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Series 1 - Writing that works - for newsletters, leaflets and reports (03 Dec 06)

How to write so clearly and persuasively that other people read, understand – and do what you want.

In a survey some years ago, business leaders were asked what change they would most like to see.

They didn’t talk about accounting or strategy. Mostly they pleaded:

“Can't people write better?”

If you read most stuff put out nowadays it is appalling.

Some very good rules for good writing were formulated by Rudolph Flesch, an American, who spent years in the 1940’s researching what makes for easy reading.

The simplest is, make your sentences as short as possible. The easiest sentence to take in is only eight words long. Any sentence of more than 32 words is hard to take in.

That’s because most people tend to forget what happened at the beginning of the sentence by the time they get to the end. You must make it easy for people. And the same applies to paragraphs.

Good examples

Read a writer like Hemingway. His words, sentences and paragraphs are remarkably short. This is true of all popular fiction or popular newspapers. They are written for people who are not clever, or not concentrating.

George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm” were gripping parables about the nightmare of totalitarianism. In an essay he gave six rules for better writing.

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