Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

You might think me a bit obsessional, but it's a common problem and confuses readers.

If you want more clarity in your writing, ban the ‘unaccompanied this’.

An example is the best way to explain what I mean.

‘We contacted the customer and wrote to the company’s chief executive, Jane Smith. It was the second time we have done this.’

What does this mean? Was it writing to the customer, Jane Smith, or both? Even if you thought you knew, you were probably distracted for at least a moment while you confirmed your opinion. Maybe you tried to supress your doubts as you read on.

I once introduced a similar example to an in-house team. It took them eight seconds to tell me what they thought this referred to, and even then they disagreed.

This should not be allowed out alone. This pen? This Saturday? No problem. Each has a mate and is perfectly clear.

Let’s be frank

The unaccompanied this is lazy writing and a poor service to our readers.

Add a mate or reconstruct your sentences to achieve more clarity.

‘We contacted the customer. We also wrote to the company’s chief executive, Jane Smith, for the second time.’


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.

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