2002- Alan Rauch ©


CONTEXT - There is always a context for your writing. Your reader gets a lot of papers and needs to be reminded of the context.

CAUSALITY - To make sense of information, intelligent readers need to understand why it is being brought to their attention at this point in time.

LOGIC - What's clear to you may not be clear to your reader. You need to make the logic of development, of actions, or of consequences as clear as you possibly can.

COMFORT - You need to use language and phrasing with which you & your reader will be comfortable.

CONTROL - You control the information and the tone of your work; your reader depends on you for both!

ACTION - Papers are generally designed to elicit action. Make your papers more effective by using active verbs. (Even summarizing papers will benefit.)

SERVICE - Every paper you write is to serve your readers. Do what you can to make their task of comprehension as easy as possible.


1.) Provide the specific context and/or occasion for the paper.

-refer to "Subject" heading in the first sentence of the paper

-state occasion for paper (e.g. in response to; to follow up on; in anticipation of...)

2.) State the purpose of the paper clearly; don't leave your reader guessing or wondering about where the information is going and what he/she is expected to do with it or learn from it.

-Remember that the purpose of a paper is not simply to communicate information; the

best papers shape information.

3.) Use language with which you are comfortable. There is no need to make a paper more "formal" unless you mean to do so. If you can't imagine yourself actually saying a written sentence in conversation, delete it and replace it with something that rings true!

-You may end up adopting different personas in different papers. Don't sabotage either the effect or

the impact of a paper by using a tone that's either too formal or not formal enough.

-The tone of a paper can alienate a reader who you want as an ally.

4.) Use active verbs that clearly delineate who the agent and the objects of an action are. In other words, tell your reader what you expect him/her to do. Avoid passive constructions such as:

"The connections between satire and political action are to be are to be thought of as a unified whole."

Don't be vague either:

"Satire and political action should be thought of as similar pursuits."

5.) Efficiency in a paper has to do with how well your reader understands your point and thus has nothing to do with being terse. So, don't write in "teletype".

"Heroic couplets facilitate satire by compressing the point."

Instead, relax and get the full sense of the directive:

"Because heroic couplets insist on rapid fire rhymes satirical perspectives can be delivered by the poet in witty, yet compressed, units."

6.) Don't hesitate to refer back to prior information either in the current paper or a previous paper. (In the latter case, make sure you refer to it clearly.) Because you are orienting your reader, you need to make sure that he/she can see the pattern of logic out of which this communication has emerged.

7). Close papers, if you can, with something meaningful and compelling. Indicate what the next steps will be or how you'll follow up on an action. You may want to provide other kinds of "hooks" that suggest feedback mechanisms, such as suggesting a follow-up meeting... or even more effective, an action on your part that requires the recipient's attention. (BUT, don't do anything that makes you seem "out of control.")

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