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Revising Written Communications

Revising a written message focuses on sentence construction, grammar, and structure. Structure includes:

  • Framing – Framing refers to how information is presented, including margins, line justifications, and template expectations.
  • Typefaces – Typeface refers to design of symbols, including letters and numbers.
  • Paragraphs – Paragraphs are the basic organizational unit for presenting and emphasizing the key points in a document.
  • Visual Aids – The visual should illustrate the text, and should be placed near the words so that the relationship is immediately clear.
  • Interactive Elements – Providing links can facilitate interactivity, and that depth of resources can be a distinct advantage when writing documents to be read on a computer.

Considerations When Revising Written Communications

General revision requires attention to content, organization, style, and readability.

Content – The content will address the central questions of who, what, where, when, why and how within the range and parameters of the assignment.

Organization – Standard formats that include an introduction, body, and conclusion may be part of your document, but did you decide on a direct or indirect approach? Your document may use any of a wide variety of organizing principles, such as chronological, spatial, compare/contrast. Beyond the overall organization, pay special attention to transitions. Finally, your conclusion should mirror your introduction and not introduce new material.

Style – Style is created through content and organization, but also involves word choice and grammatical structures. Is your document written in an informal or formal tone, or does it present a blend, a mix, or an awkward mismatch? Does it provide a coherent and unifying voice with a professional tone?

Evaluate Readability – Readability refers to the reader’s ability to read and comprehend the document.

Format – Format involves the design expectations of author and audience.

Facts – While you can’t be expected to have the skills of a professional fact-checker, you do need to reread your writing with a critical eye to the information in it.
ask yourself the following: Does my writing contain any statistics or references that need to be verified? Where can I get reliable information to verify it? Independent verification—that is, look up the fact in a different source from the one where you first got it.

Names – Incorrect spelling of names is a quick way to undermine your credibility; it can also have a negative impact on your organization’s reputation, and in some cases it may even have legal ramifications.

Spelling – Correct spelling is another element essential for your credibility, and errors will be glaringly obvious to many readers.

Punctuation – Punctuation marks are the traffic signals, signs, and indications that allow us to navigate the written word.

Grammar – Grammar involves the written construction of meaning from words and involves customs that evolve and adapt to usage over time. Jean Wyrick has provided a list of common errors in grammar to watch out for, which we have adapted here for easy reference.

Break Up Long Sentences – In business writing, our goals aim more toward precision and the elimination of error; a good business document won’t read like a college essay. In their best-selling book The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White [1] emphasize clarity as a central goal. Big words can clutter your writing with needless jargon that may be a barrier to many readers.

Long Prepositional Phrases – A prepositional phrase is a phrase composed of a preposition (a “where” word; a word that indicates location) and its object, which may be a noun, a pronoun, or a clause. Some examples of simple prepositional phrases include “with Tom,” “before me,” and “inside the building security perimeter.”

Delete Repetitious Words – Synonyms are useful in avoiding the boredom of repetition.

Eliminate Archaic Expressions or References – Remember that the point of the communication is to be understood. Archaic expressions and unknown references can hurt that objective.

Avoid Fillers – These are words or phrases that add nothing to the message. They simply take up space and can frustrate the reader.

Avoid Clichés – Clichés are words or phrases that through their overuse have lost their impact.

Emphasize Precise Words – Concrete words that are immediately available to your audience are often more effective than abstract terms that require definitions, examples, and qualifications.

Evaluate Parallel Construction – Parallel construction refers to the use of same grammatical pattern; it can be applied to words, phrases, and sentences.

Obscured Verbs – One common problem is the conversion of verbs into nouns with the addition of suffixes like: -ant,-ent, -ion, -tion, -sion, -ence, -ance, and ing.

The “Is It Professional?” Test – Finally, when revising your document with an attention to detail, you simply need to ask the question: is it professional?

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