Five Common Errors to Correct Before Submitting a Letter or Report
First impressions count in writing too! So it is always a good idea to carefully check documents such as letter, reports, and proposals before submitting them. Below are five of the most common errors.
1. The document isn't tailored for its audience. For example, a proposal does not speak to a client in a "you" tone. Sometimes, it includes terms that a client may not understand. After giving your document some time to cool off, reread it as your client would. Remember to mark jargon and underline unclear sentences.
2. The document isn't organized well. In other words, its paragraphs do not flow smoothly from one to the next. That is, a given paragraph may cover a totally different aspect instead of clarifying a point. This problem can be fixed or avoided altogether by numbering paragraphs in a draft and writing a few words that summarize what you said. What you'll have is a quick outline of the entire document. You'll also see any organizational flaws in a glance and be able to deal with them directly.
3. The document's sentences don't flow well. One sentence does not flow smoothly from the last. No examples, clarification or short explanations are included. To avoid this problem, never assume that your reader automatically understands what you mean. Help your audience to visualize. Instead of writing "some" or "many," use numbers or percents. This will help to prevent misunderstandings. For example, I may interpret "many" as one thousand instead of a million.
4. The document merely ends or uses trite words such as "in conclusion." Doing something like this leaves an audience cold. Fix this problem by capitalizing on one last opportunity to emphasize your main point and summarize and highlight your point or points in the final paragraphs. Even if your readers forget all of the other details, they will likely remember your main point.
5. Check for mechanical and spelling errors. Have you used "there" when you meant "their?" Do your subjects and verbs agree?
Dorothy Zjawin, a technical writing mentor and instructor, has helped and continues to assist her clients in improving their writing skills. She has also written technical documents and developed her own website, http://www.profitable-pen.com
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COULD YOU (not) REPEAT THAT PLEASE?
I recently read a book where everything was akimbo.† Arms were akimbo, legs were akimbo.† Akimbo appeared on every page.††††† ††††† Okay every page is a slight exaggeration, but akimbo was in every chapter more than once.† I started thinking of the hero in the book as Adam West's posturing Batman persona.††††† ††††† Every writer is guilty of the akimbo type of repetitiveness once in awhile.† Most of the time we're not even aware that we're echoing ourselves.††††† ††††† How do these unconscious akimbo dittos creep into our work?† The English language is so rich with descriptors, why would we rob our manuscripts of the warmth and color that this richness brings to our work?† Simply put -- we're lazy.† ††††† ††††† When the afore mentioned writer was feverishly scribbling away on her book, she arrived at a moment when her character took a stance, and the first word that popped into her head was akimbo.† Writing akimbo was easier than it would be to stop the flow of her writing and come up with a different way of saying akimbo.† The only problem is instead of going back to edit out ninety percent of the akimbos, she left them in and it became a distraction to the reader (and humorous to me, which I'm sure wasn't her intention).††††† ††††† Don't let yourself get lazy.† Go through your work and get rid of repetitive words.† Especially if they're words like akimbo that are not used in everyday conversation.††††† ††††† If you need help, go to the Georgetown Linguistics website and use their frequency index tool (see the web address below).† Copy your text into the box provided and click on the "Do it!" button.† This website will give you a list of every word and how many times it was used in your manuscript.† ††††† ††††† I would suggest (and this is just my opinion) that if you discover that you've used akimbo more than twenty-nine times, get rid of all but one of them.††††† ††††† By the way akimbo appears 13 times in this passage.† Annoying wasn't it!
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