Who?


Let’s start at the beginning: when we write, we write about things happening.

And things don’t just happen. Other things cause them to happen.

A hot food tax doesn’t just magically poof into existence. David Cameron makes it happen.

Candidates aren’t just suddenly fired. Alan Sugar fires them.

This blog isn’t just in a state of having been written. I bloody wrote it.

But here’s the weird thing: a lot of businesses try to cut David Cameron, Alan Sugar and me out of their writing. And as a result, it becomes completely unreadable.

The good news is it’s a really easy fix: just stop cutting out the doer.

Here’s what’ll happen to your writing (without you even realising it):

You’ll use the active voice instead of the passive

If you force yourself to say who’s doing something, that something can’t just be done. Cameron does it. I do it. Sugar does it.

Active verbs are shorter than passive verbs (do vs be done), and much more exact.

You’ll use more verbs

If you take the doer out of your writing you open the floodgates for nouns ending -tion, -sion, -ance, -ence, -ing and -ment. They’re impersonal and totally unnecessary. Take this, for example:

The utilisation of 3G is increasing

Much better as: People are using more 3G broadband

The stats show that turning those kinds of noun into verbs makes your writing easier to read. (If you don’t believe me, Google ‘Robert and Veda Charrow’.)

You won’t have to call people names they don’t like

Like ‘customer’ or ‘stakeholder’. They’re just ‘you’.

And as a result, people won’t fall asleep after the first sentence

Like you will if you try to read this doer-less paragraph I stumbled across on the web, which conveniently makes all my points for me:

The utilisation of health research in policy-making should contribute to policies that may eventually lead to desired outcomes, including health gains. In this article, exploration of these issues is combined with a review of various forms of policy-making. When this is linked to analysis of different types of health research, it assists in building a comprehensive account of the diverse meanings of research utilisation.

With a doer, it looks like this:

If policy-makers take health research on board, they’ll hit their goals. Like improving the nation’s health. In this article, we’ve taken that hypothesis and looked into different ways of creating a policy and different types of health research. It’s helped us build a full idea of the different ways policy-makers can use research.

So there you have it. Always ask yourself one little question: who? It’s the bad writing cure-all.

 


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on Apr 16, 2012

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