“Personal effectiveness is the core of our business.”
- Sheila Viesca, TalkShop

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

3 Simple Ways to Write with Substance

In previous entries, we discussed the importance of style and substance and illustrated simple ways to write with style. Here we conclude the series by showing how to write reports with substance. 

1. Identify the goal 


Reports have many purposes. Identify whether your report is meant to analyze, inform, or entertain. If your report is meant to analyze, then the bulk of your content must be an analysis of the subject. Background information can be used as supporting content to enhance your analysis but should not be the focus. Never let the background information overshadow the analysis.

If your goal is to inform, be as unbiased as possible and state facts instead of opinions. Your article should be straight to the point but full of relevant information that can increase the awareness of readers.

If your goal is to entertain, remember to keep your writing style casual and light. Use everyday terms that everyone can understand. Also add color to your writing with pictures, videos, and other forms of media.

A longer report is not necessarily substantive. Focus on the essentials by answering these basic questions: Does this part of the report contribute to its main purpose? Is the report clear and concise? Is it understandable and easily readable? Fillers are often used to lengthen reports and articles but do not add any meaningful information. 

2. Use and cite references


Unless you are a well-known expert in the field, your opinions will hold little credibility to the readers. You must support your arguments with reputable references in order to make it convincing.

Wikipedia is a helpful resource but must never be used as the main reference. Refer to the list of sources at the bottom of the wiki entry and ascertain that the references are credible. News articles and academic papers are more credible than blog entries and forums. Also, it’s important to state who wrote the article to give him recognition. If you believe the information to be credible, use the original source as your reference rather than the Wikipedia entry.

3. Ask and answer questions


Insights can be gleaned by asking questions. Why is this information important? How did the company achieve this feat? What is the implication of this study? Asking questions can lead to meaningful insights because they force you to think.

To facilitate this back-and-forth inquiry, accumulate as many references as needed and analyze the situation from multiple perspectives.

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