Writing to Be Read

Here’s an activity to celebrate National Reading Month: practice your own writing!  When we think about speed reading exercises, we often think about our role as a reader. In this article, we review writing tips that will help others speed read what we write!

  • Headings and Bullets. In today’s information packed world, we write for skimmers, rather than readers. This means using headings, sub-headings, and bullets to organize and present small chunks of information.
  • Short Paragraphs. After writing some text, count the lines in each paragraph. If your paragraph is longer than 8 lines, consider how to shorten or split it.
  • Clear, Active Voice. Try skimming this: “An article was written by an author with the goal of teaching you how to write with maximal effectiveness.” Not so easy to skim! What made it difficult?  Too many clauses, passive voice, and too long.  How about: “This article teaches you how write effectively.” Same content, much easier to read. Take Home: Edit for clarity and readability.
  • Know Your Audience’s Goals. Why are you writing, and what is your reader’s goal? Many people write with themselves in mind, rather than the reader. If writing for work, know who you are writing for, and what they need to do as a result.
  • Save Samples. When you read – or skim – something that’s easy to understand or you thought was well written, save it as an example to guide your own work. What was most helpful about the writing? Analyze it, and then incorporate that into your writing.
  • Get an Editor or Peer Reviewer. It’s hard to review our own work objectively. Find a reviewer or editor that will help you tighten your language, and who will ask you the right questions. Do the same for that person!

Shakespeare wrote: “Brevity is the soul of wit.” So, the final tip is: Keep it Short! To celebrate National Reading Month, practice writing, so that others may speed read.