Three Tips for Writing Briefing Papers Successfully

As a subject matter expert, you are constantly asked to summarize your work. Rarely do you have the opportunity to “geek out” and share everything you know with someone who really cares. One colleague was so frustrated with this phenomenon he told me it felt like his whole life was an exercise in the executive […]

Eliminate Excessive Parentheses in Technical Writing

One of my pet peeves in scientific and technical writing is the use of parentheses. It seems like once a writer gets started they just can’t stop, and soon every sentence has a parenthetical list. Parentheses are distracting. They are a mark of punctuation that the readers’ eyes are drawn towards. So they have the […]

How To Write a Style Sheet for Your Office

Every office has a grammar guru. It is that one person you go to when you need to know the difference between that and which, where to put the comma, or whether the punctuation goes inside or outside of the quotation marks. But in an office of any size, that one person is insufficient to […]

A Checklist of Style Guides for the Department of the Interior Writer

All writers are bound by the rules of grammar. Creative writers have the freedom to make a wide range of stylistic decisions based upon their personal preferences and the goals of their artistic expressions. Scientific and technical writers need to write with more clarity and rely on style guides to help them produce it. The […]

A Definition of a Rose is Still a Rose, Right?

We all learned to use reference works in the fourth grade. Yet as a government writing trainer, I still teach reference works to adult professionals. And I get lots of questions about what would seem like “the basics,” such as – which dictionary should I be using? It is not because these questions are basic, […]

From WordPerfect to Microsoft Word: Macros, AutoCorrect, and Quick Parts

When I was in high school, a lo-o-o-o-o-ng time ago, I took a course in WordPerfect. I learned that program from the inside out. I had keyboard shortcuts and macros for EVERYTHING. I never typed anything longhand. Using that program was like being a court reporter. Conveniently enough, I worked my way through undergrad as […]

The 18F Guide: The Government’s Latest (Insufficient) Attempt at Plain Language

Earlier this summer, government writers got another plain language “goose” when the Washington Post featured the government’s newest plain language guide, The 18F Content Guide. DC’s newspaper reporters were hopeful at this sign that government writers are taking the Plain Writing Act of 2010 seriously. The article lauds the handbook’s conversational tone and the sound, common sense […]

Writing to Learn

William Zinsser is an author every writer should read. His book On Writing Well is a classic that I revisit every few years as much for its style as its substance. And Writing to Learn is a text that challenges me as both a writer and a teacher. Zinsser was an intellectual magnate (if I […]

21 Hacks for Word for Writers

Many of us use the same medium to craft our documents – Microsoft Word. Few of us know how to tap into its full potential as a tool of the trade. Here are 21 essential hacks for any writer working in Word. File –> Options –> Display 1) Show / hide white spaces between pages. When […]

Book Review: Joseph Kimble – Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please

Readers interested in plain language may encounter a book published in 2012 by Joseph Kimble called Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law. I recently picked up a copy and thought it might be useful to share my reading experience. The author, Joe Kimble, is a […]