"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler"
Written language is one of the most beautiful creations of mankind. It allows us to capture ideas and thoughts in a way that can be preserved and shared again many times over. The problem is that language can sometimes be misintepreted. This post is about minimizing the potential for misunderstanding by structuring your writing for understanding, because let's be honest, some of us don't do this that well. These tips are summarized from "Improving Your Technical Writing Skills" By Norman Fenton.
Before you write an email, a report, or document you should start with these things in mind:
- Objective: This should be a single statement that will determine the purpose of what your writing. If your document is formal, you can write it down on the actual documenet. If you are just sending out and email, just keep it in mind.
- Target Audience: It's important to keep in mind who will be reading your words. It will help you reduce technical terms or abbreviations that not everybody would understand.
Next Up, The rules for your writing. These are are simple little tid-bits, but will clarify your communications with your team.
Rule 1: Keep Sentences Short!
Each sentence should be a single thought or unit of information.
- Words to get rid of: like, and, or, and which
Rule 2: Lists Should Look Like Lists.
If the information you're sharing is sequential or really is a list of things, then make them a list. Use numbered lists or bullets points to architect the information as it exists in real life. This makes it easier on the end user to absorb the information quickly.
- First Part
- Second Part
- Sub Second Part
- Another Sub Second Part
- Third Part
Rule 3: Use the simplest forms of words and phrases.
Sometimes people try to use bigger words because to sound smart or more professional, but as a business analyst your goal isn't to sound smart, it is to make sure everybody understands. Here are a few examples/corrections of being a little too fancy.
- How can I
utilizeuse the tool
- The test will
- He will
ascertainfind out the reason for the delay
- We should
terminateend the transmission
Should a situation arise whereIf the baby is crying.
Simplifying your writing style to make it easier for your reader to take in, will avoid confusion, will ensure a better shared understanding, which will get you faster resolutions, agreements, and approvals.
I highly recommend checking out the original paper for a much more in depth look at effective writing skills far beyond the 3 tips I've included here. "Improving Your Technical Writing Skills" By Norman Fenton