For more on technical writing, see
E-Writing: 21st-Century Tools for Effective Communication
by Dianna Booher.
(Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books)
You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Program
By Dianna Booher
Put in the people. Have you ever read an email or somebody’s database notes and had difficulty figuring out who was supposed do what?
“Disappearing doers” is a common problem in informal, cryptic writing. Writers think the actors in their sentences are obvious. Often, they are not. Take a look at this example from someone’s contact manager:
Carol Frazier of Global United is trying to help us get into her company to do business. Called about the possibility of arranging a meeting with the sales development managers about their needs for fully automating their field offices.
Told them such automation was essential to compete in today’s environment and that laptops for everybody were essential to do business. Negotiations began last week. Will call at end of next month with firm date when everyone can get together.
Questions: Who called about the possibility—the writer of this note or Carol Frazier? Does the “told them” in the next sentence refer to Carol Frazier telling her own company management or this writer telling Carol Frazier’s company? “Negotiations begun” by whom? “Will call”—who will call whom?
Leaving out the “actor” in your sentences is like leaving out the star in your movie! Put in the people.
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Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase their productivity and effectiveness through better oral, written, interpersonal, and cross-functional communication.She is a keynote speaker and the author of more than 40 books (22 on communication) including The Voice of Authority, Booher's Rules of Business Grammar, Speak with Confidence, and Communicate with Confidence. Dianna is CEO of Booher Consultants, a communication training firm offering programs in presentations skills, business writing, and interpersonal communication. Successful Meetings Magazine named her to its list of “21 Top Speakers for the 21st Century.” Executive Excellence Publishing also named Dianna to its “Top 100 Thought Leaders” and “Top 100 Minds on Personal Development.” www.booher.com or call 800.342.6621.