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Writing Tips

While most of us possess technical writing skills of some kind, we can all use a refresher course in good writing before preparing text for a publication. Here are some tips that will help you write clear, concise, readable copy that will communicate your message to your audience.

Consider your audience
Keep in mind your audience’s reading level and knowledge of the subject. Two brochures on the same surgical procedure — one for patients and the other for physicians — require very different writing styles. Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes — write in a way that draws the reader’s attention to the substance of the writing.

Write at the appropriate reading level for the appropriate audiences; please don’t write higher than an 8th grade reading level. Review the user personas in the previous section for details on our audience.
Determine your purpose
Decide what you want your readers to do, think or feel after reading the publication. For example, you may want them to register for a conference, understand more about a service or procedure, think highly of the staff in your department or feel comfortable coming to UCLA Health. Keep in mind your purpose throughout the entire piece.
Begin with an outline
Think about the main points in your message and how you want the information to flow. Draft an outline of your main ideas to help you get started. You may want to share the outline with a colleague for feedback before you begin writing.
Write, rewrite and write again
Revising is part of writing. After you’ve compiled your first draft, review it with a critical eye and edit it using the guidelines in this manual. Ask co-workers to critique the copy; be willing to incorporate suggestions. Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. Consider reading it aloud to yourself to see if it makes sense.
Use the active voice instead of passive voice, and put statements in a positive form
For example, write: “The department sponsored a lecture,” rather than “The lecture was sponsored by the department.”
Keep it specific and concise. Be clear
Most people have a lot of reading to do each day. Keep your text as concise as possible to make your piece more readable. Use details rather than generalities to explain a main point. Include concrete examples to which your audience can relate. Eliminate repetition, remove unnecessary words and condense long phrases. Avoid jargon, clichés and wordy prepositional phrases.  As examples:


Replace

With

as a matter of fact

in fact

at this point in time

now, today

in close proximity

near

true facts

facts

past history

past

mutual cooperation

cooperation

is in the process of

is

utilized

used

Avoid using formal or scholarly tone unless necessary
A conversational tone is more readable and usually more effective for UCLA Health publications. Technical documents may require a more formal tone. Again, consider your audience.

Choose verbs carefully
Strong, descriptive verbs add color to copy and eliminate the need for wordy phrases.


Replace

With

have a need for

need

take into consideration

consider

announcement was made

announced

have a tendency

tend

take action

act

made a statement

stated

Avoid verbs ending in –ing.
For example:


Replace

With

is planning to hold

plans to hold

will be leading the committee

will lead the committee

Do not use nouns as verbs. For example:


Replace

With

This policy impacts patients

This policy will affect patients.

The hospital partnered with the company.

The hospital and the company are partners.

Use bullets effectively
Bulleted text helps highlight information and make the text more readable. Overuse of bullets, however, can make brochures and similar pieces look awkward. Bullets and lists are especially useful for digital content, which we will discuss later in this style guide.
Proofread/spell check
Proofread carefully in addition to using your computer’s spell check.

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