Write for Any Audience

When writing, whether jotting an email to a coworker, responding to a media request, tweeting from the city’s account or crafting a post for the city’s blog, there are a lot of ways to boost the message or to undermine it. It’s always a good time to brush up on the following:

  • Active voice almost always wins out over passive voice. “The mayor is kicking off the skydiving festival with a solo dive” is much more effective than “The skydiving festival will be kicked off by a solo dive by the mayor.”
  • Good spelling, punctuation and grammar are never negotiable.
  • Less is more. It’s much harder to write precisely and succinctly than to ramble on and on.
  • Edit, rewrite, then edit some more. The first draft is never the best product. Rest between drafts. Let someone else look at a draft, then edit some more.
  • Use simple words. “Find out” instead of “ascertain;” “send out” instead of “disseminate;” “use” instead of “utilize;” “best” instead of “optimum;” “explain” instead of “find an explanation for.”
  • Avoid frequent word confusions. Know the difference between it’s (it is) and its (possessive) and I and me. Correct: “He is going with John and me.” Think of it without John, so that it reads: “He is going with me.” Incorrect: “He is going with John and I.” A writer who leaves John out of the sentence would not write, “He is going with I.”
  • Keep sentences parallel. Correct: “I like reading books, watching movies and going to the library.” Incorrect: “I like reading books, watch movies and to go to the library.”
  • Avoid clichés. Stay away from tired phrases, such as “at the end of the day” and “the perfect storm” and “it is what it is.”
Writing skills will be a topic at the Joint Academy of the SC Business Licensing Officials Association and the SC Municipal Finance Officers, Clerks and Treasurers Association, October 8 ­– 11 in Myrtle Beach. The session “Common Mistakes in English Usage” will take a look at how to improve professional communication.