Articles Tagged with understand

Make it easy for readers to find and understand messages

Running a business is a complex challenge. Whatever the size of organisation, many processes need to run smoothly, while a number of statutory bodies require tax, accounting, health and safety and many more regulations to be observed.

How do you get your people to know this and recognise the importance of compliance?

Many organisations create manuals and intranets outlining important procedures, but do people read them?

Making information accessible is important if employees are to use materials in the course of their work. People need to know they can find the information they need fast.

Easy-to-use indexes and navigation

Readers will find a manual more useful if it is structured so that they can find what they need fast in contents or index pages or flick through the main body and see what they want in a heading.

An easy-to-navigate intranet or web site will also be more useful if viewers can find what they’re looking for fast.

Clear explanations

Once a reader has found the information they want, they have to be able to understand it. People tend to consult reference material when they don’t understand something and need an explanation. To provide what they want, manuals and web sites need to provide clear explanations without using jargon and without waffle.

If people can’t find what they’re looking for once or twice, they probably won’t bother trying a third time. And if they can’t understand explanations when they do find the right section, they’ll think the material is a waste of their time.

More importantly, if staff cannot understand important processes or regulations, what impact will it have on your business? Could it reduce productivity or, worse, prevent the business from meeting legal requirements?

Useful resources improve business

If you are going to the expense of creating reference material for employees, you’ll get the best value if they find it easy to use and it helps them do their jobs. It’ll also help maintain productivity and ensure your business meets any legal obligations.

What difference does a single letter make?

I’m surprised that people continue to argue about the need for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. If you’re in any doubt, try working as a proofreader.

We regularly proofread material produced by companies, councils, universities, schools and other organisations, and frequently grind to a halt because we can’t understand something.

In novels or poems, writers sometimes aim to entertain through using language that is a challenge to understand. This is not the case for companies or organisations dealing with customers who need information fast and in an easy-to-understand format.

So when you read a brochure or letter where you have to stop, go back and re-read a sentence three times to figure out what the writer is trying to say, you know that something needs changing. Perhaps there’s a word missing, a plural noun with a singular verb or three sentences crammed together in one.

Rather than being there to annoy us, spelling, grammar and punctuation aim to make text easier to read and understand. They can also make reading and writing more enjoyable and more effective, especially for companies producing marketing material to sell their products and services.

Accuracy is also very important. Would it matter to you if you published an advert with one wrong digit in the postcode? Would it make any difference if a newspaper published the wrong date for an event you were holding? (This happened to me recently – it was the newspaper’s mistake.)

If we use the language tools available to us to make our material as easy to understand as possible and we check all details to make sure our material facts are correct, we do all we can to help our communications achieve the best results for business.

After our last blog, have you decided how well print and digital communications work for you?

z2zine tomorrow: What is there say about my business?

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The value of accuracy

We all do it: jot things down, bang out an email or a blog. Does it matter if we get a number or something else wrong? Apart from being sloppy, usually not. So is that all right? 

I don’t think it’s an excuse. What’s the point of a number if it’s wrong? How many feet have I got? Two or three? The whole point of numbers is that they are precise to a .000000000001 (or however many more zeros you care to insert).

I’m writing this after proofreading large documents for several large companies and identifying lots of typos and inconsistencies. Is that bad? No, that’s the whole point of proofreading. Often, the people producing a document will be too close to the words and will have edited them too many times to be able to spot mistakes. Designers are also under pressure to lay out documents without time to check them. By building proofreading into the production process, any errors or omissions can be spotted and corrected before publication.

So does it matter? Yes, if the price is shown as £50 instead of £500 or readers – your customers – can’t understand what you’re trying to say in your document.

Finally, it helps ensure some elegance in the writing. Awkward, artificially abrupt language can work well when used for effect, but if you want someone to understand something quickly and easily, simple and elegant language is recommended.

So the value of proofreading is in ensuring that your readers get accurate information and can understand what you’re trying to say.

Pause . . . for thought

In our quest for continuous detailed instant information, so much simply gets lost.

Often, we need to slow down . . . to pause . . . to take stock.

What have we missed that could have been of value to us?

Whether you’re writing text for the page or screen, or speaking to an audience, the pause is an essential tool.

When we’re writing, it helps to break up long sentences, while splitting long passages into shorter paragraphs can help readers to digest content more easily. When we’re speaking, pauses can help to slow us down so that people find it easier to understand what we are saying; they can also help to emphasise key points and to hold the audience’s attention.

So don’t try to fill every square inch of paper with text or every second of a speech with your voice, add pauses to improve your writing and speaking.

Robert Zarywacz

It’s hard to find a good copywriter

Last week we were approached by a prospective client to whom our copywriting service had been recommended by a colleague. They were keen to discover what we do, how we write and whether we fit in with their requirements. During our initial conversation they said: “It’s hard to find a good copywriter.”

This is interesting, considering there are thousands of freelance copywriters available.

So what makes a good copywriter?

In our view, a good copywriter understands the clients’ objectives. What does the client want their readers to do: call their phone number, visit their web site or buy something? The copywriter must also understand the identity of the audience: businesses or/and consumers; young or/and old; male or/and female; plus a thousand other variables.

With this understanding, the copywriter writes in a style appropriate to that audience, using the language these specific readers like to hear, and which they can understand easily.

Not every copywriter is able, or wants, to write for every audience; they all have personal preferences and specialities. While it is generally easy for a copywriter to write about almost anything, that is not to say that a copywriter specialising in one field will be able to write about another field with the same success.

Then there’s the client-copywriter relationship. As with many services, there needs to be a good working relationship to enable the smooth flow of ideas.

And, finally, a good copywriter must be able to write good copy.

Robert Zarywacz

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