writing it? Most probably.

It is often the thought of tackling the task that seems so daunting (or should that be terrifying, to continue the alliteration). But once you make a start on the task, it doesn’t seem so difficult after all.

I have finally joined the global community of bloggers. According to Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words (love that website and his weekly e-newsletter), blogger, as an expression, has only been around for about a decade.

So, I am not too far behind the times.

I intend avoiding galimatias (gibberish, meaningless talk, or nonsense). This blog is going to be a gallimaufry (a hodge-podge, ridiculous medley according to Christopher Foyle’s Foyle’s Philavery: A Treasury of Unusual Words) of anything to do with words, language and, of course, business writing and training.

I am already looking forward to writing my next post.