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2001 - Writing That Works - How to Communicate Effectively In Business.3rd ed.pdf

2001 - Writing That Works - How…

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1159次下载 0人收藏 暂无简介 简介 2012-10-15 举报

简介:2001 - Writing That Works - How to Communicate Effectively In Business.3rd ed

WritingThatWorksThirdEditionHowtocommunicateeffectivelyinbusiness:e-maillettersmemospresentationsplansreportsproposalsresumesspeechesKenmethRomanandJoelRaphaelsonIflanguageisnotcorrect,thenwhatissaidisnotwhatismeant;Ifwhatissaidisnotwhatismeant,Thenwhatoughttobedoneremainsundone.—CONFUCIUSContentsEpigraphPreface:WhyaThirdEdition?1.WritingThatWorks2.Don’tMumble—andOtherPrinciplesofEffectiveWriting3.“ILoveMyComputer”4.E-mail—theGreatMailboxintheSky5.MemosandLettersThatGetThingsDone6.WritingforanAudience:PresentationsandSpeeches7.PlansandReportsThatMakeThingsHappen8.RecommendationsandProposalsThatSellIdeas9.AskingforMoney:SalesandFund-RaisingLetters10.CopingwithPoliticalCorrectness11.WritingaResume—andGettinganInterview12.EditingYourself13.MakingItEasytoReadOtherBooksThatWillHelpYouWriteBetterAcknowledgmentsAbouttheAuthorPraiseforWritingThatWorks,3rdEditionPreviousBooksCopyrightAboutthePublisherPrefaceWhyaThirdEdition?Thefirsteditionofthisbookwaswrittenonatypewriter;wedeliveredatypedmanuscripttothepublisher.Wewrotethesecondeditiononcomputersanddeliveredaprintedmanuscript.Thiseditionwaswrittenoncomputersande-mailedtooureditor—nomanuscript,notevendisks.Thatillustratesoneofthechangesinthewaypeoplecommunicatethatpropelledustoundertakeathoroughrevision.E-mailhasbecomesoubiquitousthatweaddedachapterandrevisedseveralotherstotakefullaccountofitsinfluence.Anotherchangeinrecentyearsisthefadingoftheinternalmemo—displacedinmanyusesbye-mail,inothersbythepresentation“deck.”Ourpurpose,however,remainsunchanged.Wewrotethebooktohelpthosemillionsofnonprofessionalwriterswhomustusethewrittenwordtogetresults—inbusiness,ingovernment,ineducation,inthearts.That’sstillourgoal.Norhavewefoundanycausetoabandontheprinciplesweespouse.Tothecontrary,thespeedandeaseofe-mailandwordprocessingserveasaninvitationtosloppywriting.ReplacingpaperwithaPCscreendoesn’tchangetheneedforclear,precisecommunication.Andreplacingaformalmemowithabullet-pointedpresentationdeckdoesn’tjustifyloosethinking.Inthesecondedition,weintroducedsomethoughtsonhowtoavoidthepitfallsofsexistlanguage.Wehaveexpandedthosethoughtsintoaseparatechapteronpoliticalcorrectness—andtheextenttowhichitshouldorshouldnotinfluencethewayyouwrite.Throughoutthebook,wehavefreshenedexamplesandsharpenedpointsbypracticingwhatwepreachaboutediting.Comingfromaworldofthirty-secondcommercialshastrainedustocuttotheessence—andhelpedkeepthisbookslimandourmessageaccessible.Nothingthatfollowsisacademicortheoretical.Youwillfindadviceyoucanacton,wheneveryouhavetoconvertemptyscreenorblankpaperintoaletter,amemo,areport,arecommendation,aproposal,aspeech,aresume.You’llgethelpfromspecificside-by-sideexamplesofgoodwritingversusbad.“Generationsagothetelephonekilledtheartofexecutivewriting.Nowit’spoisedforacomeback,”reportsTheWallStreetJournal,notingthate-mailsendseveryonetoakeyboard.Nowondercompaniesinstitutewritingcourses.Effectivewritingishardworkevenforthebestwriters(andevenonacomputer),buttheprinciplesaresimple.Theydon’trequireunusualtalentorspecialskills.Theyareeasytounderstandandeasytoputintouse.Whatyoudoneedisadegreeofdetermination—theperseverancetobesureyou’vesaidwhatyouwanttosay.Thisbookaimstohelpyoudothatwithlessdifficultyandmoreconfidence,andgettheresultsyou’relookingfor—fromeverythingyouwrite.1WritingThatWorks“ToomanyofthecommunicationsIgetaremeaningless,”observesaleadingCEO.“Theydon’thelpmeunderstandwhatactionthewriterwantsmetotake.Theywastemytime.”Wecouldfilladozenpageswithcomplaintsofthissort.“Unclear,poorlywritten,orconfusing”istheverdictofvicepresidentsoftwohundredmajorU.S.companiesonafullthirdofthebusinesswritingtheyconfront.NewYork’sCommissionerofEducation,frustratedthatsomanyofthelettersandmemospassingthroughhisofficewere“confusing”or“didnotanswerquestionsquicklyenough,”orderedhis250topofficialstotakeacourseinwriting.Andsoitgoes.Itaddsuptoachorusoflamentsthatsofewpeoplecanputathoughtintowordsthatmakeitclear,stateitprecisely,andtakenomoreofthereader’stimethaniscalledfor.Yetclarity,desirableasitis,isnotthegoal.Thegoaliseffectivecommunication—writingthatworks.Whatdoesthereaderneedtoknowtocomprehendyourreportandendorseitsconclusions?Toapproveyourplan,andpayforit?Torespondswiftlytoyoure-mail?Tosendmoneyforyourcharity,yourcandidate,yourproductorservice?Toinviteyoutoajobinterview?Tomaketherightbusinessdecision?You’renotlikelytogettheresultsyouseekifyourwritingismurky,long-winded,boggeddownbyjargon,andtopsyturvyinitsorderofthought.JustasunproductiveiswhattwoStanfordprofessors,JeffreyPfefferandRobertI.Sutton,call“smarttalk.”WritingintheHarvardBusinessReviewin1999,theprofessorsidentifysmarttalkasamajorobstacletotakingactioninbusiness.Acharacteristicofsmarttalkisthatitisunnecessarilycomplicatedorabstract(orboth).Peopleseldomactonwhattheycannotunderstand.Goodresultsareevenlesslikelyifyoufloodthereaderwithinformationthatisn’torganizedtoleadtoanactionorisn’trelevanttoagraspofthesubject.Eventhefederalgovernmentisstartingtorecognizethebenefitsofsimple,clearwriting.TheSecuritiesandExchangeCommissioninauguratedtheplain-languagemovementbyorderingmutualfundcompaniestorewritetheirprospectuses.TheVeteransBenefitsAdministrationtrainedemployeesinitsinsurancedivisionhowtowritemoreclearly,andtheresponseratetoitslettersincreased—savingtheagency$500,000ayear.Companiesareseeinghowconfusingcommunicationtiesuptheirservicecenters,andhowclearcommunicationsmakesthemmoreefficientandcompetitive.Oneexecutivesuggestsadiscipline—puttingdownfirstwhatyouwantthereadertodo,nextthethreemostimportantthingsthereaderneedstounderstandtotakethataction,thenstartingtowrite.Whenyou’redone,hesuggestsaskingyourselfwhetherifyouwerethereader,wouldyoutakeactiononthebasisofwhatiswritten.PeoplewhowritewelldowellTogetactionfrombusypeople,yourwritingmustcutthroughtotheheartofthematter.Itmustrequireaminimumoftimeandeffortonthereader’spart.Theimportanceofthisincreaseswiththeimportanceofyourreader.Atanylevel,readersarelikelytobeswampedeitherwithpaperworkoratwenty-four-hour-a-daystreamofe-mail,orboth.Juniorexecutivesmayfeelobligedtoplowthrougheverythingthatcomestheirway.Thepresidentdoesn’t—anddamnedwellwon’t.Aseniorexecutivesaysthisaboutaclient:Hisdeskisusuallyabsolutelyclean,butIknowthatsomewhereinthatman’slifethere’satremendouspileofpaper.IfIwanthimtoreadthememohimself,I’dbettergetrighttothepointandI’dbetterbeclear,orhe’lljustpassitalongtosomebodyelse,withatestylittlenoteaskingforatranslation.Thebetteryouwrite,thelesstimeyourbossmustspendrewritingyourstuff.Ifyouareambitious,itwon’thurttomakelifeeasierforpeopleaboveyou.Badwritingslowsthingsdown;goodwritingspeedsthemup.Theonlywaysomepeopleknowyouisthroughyourwriting.Itcanbeyourmostfrequentpointofcontact,oryouronlyone,withpeopleimportanttoyourcareer—majorcustomers,seniorclients,yourowntopmanagement.Tothosewomenandmen,yourwritingisyou.Itrevealshowyourmindworks.Isitforcefulorfatuous,deftorclumsy,crisporsoggy?Readerswhodon’tknowyoujudgeyoufromtheevidenceinyourwriting.Theirjudgmentofyouspecificallyincludestheevidenceyougivetheminthee-mailyoudashoff.Itcomesasasurprisetomanypeoplethatreadersofe-maildonotabandontheirstandardsjustbecausetheyarelookingatascreenratherthanapieceofpaper.“Becauseit’sjuste-mail,”saysChristieHefner,CEOofPlayboyEnterprises,“peoplethinktheydon’thavetobegrammaticalorspellthingsrightortakethetroubletowritewell.It’sveryannoying.”Slapdashcomesacrossasslapdash,wordyaswordy,andpoorspellingandgrammarassignsofignoranceorsloppiness.ItisbesttosticktostandardEnglishusageandtoobservetheconventionsofspellingandpunctuation.Weadvisethisnotoutofacademicfussinessbutfromobservinghowthingsare.Ifyouwrite“it’s”withanapostrophetosignifythepossessiveof“it”(wrong),insteadofthecontractionof“itis”(right),notallreaderswilldetectyourlapse.Butthosewhodomaybetheoneswhocount.Therestillseemstobesomecorrelationbetweenliteracyandseniority.Importantmattersareusuallyexaminedinwriting—eitherinapapertobestudiedprivately,orinaformalpresentation.Itisn’tenoughthatyouknowallaboutyoursubject.Youmustmakeyourselfcleartosomebodywhohasonlyafractionofyourexpertise.Aboveall,youmustexpressyourpointofviewpersuasively.Wehaveseenhundredsofpapersthatassertapointofviewwithenergeticenthusiasm,butastonishinglyfewthatmakeapersuasivecase.Oftenenoughthecaseitselfisagoodone.Butthewriterself-destructsinanyorallofthewayswegointolateron.“Itisanimmutablelawofbusiness,”saidtheformerheadofITT,HaroldGeneen,“thatwordsarewords,promisesarepromises,butonlyperformanceisreality.”Byitself,goodwritingisnoguaranteeofsuccess.Butwordsaremorethanwords,andpoorperformancecanoftenbetracedtopoorcommunication.Yourabilitytowritepersuasivelycanhelpyougetthingsdoneandarriveatyourgoal—today,thismonth,orduringthedecadesofyourcareer.MakingtimetowritewellWritingbetterdoesnotmeanwritingmore.Thereispaperenoughinourlivesnow—despitethecomputerande-mail—andpreciouslittletimetoreadit.Thisbooksuggestssomeofthewaysthatimprovingyourwritingcansavetimeforotherpeople.Butwhataboutyourtime?Whileyourespectthetimeofothers,youmustalsoprotectyourown.Ittakestimetowritewell.Peoplearewrongwhentheysaythereareonlytwenty-fourhoursinaday,observesmanagementguruPeterDrucker—thereareactuallyonlytwo,perhapsthree,thatyoucanuseproductively,andthedifferencebetweenbusyexecutivesandeffectiveonesishowtheyusethattime.Effectivemeanspickingyourspots,concentratingyourenergiesonamajordocumentorprojectorspeechthatwillmakeadifference.Thebiggesttimewasterisshufflingthingsfromonepiletoanotherwhileyoudrowninaseaofindecision.Effectiveexecutivestrytohandlepaperonlyonce—hardtodo,butitworks.Theydeleteorrespondtoe-mailonthespot.Theydecidequicklywhethertoanswer,file,ortossout.Theyrespondtoeasymattersinstantly—byreturne-mailorthroughcommentswrittendirectlyonlettersandmemosandreturnedatonce.Orsendshorthandwrittennotes(ore-notes)ofdirection,praise,orcriticism.Majorpapers,ontheotherhand,requirestudy.Readthemactively,gettotheprincipalarguments,anddecidewhatmustbedone.Considera“maturingfile”forknottyproblems.Manydisappearifgiventime.Otherscallformorethought.Thereisnorulethatsaysyoumustanswerorfileeverythingthatissenttoyou.FortunecolumnistStewartAlsopbecamesoswampedwiththefloodofe-mailthathefirststoppedrespondingtoeverymessage,thenstoppedreadingthemall.Hisreasoning:Thefactthatsomeonesendsmeamessagedoesnotautomaticallyimposeanobligationonmyparttorespond.Ifthatweretrue,thenitwouldlogicallyfollowthatIshouldallowstrangerstorulemylife.Idon’tlikethatidea.SoI’vestartedtodeletemessageswithoutreadingthemfirst.Thiskindofdisciplinesetsasidethetimeforthetrulyimportantasopposedtothemerelyurgent.Ithelpsyouclearthedecks—attheofficeorathome—forthejobsthatreallymatter.Highamongthemwillbemajorpiecesthatyouwrite.Therestofthisbookprovidesspecificadviceonskillsandtechniquesthatwillhelpyouputwhatevertimeyouspendonwritingtogooduse.Implicitoneverypageistheidea—thetruth—thattheultimatetime-saveriseffectivecommunication.2Don’tMumble-andOtherPrinciplesofEffectiveWritingWhenGodwantedtostopthepeoplefrombuildingtheTowerofBabel,hedidnotsmitethemdownwithathunderbolt.Hesaid:“…letusgodown,andthereconfoundtheirlanguage,thattheymaynotunderstandoneanother’sspeech.”Hecouldthinkofnosurerwaytokeepthetowerunbuiltthantogarblecommunications.WhiletheLordconfoundedlanguageonpurpose,humansdoitinadvertently—albeitwithsimilarresults.Thesuggestionsinthischapterwillhelpyouavoidthatfateforyourowntowers,whatevertheymaybe.Aboveall,don’tmumbleOnceyou’vedecidedwhatyouwanttosay,comerightoutandsayit.Mumblerscommandlessattentionthanpeoplewhospeakup.KeepinmindE.B.White’ssoberinginjunction:“Whenyousaysomething,makesureyouhavesaidit.Thechancesofyourhavingsaiditareonlyfair.”Insteadofthis……saythisItisgenerallydesirabletocommunicateyourthoughtsinaforthrightmanner.Don’tmumble.Toningyourpointdownandtiptoeingarounditmay,inmanycircumstances,temptthereadertotuneoutandallowhismindtowander.Herearesomemoresuggestions:1.MaketheorganizationofyourwritingclearMostpeople“writebadlybecausetheycannotthinkclearly,”observedH.L.Mencken.Thereasontheycannotthinkclearly,hewenton,isthat“theylackthebrains.”Wedaretoassumethatyou,asareaderofthisbook,arebrainyenoughtothinkclearly.Youknowhowtoorganizeyourthoughtsintoacoherentorder.Nowyoumustmakethatorganizationcleartothereader.Whenyouwriteanythinglongerthanafewparagraphs,startbytellingthereaderwhereyouaregoing.Thecommitteeproposesthatthecompanyinvest$1millioninalibrary.Firstyoumustknowwhereyouaregoingyourself.Makeanoutlineofyourmajorpoints,placingsupportingdetailsintheirproperposition.Then,inyourpaper,useyouroutlinetosignalthemajorpointsforyourreader.Underlineandnumbereachimportantsectionheading.Thisservesthesamepurposeaschaptertitlesinabook.Endwithasummary.Andkeepinmindthatasummaryisnotaconclusion.Yoursummaryshouldintroducenonewideas;itshouldsummarize,asbrieflyaspossible,themostimportantpointsyouhavemade.Ifyourpapercomestoaconclusion—thepointofyourcase—yoursummaryshouldsummarizethattoo,tofixtheessentialsofyourmessageinyourreader’smind.Summary:Makeanoutline;useyouroutlinetohelpyourreader;numberandunderlinesectionheadings;summarize.Note:Somelengthydocumentsstartwithasummary,oftencalled“ExecutiveSummary.”Thesameprinciplesapply.2.Useshortparagraphs,shortsentences—andshortwordsThreemajorarticlesstartatthetopofthefrontpageofeveryissueofTheWallStreetJournal.Thefirstparagraphsofthesearticlesarenevermorethanthreesentenceslong.Manyparagraphscontainonlyasinglesentence.Thefirstsentencesthemselvesarecrispandcompact:ItallbegantocrumbletheafternoonMom’sBestCookies,Inc.,firedMom.ThecultofJamesDeanwasfosteredbyhisearlydeath,anditdidn’thurthishometownany.It’sofficial—WallStreetisdeclaringwaronsexism.Bycontrast,hereisanexampleofthekindofmumblingfirstsentencethatconfrontspeopleintheirofficereading:ThisprovidestheArgus,Mitchell&Dohnperspectiveonaconsumers'-eyeviewofthecurrentpositionandgrowthpotentialofBlake’sTeaandJones’sTea,themajorentriesofNationalBeveragesintheEnglishteamarket.TheWallStreetJournalisbroadlyread—beyondbusinessandWallStreet.Readersandeditorsalikegivemuchofthecredittoitsreadability.Journaleditorshaveputintopracticethissimpleprinciple:Shortsentencesandshortparagraphsareeasiertoreadthanlongones.Andeasiertounderstand.Asforshortwords,youdon’thavetoturnyourbackontherichesandsubtletiesoftheEnglishlanguage.Nobodywillexcoriateyouforusingalongwordwhoseprecisemeaningnoshorterwordduplicates.Butprefertheshortwordtothelongonethatmeansthesamething:Preferthis……tothisNowCurrentlyStartInitiateShowIndicateFinishFinalizeSpeedup,movealongExpediteUseUtilizePlace,putPositionRelianceonlongwords,whichareoftenmoreabstractthancommonshortones,canbeasignthatyouhavenotworkedoutexactlywhatyouwanttosay.Ifyouhavedistilledyourthinkingtoitsessence,youwillprobablybeabletoexpressitinsimplewords.HereishowGeorgeBernardShaw,inhisdaysasamusiccritic,describedhisstartledresponsetoanewwork:“IdidwithmyearswhatIdowithmyeyeswhenIstare.”OnceShawhadfiguredoutwhathisunusualreactionhadbeen,hewasabletodescribeitinwordsofonesyllable.Shakespeareexpressedthedeepestemotioninthesimplestwords.SaysKingLearonthebrutalmurderofhisbelovedFool:“Andmypoorfoolishang’d.No,no,nolife!Whyshouldadog,ahorse,arat,havelife,andthounobreathatall?Thou’llcomenomore.Never,never,never,never!”TheReader’sDigestoncepublishedanarticleonthepowerofshortwords.Thelastsentencepointedout,tothesurpriseofmostreaders,thatnowordintheeloquentthree-pageessayhadmorethanonesyllable.3.Makeyourwritingactive—andpersonalGoodwriterschoosetheactivevoiceoverthepassivevoicewheneverpossible—andit’spossiblemostofthetime.Activeverbsaddenergytoyourwriting.That’swhythey’recalledactive.Thissimplepracticealsoimprovesyourwritingbymakingitmorepersonal,ahumanbeingtalkingratherthananinstitution.Thepassivevoicehideswhoisspeakingortakingaction;theactivevoicerevealsit.Passive,impersonalActive,personalItisrecommendedWerecommendHeshouldbetoldGetAlicetotellhimPersonalsacrificesarebeingmade,althoughthedegreeofparticipationisnotabsolutelyidentifiable.Weseepeoplemakingsacrifices.Howmanypeople?Wecan’tsayforsure.AlotofbusinesswritingmumblesalonginthepassivevoicebecausehighschoolEnglishteacherstoldusnottostartsentenceswith“I”withoutthefirstpersonsingular(preferring“thecookieswereeatenbyme”to“Iatethecookies.”)Butthereareplentyofgoodwaystosubstituteactiveforpassi

2001 - Writing That Works - How to Communicate Effectively In Business.3rd ed.pdf

2001 - Writing That Works - How…

上传者: shevaun
1159次下载 0人收藏 暂无简介 简介 2012-10-15 举报

简介:2001 - Writing That Works - How to Communicate Effectively In Business.3rd ed

WritingThatWorksThirdEditionHowtocommunicateeffectivelyinbusiness:e-maillettersmemospresentationsplansreportsproposalsresumesspeechesKenmethRomanandJoelRaphaelsonIflanguageisnotcorrect,thenwhatissaidisnotwhatismeant;Ifwhatissaidisnotwhatismeant,Thenwhatoughttobedoneremainsundone.—CONFUCIUSContentsEpigraphPreface:WhyaThirdEdition?1.WritingThatWorks2.Don’tMumble—andOtherPrinciplesofEffectiveWriting3.“ILoveMyComputer”4.E-mail—theGreatMailboxintheSky5.MemosandLettersThatGetThingsDone6.WritingforanAudience:PresentationsandSpeeches7.PlansandReportsThatMakeThingsHappen8.RecommendationsandProposalsThatSellIdeas9.AskingforMoney:SalesandFund-RaisingLetters10.CopingwithPoliticalCorrectness11.WritingaResume—andGettinganInterview12.EditingYourself13.MakingItEasytoReadOtherBooksThatWillHelpYouWriteBetterAcknowledgmentsAbouttheAuthorPraiseforWritingThatWorks,3rdEditionPreviousBooksCopyrightAboutthePublisherPrefaceWhyaThirdEdition?Thefirsteditionofthisbookwaswrittenonatypewriter;wedeliveredatypedmanuscripttothepublisher.Wewrotethesecondeditiononcomputersanddeliveredaprintedmanuscript.Thiseditionwaswrittenoncomputersande-mailedtooureditor—nomanuscript,notevendisks.Thatillustratesoneofthechangesinthewaypeoplecommunicatethatpropelledustoundertakeathoroughrevision.E-mailhasbecomesoubiquitousthatweaddedachapterandrevisedseveralotherstotakefullaccountofitsinfluence.Anotherchangeinrecentyearsisthefadingoftheinternalmemo—displacedinmanyusesbye-mail,inothersbythepresentation“deck.”Ourpurpose,however,remainsunchanged.Wewrotethebooktohelpthosemillionsofnonprofessionalwriterswhomustusethewrittenwordtogetresults—inbusiness,ingovernment,ineducation,inthearts.That’sstillourgoal.Norhavewefoundanycausetoabandontheprinciplesweespouse.Tothecontrary,thespeedandeaseofe-mailandwordprocessingserveasaninvitationtosloppywriting.ReplacingpaperwithaPCscreendoesn’tchangetheneedforclear,precisecommunication.Andreplacingaformalmemowithabullet-pointedpresentationdeckdoesn’tjustifyloosethinking.Inthesecondedition,weintroducedsomethoughtsonhowtoavoidthepitfallsofsexistlanguage.Wehaveexpandedthosethoughtsintoaseparatechapteronpoliticalcorrectness—andtheextenttowhichitshouldorshouldnotinfluencethewayyouwrite.Throughoutthebook,wehavefreshenedexamplesandsharpenedpointsbypracticingwhatwepreachaboutediting.Comingfromaworldofthirty-secondcommercialshastrainedustocuttotheessence—andhelpedkeepthisbookslimandourmessageaccessible.Nothingthatfollowsisacademicortheoretical.Youwillfindadviceyoucanacton,wheneveryouhavetoconvertemptyscreenorblankpaperintoaletter,amemo,areport,arecommendation,aproposal,aspeech,aresume.You’llgethelpfromspecificside-by-sideexamplesofgoodwritingversusbad.“Generationsagothetelephonekilledtheartofexecutivewriting.Nowit’spoisedforacomeback,”reportsTheWallStreetJournal,notingthate-mailsendseveryonetoakeyboard.Nowondercompaniesinstitutewritingcourses.Effectivewritingishardworkevenforthebestwriters(andevenonacomputer),buttheprinciplesaresimple.Theydon’trequireunusualtalentorspecialskills.Theyareeasytounderstandandeasytoputintouse.Whatyoudoneedisadegreeofdetermination—theperseverancetobesureyou’vesaidwhatyouwanttosay.Thisbookaimstohelpyoudothatwithlessdifficultyandmoreconfidence,andgettheresultsyou’relookingfor—fromeverythingyouwrite.1WritingThatWorks“ToomanyofthecommunicationsIgetaremeaningless,”observesaleadingCEO.“Theydon’thelpmeunderstandwhatactionthewriterwantsmetotake.Theywastemytime.”Wecouldfilladozenpageswithcomplaintsofthissort.“Unclear,poorlywritten,orconfusing”istheverdictofvicepresidentsoftwohundredmajorU.S.companiesonafullthirdofthebusinesswritingtheyconfront.NewYork’sCommissionerofEducation,frustratedthatsomanyofthelettersandmemospassingthroughhisofficewere“confusing”or“didnotanswerquestionsquicklyenough,”orderedhis250topofficialstotakeacourseinwriting.Andsoitgoes.Itaddsuptoachorusoflamentsthatsofewpeoplecanputathoughtintowordsthatmakeitclear,stateitprecisely,andtakenomoreofthereader’stimethaniscalledfor.Yetclarity,desirableasitis,isnotthegoal.Thegoaliseffectivecommunication—writingthatworks.Whatdoesthereaderneedtoknowtocomprehendyourreportandendorseitsconclusions?Toapproveyourplan,andpayforit?Torespondswiftlytoyoure-mail?Tosendmoneyforyourcharity,yourcandidate,yourproductorservice?Toinviteyoutoajobinterview?Tomaketherightbusinessdecision?You’renotlikelytogettheresultsyouseekifyourwritingismurky,long-winded,boggeddownbyjargon,andtopsyturvyinitsorderofthought.JustasunproductiveiswhattwoStanfordprofessors,JeffreyPfefferandRobertI.Sutton,call“smarttalk.”WritingintheHarvardBusinessReviewin1999,theprofessorsidentifysmarttalkasamajorobstacletotakingactioninbusiness.Acharacteristicofsmarttalkisthatitisunnecessarilycomplicatedorabstract(orboth).Peopleseldomactonwhattheycannotunderstand.Goodresultsareevenlesslikelyifyoufloodthereaderwithinformationthatisn’torganizedtoleadtoanactionorisn’trelevanttoagraspofthesubject.Eventhefederalgovernmentisstartingtorecognizethebenefitsofsimple,clearwriting.TheSecuritiesandExchangeCommissioninauguratedtheplain-languagemovementbyorderingmutualfundcompaniestorewritetheirprospectuses.TheVeteransBenefitsAdministrationtrainedemployeesinitsinsurancedivisionhowtowritemoreclearly,andtheresponseratetoitslettersincreased—savingtheagency$500,000ayear.Companiesareseeinghowconfusingcommunicationtiesuptheirservicecenters,andhowclearcommunicationsmakesthemmoreefficientandcompetitive.Oneexecutivesuggestsadiscipline—puttingdownfirstwhatyouwantthereadertodo,nextthethreemostimportantthingsthereaderneedstounderstandtotakethataction,thenstartingtowrite.Whenyou’redone,hesuggestsaskingyourselfwhetherifyouwerethereader,wouldyoutakeactiononthebasisofwhatiswritten.PeoplewhowritewelldowellTogetactionfrombusypeople,yourwritingmustcutthroughtotheheartofthematter.Itmustrequireaminimumoftimeandeffortonthereader’spart.Theimportanceofthisincreaseswiththeimportanceofyourreader.Atanylevel,readersarelikelytobeswampedeitherwithpaperworkoratwenty-four-hour-a-daystreamofe-mail,orboth.Juniorexecutivesmayfeelobligedtoplowthrougheverythingthatcomestheirway.Thepresidentdoesn’t—anddamnedwellwon’t.Aseniorexecutivesaysthisaboutaclient:Hisdeskisusuallyabsolutelyclean,butIknowthatsomewhereinthatman’slifethere’satremendouspileofpaper.IfIwanthimtoreadthememohimself,I’dbettergetrighttothepointandI’dbetterbeclear,orhe’lljustpassitalongtosomebodyelse,withatestylittlenoteaskingforatranslation.Thebetteryouwrite,thelesstimeyourbossmustspendrewritingyourstuff.Ifyouareambitious,itwon’thurttomakelifeeasierforpeopleaboveyou.Badwritingslowsthingsdown;goodwritingspeedsthemup.Theonlywaysomepeopleknowyouisthroughyourwriting.Itcanbeyourmostfrequentpointofcontact,oryouronlyone,withpeopleimportanttoyourcareer—majorcustomers,seniorclients,yourowntopmanagement.Tothosewomenandmen,yourwritingisyou.Itrevealshowyourmindworks.Isitforcefulorfatuous,deftorclumsy,crisporsoggy?Readerswhodon’tknowyoujudgeyoufromtheevidenceinyourwriting.Theirjudgmentofyouspecificallyincludestheevidenceyougivetheminthee-mailyoudashoff.Itcomesasasurprisetomanypeoplethatreadersofe-maildonotabandontheirstandardsjustbecausetheyarelookingatascreenratherthanapieceofpaper.“Becauseit’sjuste-mail,”saysChristieHefner,CEOofPlayboyEnterprises,“peoplethinktheydon’thavetobegrammaticalorspellthingsrightortakethetroubletowritewell.It’sveryannoying.”Slapdashcomesacrossasslapdash,wordyaswordy,andpoorspellingandgrammarassignsofignoranceorsloppiness.ItisbesttosticktostandardEnglishusageandtoobservetheconventionsofspellingandpunctuation.Weadvisethisnotoutofacademicfussinessbutfromobservinghowthingsare.Ifyouwrite“it’s”withanapostrophetosignifythepossessiveof“it”(wrong),insteadofthecontractionof“itis”(right),notallreaderswilldetectyourlapse.Butthosewhodomaybetheoneswhocount.Therestillseemstobesomecorrelationbetweenliteracyandseniority.Importantmattersareusuallyexaminedinwriting—eitherinapapertobestudiedprivately,orinaformalpresentation.Itisn’tenoughthatyouknowallaboutyoursubject.Youmustmakeyourselfcleartosomebodywhohasonlyafractionofyourexpertise.Aboveall,youmustexpressyourpointofviewpersuasively.Wehaveseenhundredsofpapersthatassertapointofviewwithenergeticenthusiasm,butastonishinglyfewthatmakeapersuasivecase.Oftenenoughthecaseitselfisagoodone.Butthewriterself-destructsinanyorallofthewayswegointolateron.“Itisanimmutablelawofbusiness,”saidtheformerheadofITT,HaroldGeneen,“thatwordsarewords,promisesarepromises,butonlyperformanceisreality.”Byitself,goodwritingisnoguaranteeofsuccess.Butwordsaremorethanwords,andpoorperformancecanoftenbetracedtopoorcommunication.Yourabilitytowritepersuasivelycanhelpyougetthingsdoneandarriveatyourgoal—today,thismonth,orduringthedecadesofyourcareer.MakingtimetowritewellWritingbetterdoesnotmeanwritingmore.Thereispaperenoughinourlivesnow—despitethecomputerande-mail—andpreciouslittletimetoreadit.Thisbooksuggestssomeofthewaysthatimprovingyourwritingcansavetimeforotherpeople.Butwhataboutyourtime?Whileyourespectthetimeofothers,youmustalsoprotectyourown.Ittakestimetowritewell.Peoplearewrongwhentheysaythereareonlytwenty-fourhoursinaday,observesmanagementguruPeterDrucker—thereareactuallyonlytwo,perhapsthree,thatyoucanuseproductively,andthedifferencebetweenbusyexecutivesandeffectiveonesishowtheyusethattime.Effectivemeanspickingyourspots,concentratingyourenergiesonamajordocumentorprojectorspeechthatwillmakeadifference.Thebiggesttimewasterisshufflingthingsfromonepiletoanotherwhileyoudrowninaseaofindecision.Effectiveexecutivestrytohandlepaperonlyonce—hardtodo,butitworks.Theydeleteorrespondtoe-mailonthespot.Theydecidequicklywhethertoanswer,file,ortossout.Theyrespondtoeasymattersinstantly—byreturne-mailorthroughcommentswrittendirectlyonlettersandmemosandreturnedatonce.Orsendshorthandwrittennotes(ore-notes)ofdirection,praise,orcriticism.Majorpapers,ontheotherhand,requirestudy.Readthemactively,gettotheprincipalarguments,anddecidewhatmustbedone.Considera“maturingfile”forknottyproblems.Manydisappearifgiventime.Otherscallformorethought.Thereisnorulethatsaysyoumustanswerorfileeverythingthatissenttoyou.FortunecolumnistStewartAlsopbecamesoswampedwiththefloodofe-mailthathefirststoppedrespondingtoeverymessage,thenstoppedreadingthemall.Hisreasoning:Thefactthatsomeonesendsmeamessagedoesnotautomaticallyimposeanobligationonmyparttorespond.Ifthatweretrue,thenitwouldlogicallyfollowthatIshouldallowstrangerstorulemylife.Idon’tlikethatidea.SoI’vestartedtodeletemessageswithoutreadingthemfirst.Thiskindofdisciplinesetsasidethetimeforthetrulyimportantasopposedtothemerelyurgent.Ithelpsyouclearthedecks—attheofficeorathome—forthejobsthatreallymatter.Highamongthemwillbemajorpiecesthatyouwrite.Therestofthisbookprovidesspecificadviceonskillsandtechniquesthatwillhelpyouputwhatevertimeyouspendonwritingtogooduse.Implicitoneverypageistheidea—thetruth—thattheultimatetime-saveriseffectivecommunication.2Don’tMumble-andOtherPrinciplesofEffectiveWritingWhenGodwantedtostopthepeoplefrombuildingtheTowerofBabel,hedidnotsmitethemdownwithathunderbolt.Hesaid:“…letusgodown,andthereconfoundtheirlanguage,thattheymaynotunderstandoneanother’sspeech.”Hecouldthinkofnosurerwaytokeepthetowerunbuiltthantogarblecommunications.WhiletheLordconfoundedlanguageonpurpose,humansdoitinadvertently—albeitwithsimilarresults.Thesuggestionsinthischapterwillhelpyouavoidthatfateforyourowntowers,whatevertheymaybe.Aboveall,don’tmumbleOnceyou’vedecidedwhatyouwanttosay,comerightoutandsayit.Mumblerscommandlessattentionthanpeoplewhospeakup.KeepinmindE.B.White’ssoberinginjunction:“Whenyousaysomething,makesureyouhavesaidit.Thechancesofyourhavingsaiditareonlyfair.”Insteadofthis……saythisItisgenerallydesirabletocommunicateyourthoughtsinaforthrightmanner.Don’tmumble.Toningyourpointdownandtiptoeingarounditmay,inmanycircumstances,temptthereadertotuneoutandallowhismindtowander.Herearesomemoresuggestions:1.MaketheorganizationofyourwritingclearMostpeople“writebadlybecausetheycannotthinkclearly,”observedH.L.Mencken.Thereasontheycannotthinkclearly,hewenton,isthat“theylackthebrains.”Wedaretoassumethatyou,asareaderofthisbook,arebrainyenoughtothinkclearly.Youknowhowtoorganizeyourthoughtsintoacoherentorder.Nowyoumustmakethatorganizationcleartothereader.Whenyouwriteanythinglongerthanafewparagraphs,startbytellingthereaderwhereyouaregoing.Thecommitteeproposesthatthecompanyinvest$1millioninalibrary.Firstyoumustknowwhereyouaregoingyourself.Makeanoutlineofyourmajorpoints,placingsupportingdetailsintheirproperposition.Then,inyourpaper,useyouroutlinetosignalthemajorpointsforyourreader.Underlineandnumbereachimportantsectionheading.Thisservesthesamepurposeaschaptertitlesinabook.Endwithasummary.Andkeepinmindthatasummaryisnotaconclusion.Yoursummaryshouldintroducenonewideas;itshouldsummarize,asbrieflyaspossible,themostimportantpointsyouhavemade.Ifyourpapercomestoaconclusion—thepointofyourcase—yoursummaryshouldsummarizethattoo,tofixtheessentialsofyourmessageinyourreader’smind.Summary:Makeanoutline;useyouroutlinetohelpyourreader;numberandunderlinesectionheadings;summarize.Note:Somelengthydocumentsstartwithasummary,oftencalled“ExecutiveSummary.”Thesameprinciplesapply.2.Useshortparagraphs,shortsentences—andshortwordsThreemajorarticlesstartatthetopofthefrontpageofeveryissueofTheWallStreetJournal.Thefirstparagraphsofthesearticlesarenevermorethanthreesentenceslong.Manyparagraphscontainonlyasinglesentence.Thefirstsentencesthemselvesarecrispandcompact:ItallbegantocrumbletheafternoonMom’sBestCookies,Inc.,firedMom.ThecultofJamesDeanwasfosteredbyhisearlydeath,anditdidn’thurthishometownany.It’sofficial—WallStreetisdeclaringwaronsexism.Bycontrast,hereisanexampleofthekindofmumblingfirstsentencethatconfrontspeopleintheirofficereading:ThisprovidestheArgus,Mitchell&Dohnperspectiveonaconsumers'-eyeviewofthecurrentpositionandgrowthpotentialofBlake’sTeaandJones’sTea,themajorentriesofNationalBeveragesintheEnglishteamarket.TheWallStreetJournalisbroadlyread—beyondbusinessandWallStreet.Readersandeditorsalikegivemuchofthecredittoitsreadability.Journaleditorshaveputintopracticethissimpleprinciple:Shortsentencesandshortparagraphsareeasiertoreadthanlongones.Andeasiertounderstand.Asforshortwords,youdon’thavetoturnyourbackontherichesandsubtletiesoftheEnglishlanguage.Nobodywillexcoriateyouforusingalongwordwhoseprecisemeaningnoshorterwordduplicates.Butprefertheshortwordtothelongonethatmeansthesamething:Preferthis……tothisNowCurrentlyStartInitiateShowIndicateFinishFinalizeSpeedup,movealongExpediteUseUtilizePlace,putPositionRelianceonlongwords,whichareoftenmoreabstractthancommonshortones,canbeasignthatyouhavenotworkedoutexactlywhatyouwanttosay.Ifyouhavedistilledyourthinkingtoitsessence,youwillprobablybeabletoexpressitinsimplewords.HereishowGeorgeBernardShaw,inhisdaysasamusiccritic,describedhisstartledresponsetoanewwork:“IdidwithmyearswhatIdowithmyeyeswhenIstare.”OnceShawhadfiguredoutwhathisunusualreactionhadbeen,hewasabletodescribeitinwordsofonesyllable.Shakespeareexpressedthedeepestemotioninthesimplestwords.SaysKingLearonthebrutalmurderofhisbelovedFool:“Andmypoorfoolishang’d.No,no,nolife!Whyshouldadog,ahorse,arat,havelife,andthounobreathatall?Thou’llcomenomore.Never,never,never,never!”TheReader’sDigestoncepublishedanarticleonthepowerofshortwords.Thelastsentencepointedout,tothesurpriseofmostreaders,thatnowordintheeloquentthree-pageessayhadmorethanonesyllable.3.Makeyourwritingactive—andpersonalGoodwriterschoosetheactivevoiceoverthepassivevoicewheneverpossible—andit’spossiblemostofthetime.Activeverbsaddenergytoyourwriting.That’swhythey’recalledactive.Thissimplepracticealsoimprovesyourwritingbymakingitmorepersonal,ahumanbeingtalkingratherthananinstitution.Thepassivevoicehideswhoisspeakingortakingaction;theactivevoicerevealsit.Passive,impersonalActive,personalItisrecommendedWerecommendHeshouldbetoldGetAlicetotellhimPersonalsacrificesarebeingmade,althoughthedegreeofparticipationisnotabsolutelyidentifiable.Weseepeoplemakingsacrifices.Howmanypeople?Wecan’tsayforsure.AlotofbusinesswritingmumblesalonginthepassivevoicebecausehighschoolEnglishteacherstoldusnottostartsentenceswith“I”withoutthefirstpersonsingular(preferring“thecookieswereeatenbyme”to“Iatethecookies.”)Butthereareplentyofgoodwaystosubstituteactiveforpassi
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