Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Maybe you've recognised the problem.

You suspect that your readers are skimming your text. They don't notice that you want them to reply to your email today. They don't discuss your report in any detail - just the recommendations.

The cause of that skimming?

Most likely you've taken the humans out of your writing. Put them back in. Focus on people and action, not just things. Let's call it adding a personal element (as opposed to impersonal writing).

Personal: 'We received 205 comments on our proposal'.
Impersonal: 'The proposal received 205 comments'. (Highly unlikely when you think about it.)

Put the humans in and you'll be writing in more natural language.

Personal: 'You'll be able to see the plan at our office'.
Impersonal: 'The plan will be able to be seen at this company's office'. (Seem dull and clunky to you?)

Even if you write on technical topics, everything you do will have some relevance to humans. Show that relevance.

Start with personal

Try getting personal from the beginning of most sentences. Use people's names, I, we and especially you. In technical writing you might use more remote references to people: motorists, staff, managers or residents. Even naming an organisation is a little bit personal because we imagine the people who work there.

Want a wierd example of impersonal language?

There's a 'no-parking' sign at Christchurch Airport with the line, 'Offending vehicles will be fined'. (Imagine the court case if the vehicles just ignored the parking ticket.) Someone probably thought the warning would carry more authority if they took the humans out. So wrong.


Interested in a workshop on business writing for your team?

About Ralph Brown

ralph brown blog3

Ralph is our founder and managing director. He has a background in psychology, television journalism and business.

Ralph's passions are psychology and writing. He leads workshops on both and speaks to conferences on the psychology of thriving at work.

In 2011  Professional Speakers Australia awarded him its top speaking accreditation, the CSP.

He has written six books and more than a hundred articles on psychology and writing. International research journals have published his articles reviewing the research on resilience.

Ralph enjoys trips to France. He lives in rural Canterbury.

Interested in training in business writing?

A business writing workshop will give your team far more than just plain English. They’ll be achieving more clarity in less time. Through their emails and letters, they’ll be building cooperative relationships with their colleagues, customers and community.

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