Choose strategies

What readability level should you use?

  1. For educated business readers, keep the text at about a tenth-grade readability level.
  2. For average readers, keep the text at around an eighth- or ninth-grade readability level.
  3. Use Word's readability formulas to check your writing occasionally.

 

What level of difficulty should you use?

  1. Use vocabulary the reader uses.
  2. If the reader knows little about the subject, define and explain more.
  3. Keep your vocabulary and content at the reader’s level, usually the tenth-grade level.
  4. Minimize unnecessary detail.
  5. Decide how much you want to teach the reader.

Let the reader's education and expertise score guide you.

  1. Naïve, general public, not knowledgeable
    • simple words
    • no jargon
    • no unnecessary explanations
    • shorter sentences
    • visuals
    • examples
  2. Some general knowledge, little understanding of jargon, able to understand some principles
    • moderate level knowledge words
    • commonest known jargon, but no specialized jargon
    • extra explanations as the reader will understand, but no technical details
    • moderate-length sentences
    • visuals for more complex concepts but not for ordinary ones
    • examples for more complex concepts but not for ordinary ones

  3. Astute, knowledgeable, understands the field, knows the jargon
    • educated words
    • commonly used jargon
    • explanations of only new concepts
    • longer sentences
    • visuals only to explain new concepts
    • few examples except to illustrate new concepts

 

Should the explanation be abstract or concrete?

  1. Abstract
    • Open to interpretation
    • Collaboration with the reader
    • Involves the reader
    • For readers who know the subject well

  2. Concrete
    • Single interpretation
    • No deviation from expectations
    • Uses examples
    • Includes more details
    • Uses visuals

 

Should the feedback loop be abstract or concrete?

  1. Abstract
    • Reader may decide how to respond
    • Reader may decide when to respond
    • Leaves open alternatives for the response
    • Leaves open the content the reader may include

  2. Concrete
    • Requires a single method of response
    • Requires response by a certain date or time
    • Allows no alternatives for the response
    • Specifies in detail what the reader must provide in the response
    • Has observable, measurable means to ensure the reader complied

 

What level of formality should you use?

  1. Archaic (do not use)
    • "aforementioned" (16th century)
    • "as per your request" (18th century)
    • "under separate cover" (14th century).
  2. Formal (use when the reader expects it)
  3. Business (use normally)
  4. Business informal (use occasionally)
  5. Informal (do not use)

 

What tone should you use?

  • Cooperative
  • Encouraging
  • Helpful
  • Personal
  • Close or partnering

    Not

  • Disdainful
  • Antagonistic
  • Impersonal
  • Patronizing

 

What stance should you use?

  • Generally, use “you" and “I," not “they," “one," or “the company."
  • Write “please," “thank you," and “may I."
  • Avoid lecturing and patronizing. Avoid “You must," “You should."
  • Partner with the client.
  • Avoid discriminating language such as businessman, chairman, draftsman, fireman, flag man, man hours, or manpower.

 

Example letter

To see an example of a letter that uses inappropriate strategies and a revision that improves it, click on the "Example" button below. The information will appear in a new window. Close the new window when you're finished looking at the examples.

Example

Example e‑mail

To see an example of an e‑mail that uses inappropriate strategies and a revision that improves it, click on the "Example" button below. The information will appear in a new window. Close the new window when you're finished looking at the examples.

Example



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