As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been reading and editing a lot of project reports and documents lately. As I have, I’ve been keeping a running list of suggestions, errors and missteps to consider when embarking on a new writing assignment. Here are the latest additions. (Previous list is here.) I’ll add to the list as my editing marathon continues.
- Define in your mind who your audience is and what you want them to do as a result of reading what you’ve written. Consider making that definition a part of the document you’re writing to help readers better understand how they may benefit from or act upon what you’re written.
- Based on your intended audience, examine what you’ve written to determine whether an intended reader will know or understand every term of art or technical word/phrase.
- A declarative statement or editorial comment should be bolstered by proof points; without them, readers often judge such pronouncements as naive or obvious.
- When presenting lots of information, think about using a matrix to organize and summarize material for the convenience of readers.
- If you are discussing items in a series, present the same kinds of information for each item. Deviations from item to item will stop readers in their tracks as they try to divine whether an omission is an error, an attempt to manipulate a conclusion or something entirely different.