Energize your writing

Some best practices for writing for a broad audience

Good writing knows it’s a performance. Good writers are hams on the page. They feel the presence of the audience the way a stage actor does. The only difference is that the writer’s audience must be imagined. People who read aloud well are usually good writers, and a simple way to write well is to write something you’d love to read out loud.

Jack Rawlins and Stephen Metzger

The Writer’s Way

Reach readers outside your immediate circle of friends and colleagues

A UCalgary News article stands a greater chance of attracting more readers and being shared via social media if the writing is conversational, emotionally engaging, and experiential. Picture your reading audience as high school students, or the next-door neighbour, or your mother. 


Set an engaging tone

Lead the reader into the story with an enticing first line or passage. Convey values associated with the university such as curiosity, creativity, discovery, surprise, vision, optimism, and transformation. 

Limit those readability killers

What hurts readability? An over-reliance on acronyms, proper nouns, specialist language, jargon, buzzwords, lengthy job titles, and long sentences. In other words, the language common to government and business internal communications!

Write in a conversational style

Avoid long sentences. Keep “bureau-cratese” to a minimum. Prefer concrete to abstract. Define any specialist term — or better yet, describe the term in plain language.

Where possible, use anecdotes or feature-writing techniques to emphasize human experience and context.

Four ways to emotionally connect with readers

  1. Tell the story from the perspective of a person.
  2. Paint a live scene, give a description.
  3. Pose a riddle, a mystery, or a research problem.
  4. Write like you enjoy it. Read it out loud!

10 Principles for Clear Writing

  1. Keep sentences short
  2. Prefer the simple to the complex
  3. Prefer the familiar word
  4. Avoid unnecessary words
  5. Put action in your verbs
  6. Write the way you talk
  7. Use terms your readers can picture
  8. Tie in with your reader’s experience
  9. Make full use of variety
  10. Write to express, not to impress

— From Robert Gunning’s The Technique of Clear Writing