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?