Here are few tips and guidelines for writing content. This page contains running notes. More points and explanations will be added.
- Write in plain English whenever possible. Avoid technobabble, gobbledygook and jargons. Ironically, even the terms technobabble and gobbledygook may not be known to many.
- Write to express, not to impress. When you write to impress you tend to use technobabble, gobbledygook and jargons. But if your intention is to express the ideas that is easy to understand, then you should write in plain English.
- Be aware about your wrong writing styles, unlearn old styles and learn and practice new styles.
- Use basic commonly understood words. It is not a good idea to make users look into a dictionary like few of you might have done for technobabble and/or gobbledygook.
- Keep sentences short and concise. Try to keep sentences less than 20 words, unless there is a need to do so based on the situation.
- Keep paragraphs short and concise. Try to keep paragraphs to 6-7 lines, unless there is a need to do so based on the situation.
- Read your own content and re-write it until it is clear. Do you know I first wrote the previous line as Read your own content and refactor it until it is clear. That was because I come from a software engineering background. If you are not from a background that uses that term you may not understand it easily. In any case, re-write is better right?
- Read your contents load. This can be clubbed with the previous point. I wanted to state it again as I follow it most of the times. Many times I make corrections in the tone / structure of my sentences after I read aloud. I even find some errors that I missed earlier.
- Use pronouns like “I”, “We” and “You” consistently, and involve users. It is a common mistake for authors to use “we” at one place and “you” at other. Use them consistently. In general, using “we” whenever possible engages the user more. Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote says “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”.
- Compute your readability index score using techniques such as Gunning’s Fog Index, Flesch–Kincaid readability tests etc. There are many online tools available to check readability scores. You can check readability using Microsoft Word.
REFERENCES: I wrote the initial version of this note after attending a course titled ‘Writing in plain English’ available at linkedin.com/learning/writing-in-plain-english.