- Make sure the first line of copy doesn't repeat the headline. This is a common error that annoys readers - they've just read that information and now you've made them read it again. It makes them wonder if they're going to get anything worthwhile out of the effort that they're putting in to reading your copy.
- Put the key selling point in the first line of copy - it's the best way to hook readers and keep them reading. If you keep your big deal until the end, there's a danger that they'll lose interest before they get there.
- Never use a picture, table, graph or chart without a caption. Captions have extremely high readership - we know that skim readers will look at graphic items before reading the copy and they'll always look for the caption once they've seen the graphic. Write your caption with the thought that it might be the only thing they read on the page. Using a caption such as 'Fig. 1' is a wasted opportunity.
- Don't write above the comprehension level of your audience. Use simple language as much as possible. No one likes to struggle through long-winded, pompous copy, regardless of how highly educated they are. Think of the daily paper that your reader is likely to read - use that as a benchmark for your writing.
- Get rid of cliches and worn-out phrases. Spare readers yet another 'rare opportunity', 'wide variety' or 'dawn of a new age'. Try reviving common phrases with new meaning: 'Into each life some sun must fall', 'He burns the candle at neither end', 'After all is said and nothing is done…'
- Double check puns and attempts at humour. Make sure they're really funny. You would be surprised to discover how many readers think these attempts are offensive, stupid or just irritating.
- Beware of sexist language, gender bias, age bias. Don't automatically describe women in greater physical detail than men. Don't automatically address the Managing Director or Financial Director as 'Sir'. Avoid the 'he or she', 'his or her' constructions by using plurals and then you can write 'they' or 'their'
- Eliminate all technical terms or industry jargon unless you're sure these words will be completely clear to everyone. If you're writing a technical report, remember that the decision makers may not be technical people. They'll have technical people to check your ideas but you should make sure that the executive summary doesn't need a technical mind to understand it.
- Check every question you ask to be certain your reader can't answer 'no' (unless that's the answer you want!). Check every statement you make to be certain your reader can't respond 'so what?' or 'who cares?'.
- Tell the reader what to do at the end of the piece. Busy people don't mind clear instructions as to what they should do. Some of them even follow them.
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