Dress your writing for the occasion

17 July 2020

If you were applying for a senior management position at a large corporation, wearing thongs and shorts to the interview is likely to give the wrong impression. A top hat at Ascot might look appropriate there but completely out of place at the family Sunday barbecue. It’s a similar principle with writing. 

When you start out on the long road of writing a report or other communication at work, your reader may be the last person on your mind. At this stage you’re probably more focused on what your boss wants, and meeting your deadline. But for your communication to be successful, it’s critical that you ‘dress’ it with the right style and tone.

A day at the races

A day at the races is still one occasion you can be confident people will choose elegant clothes and spend a great deal of time getting the details right from perfect hair to the right shoes. This is the kind of formality you would apply to an annual report, a prospectus or other very high-profile documents.

A meal at a smart restaurant

For most of us, dressing for a meal at a smart restaurant is probably a middle ground. We don’t dress up as much as we might for a day at the races, a wedding or an interview. We might wear our best designer jeans, but we’ll go home to change after our workout at the gym before heading to the restaurant.

A chat over coffee

Meeting a good friend at the local café is usually an informal occasion. We can dress for comfort and express our personality. We’re not necessarily out to make a good impression, but we do want to connect with the people we’re meeting.

Style

Example

Formal

Collaboration between governments, energy providers and councils will lead to a long-term and lasting difference in public lighting.

Neutral

To make a long-term and lasting difference in public lighting, governments, energy providers and councils need to work together.

Casual

By working together there’s a lot we can do to save on energy costs.

Whatever style you choose, make sure your style and tone are consistent throughout the document – don’t suddenly switch between a formal and casual style. For example, in a formal document you might write ‘however’ rather than ‘but’, or ‘it is’ rather than the contraction ‘it’s’.

Achieving a high level of consistency when different authors are contributing to the same document can be particularly challenging. When you brief the different contributors to the report, prepare 2 or 3 paragraphs to show them the style and tone needed.

Appointing an independent person in your team, or an external professional editor, to check the entire document for consistency will also help give your report or other communication a unified style and tone.

For help ensuring consistency in your workplace communication, contact Concise Writing Consultancy today on 02 9238 6638.

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