To err is still humanI tweeted awhile back my frustration that in writing my own materials, I often forget to follow the advice I would normally give to clients. Recently, for example, I saw how easy it is to lapse into rambling prose while composing an e-mail to a client.

I was writing to someone within a client’s organization about a workshop we’re preparing, where one of the key goals is to help the attendees learn how to focus more on the points the reader cares most about and express them more succinctly.

Here’s how my first sentence wrote:

We are already talking about changes to the curriculum that will aim to drive home your feedback about the need for succinctness and reader-focussedness.

It was when my spell checker found that wonderful chestnut, ‘focussedness,’ that I clued in to the slippery slope I was careening down. Here’s my update:

We are already talking about changes to the curriculum that will drive home your feedback about being succinct and reader-focussed.

As often happens, it was a matter of changing those nouns (created by adding the suffix –ness) back into the adjectives that were already doing their job just fine, thank you.

Then, deleting the words ‘aim to’ made the statement stronger. (Often we add words like aim to, promises to, expect to before an action when we are reluctant to – or our employer tells us we can’t – fully commit to.)

Isn’t it amazing how much you can do to one sentence to make it stronger and clearer? I’m glad I caught the areas needing those edits (I’m sure I don’t always!).