I love reading articles by many different writers because every one of them has his or her own style and vocabulary. Each writer has their own way of engaging with readers. No-one writes in the same style as the next person, which to me is part of what makes us unique as human beings.
Sometimes a writer will use a word I’ve not come across. Being a wordsmith, I usually do a Google search to find out what it means! The writers I’m talking about write for newspapers and magazines. Their aim is to entertain as well as stimulate interest, engaging with the reader and capturing their attention. Good writers succeed in doing this. The best writers are those whose articles provide a pleasurable reading experience. They write well about things that interest us.
Keeping the reader on side
But how does reader engagement work if you’re reading articles, newsletters and reports for professional and business purposes? Well, it’s even more important, in these situations, that the writer keeps the reader on side, making the text easy to follow and understand. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. But no matter how abstruse the subject, there will be a way in which it can be conveyed so that the reader engages with it.
One of the ways in which you can improve written style is to cut out the use of unnecessary words and phrases.
Get to the point!
And don’t beat about the bush either! These are familiar exhortations, but following them is how you’ll keep the reader engaged. Here are a few examples of elaborate phrases and simpler alternatives – you decide which are better!
He did not pay attention to the warning / He ignored the warning
It is interesting to note that there are many other …. / There are many other…
The fact that I was late was due to … / I was late because…
Each respective candidate… / Each candidate…
A most unique performance… / A unique performance…
These examples have been taken from the Editor’s Manual of Penguin House Style, which was the bible for any self-respecting copy editor (including me) employed by Penguin Books a long time ago now. I have no idea if it’s still handed out to staff.
But it wouldn’t be a bad idea if companies today produced their own manuals of house style and made them required reading for managers and staff. Their company literature might not be favourite reading for their intended audiences, but taking care of house style would help them engage with their readers because their publications were easier to read and understand.