How to type a minus sign

When you’re writing a report or an email you probably use a hyphen (the key to the right of the zero) when you want a minus sign. It’s OK, but a hyphen is too short because it’s intended to be a connector in words like co-ordination. A minus sign looks better if you use an en-dash (–), which is a dash that is the same width as an “n”. See for yourself:

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Understand how your reader reads

For everything you write you need to understand how your reader will read it. Some things are read closely, word by word. Students can expect this for their essays. You can’t expect this for anything you write that has more than two paragraphs. Others are skimmed, with readers only reading the first sentence of paragraphs. If the document has been well-written they will get enough from these sentences to understand the full document.

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Here are some signs that your business writing needs to be improved

Your colleagues’ reports are shorter, clearer and better-presented than yours. Your manager asks you to rewrite a document you wrote. Your manager asks someone else to rewrite a document you wrote. Your manager makes major edits to a document you wrote without saying anything to you. Receivers of your emails ask you questions about things you thought you had explained in the email. You don’t know how to use styles to format text.

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What are the signs that you could improve your writing

How do you go from the one on the left to the one on the right?Allow me to make some suggestions. First, your boss or mentor or a client tells you so. I suspect that is quite rare. More subtle is the case where your boss or mentor or client does not tell you outright but asks questions that you thought your document had answered. Or maybe you receive documents by other finance people and you’re impressed by how well technical material is explained.

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How to get out of writer’s block

If you get stuck when you are writing a report or email, finish this sentence: 
> “I want you to know about this because …”
Do it as fast as possible and trust your first answer. Now delete the words “I want you to know about this because” and keep developing what you have left. It will probably suggest some more questions to you that you need to answer. Soon you will be back in the flow.

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Don’t write business reports like stories

Writing a chronological narrative puts conclusions and recommendations at the end, which busy readers might not see (especially if your story is boring!). Here are 𝘁𝘄𝗼 better ways to structure a report. If you are writing a short report or an email on a single topic, try the 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗺–𝗰𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲–𝘀𝗼𝗹𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻. First you describe the problem/issue, then explain why it has occurred before stating your recommended action(s). For longer reports there is the 𝘁𝗲𝗹𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗼𝗽𝗲 approach.

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Why I Don’t Write in Word

Excel changed the world by allowing users to format and beautify data, although this is often at the cost of clarity. This trend is worse with Microsoft Word, where users are bombarded with formatting options. That massive ribbon at the top of the screen is a siren calling to the user to mess about with styles and borders and colours, when they should be concentrating on writing. Historically, writers wrote the content; typists dealt with the formatting, and the limitations of typewriters meant that the writing remained clear.

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The 3Ss of effective documents: substance, structure and style.

The 3Ss of effective documents: substance, structure and style. Substance The content of the document. This is your message, and it is the reason for writing in the first place. Structure There are lots of ways you might organise your thoughts and you need to work out which way is best for the message. Generally, I like structures that put the conclusion/recommendation/request first, and follows up with explanation. But sometimes you might decide a strict chronological structure is best.

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Keep it simple, stupid.

One of my former bosses always wanted “KISS” reports. Keep it simple, stupid. It’s easier to say than do. Us technical folk think in technical terms but, here’s the thing, when we communicate to non-technical people we need to simplify. Here’s an example of what not to do. Recently I got an email from The North Face explaining a data breach. It began … 𝘖𝘯 𝘋𝘦𝘤𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 13, 𝘸𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘵𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘶𝘯𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘢 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘐𝘛 𝘴𝘺𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘮𝘴, 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘣𝘺 𝘦𝘹𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘴.

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Sometimes it’s best to write nothing at all

There are countless places where you can find tips for better writing. They’ll all say you should be brief. Cut out the waffle and the jargon. The point of cutting your draft is not to make it shorter, but to make it better. Well, sometimes I think you should cut out 100% of a document. Just don’t write it! Instead of less is more it’s a case of nothing is more than enough.

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