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     Whether you write annual information, proposals or emails, these seven tips from a top writing trainer will help you to communicate effectively with your readers.

Know your audience

Step one is to analyse your audience. Who are they? How much do they know about the subject? How sceptical are they? What generation are they?

Are they liable to be resistant or open to your message? If you tell them too little, they won’t understand. If you tell them too much, they’ll feel patronised.

The more you know about your audience the better, because you can then shape your message and language in a way that will reach them most effectively.

Know the facts

There’s no substitute for research. If you don’t know your topic, how can you explain it to others?

Why should people simply accept what you say? You have to back up your statements with convincing arguments and facts, presented in a logical manner.

Know what you want to say

If you are a good researcher, you know too much. Ruthlessly cut out everything except the most important bits.

How many long, shapeless reports have you had to wade through? They were the product of writers who didn’t bother to think through their material and decide on what they really wanted to say.

In other words, don’t cram in too much information. It will simply overwhelm the audience. Use the minimum that it takes to make your key points successfully.

Build a structure

Whatever you write needs a beginning, a middle and an end, and a logical flow from start to finish. That means deciding on an introduction; building up your argument; and ending with a powerful summing up and conclusion.

Guide your readers along the way, using headings as signposts and linking phrases to signal to them how each paragraph or section logically follows the next.

Keep it simple

Short words and short sentences are easier to understand. If you write a long sentence, make sure it is constructed for maximum clarity.

Forget the idea that long sentences or words are more impressive. What is truly impressive in writers is their ability to make themselves clear.

Avoid jargon and unnecessary words

Jargon is useful for experts, but confounds and confuses an ordinary audience. Where you have to use jargon, explain what it means. Remember, if you work in a jargon – accountancy jargon, for instance – you can sometimes forget that a word or phrase is not part of the mainstream vocabulary.

Cut out superfluous words; they just get in the way.

Don’t forget to edit

Unless you’re the best writer who ever lived, you will need to edit your first draft. Don’t try to write it perfectly first time. This will simply inhibit you, and you’ll stumble over your own over-intense scrutiny.

There should be a bit of a gap between that first draft and the next. Then your mind will be fresh, and you’ll see flaws in the structure and the individual sentences.

© Tony Spencer-Smith

Make your point: writing clear and concise reports.


Want more tips on how to write well? How to Write well – On 18 February 2011 in Sydney,

Tony Spencer-Smith of Express Editors ( is giving a public course called Make your point: writing clear and concise reports. You can book online at for this and other exciting writing and editing courses.

Tony Spencer-Smith is a leading corporate writer and writing trainer who has trained hundreds of people to use words with greater power and precision. He is also an award-winning novelist and former editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest magazine. Photograph of Tony Spencer-Smith by Linda Vergnani.

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