This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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06 March 2011

How to write with purpose

In last month's survey, we asked you to name the the problem you find most often in the documents produced by your organisation. Overwhelmingly, you told us the most common problem was lack of clear purpose.

Why is the purpose of the document so important? Why do you need to make sure the purpose is clear at the beginning of the document? Your reader could just as well ask, 'why should I read this document?' or 'what's in it for me?'

Stating the purpose clearly at the beginning of the document lets your reader know why they should take the time to read further. Without a purpose statement, you run the risk of losing your reader's attention and of not getting the result you're looking for.

Don't be shy. If your title or headline doesn't completely capture your purpose, blatantly include a section called 'Purpose of this document'. It feels a little odd at first, but it helps to clarify your thinking and to structure your writing. You don't always have to head up the purpose section in this way. Later you'll branch out and think of many more engaging headings. Just make sure you keep your reader in mind and keep the purpose upfront. This way you'll have happier readers and be more likely to get results from your writing -- and maybe compliments too!

See the results from February's survey here.

Have your say in this month's survey.

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