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Plain Language in Government Writing

Book Description

A Plain-English Guide to Government Writing

Whether you're in the public or private sector, good writing skills are critical to your success in the workplace. Plain Language in Government Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide shows you how to apply federal plain-language guidelines to every type of writing — from emails, memos, and letters to agency communications, technical procedures, and budget justification statements. Through numerous exercises as well as examples from a variety of federal and state agencies, this practical guide walks you step-by-step through every phase of the writing process, providing tips for improved clarity, conciseness, and completeness. This valuable reference will help you:
Write for diverse audiences in reader-friendly, plain language
Overcome writer's block
Gain confidence in your ability to write — and get results
Make your writing visually appealing
Prepare for briefings and presentations
Recognize successful writing and identify what makes it effective

A Plain-English Guide to Government Writing will enable you to express yourself more clearly and concisely, produce documents more efficiently, and work more effectively with others throughout the writing process.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. About the Author
  5. Dedication
  6. Contents
  7. Foreword
  8. Preface
  9. Acknowledgments
  10. Part 1 Process and Stages of Plain Language Writing
    1. Chapter 1 Succeeding as a Writer in Today’s Workplace
      1. Common Myths about Business Writing
      2. The Importance of Plain Language in Government Writing
        1. Presidential Efforts to Improve Government Writing
        2. Other Plain Language Programs
      3. Why Use Plain Language?
        1. Plain Language Saves Money
        2. Plain Language Helps Avoid Lawsuits
        3. Plain Language Pleases Readers
        4. Plain Language Makes Your Job Easier
    2. Chapter 2 Getting Started: The Planning Stage
      1. Guidelines for Planning
        1. Know Your Purpose
        2. Know Your Audience
        3. Know Your Subject
      2. Guidelines for Brainstorming and Organizing
        1. The Mind Map
        2. The Questioning Technique
        3. Index Cards
        4. Sticky Notes or Movable Tape
        5. Free Writing
      3. Guidelines for Outlining
        1. The Checklist
        2. The Semiformal Outline
        3. The Traditional Outline
        4. The Electronic Outline
        5. Turning Generated Ideas into an Outline
        6. Writing an Outline after the Draft
      4. Guidelines for Sequencing Your Ideas
        1. Documents to Inform
        2. Documents to Persuade
    3. Chapter 3 Drafting: Writing It Down
      1. Turning Off Your Inner Critic
      2. Getting Started on Your First Draft
      3. Planning Paragraphs
      4. Qualities of Effective Paragraphs
        1. Unity
        2. Coherence
        3. Development
      5. Writing Sentences
        1. Sentence Fragments
        2. Run-On Sentences
        3. Conjunctive Adverbs
        4. Overloaded Sentences
        5. Choppy Sentences
      6. Tips for Writing Drafts
        1. How to Avoid Writer’s Block
        2. Getting Some Distance from Your Draft
        3. Revisiting the Draft
    4. Chapter 4 Editing: Using the Right Voice and Tone
      1. Writing Tip: Prefer the Active Voice
        1. How to Recognize Passive and Active Sentences
        2. The Case for the Active Voice
        3. The Case for the Passive Voice
        4. How to Activate Passive Sentences
      2. Writing Tip: Bring Submerged Action to the Surface
      3. Writing Tip: Substitute Action Verbs for Forms of “To Be”
      4. Choosing Your Words: Tone in Writing
        1. The Right Tone
        2. Ways to Find the Right Tone
    5. Chapter 5 Editing: Writing with Clarity and Conciseness
      1. How to Improve Clarity
        1. Use Short Sentences
        2. Divide Material into a List
        3. Replace Wordy Expressions
        4. Relax Old-Fashioned Grammar Rules
        5. Avoid Cumbersome Phrases
        6. Delete Redundancies
        7. Use Shorter Words
        8. Use Parallelism
      2. Other Tips for Writing More Clearly
      3. Being Precise
        1. Identify Your Audience Precisely
      4. Avoiding Common Barriers to Understanding
        1. Watch Out for “Noun Sandwiches”
        2. Place Words Carefully within Your Sentences
        3. Avoid Ambiguous Phrasing
        4. Make Pronoun References Clear
        5. Correct Dangling Modifiers
        6. Use Words Correctly—Especially Similar Words
      5. Checking Your Readability
    6. Chapter 6 Adding Visual Impact to Your Writing
      1. Plain Language Guidelines for Visual Formatting
        1. Layout
        2. Typography
        3. An Example of Plain Language Applied Visually
      2. Enhancing the Text with Graphics
      3. Types of Visual Aids
        1. Photographs
        2. Drawings
        3. Maps
        4. Flow Charts
        5. Schematics
        6. Screen Shots
        7. Tables, Line Graphs, Pie Charts, and Bar Charts
    7. Chapter 7 editing: the Final Phase
      1. Two Types of Editing
        1. Substantive Editing
        2. Line Editing (Copyediting)
      2. Proofreading
        1. Frequently Used Proofreader’s Marks
      3. The Editing Process
      4. Making Changes Online
      5. How Can a Style Manual Help?
      6. Editing Someone Else’s Document
      7. Field-Testing Your Writing
        1. Focus Groups
        2. Protocol Testing
        3. Control Studies
        4. When to Use Different Tools
  11. Part II types of Business Writing
    1. Chapter 8 emailing the right Message
      1. Planning Email
        1. Audience
      2. Elements of Email
        1. Subject Statement
        2. Opening Statement
      3. Email Etiquette (Netiquette)
        1. Tone and Style
        2. The Right Recipients and the Right Timing
        3. Other Guidelines
      4. Security and Privacy Issues
        1. Some Land Mines to Avoid
    2. Chapter 9 Writing Winning Letters
      1. How To Format a Business Letter
        1. Common Components of a Business Letter
      2. Letter Styles
      3. Basic Steps in Writing Business Letters
        1. Begin the Letter
        2. Give a Point of Reference
        3. Organize the Body of the Letter
        4. Writing to More Than One Audience
      4. How To End the Letter
        1. What Readers Should Do
        2. What You Intend to Do
        3. Other
      5. Specific Types of Business Letters
        1. Letters of Persuasion
        2. IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) System of Legal Writing
        3. Letters of Recommendation
        4. Letters Accompanying Reports
      6. Formatting Your Letters to Increase Effectiveness
        1. Using Indented Lists
        2. Using Headings
        3. Using a Question-and-Answer Format
        4. Using “If-Then” Tables
    3. Chapter 10 Creating rousing reports
      1. Basic Parts of an Informal or Brief Report
        1. Tips for the Introduction
        2. Tips for the Body
        3. Tips for the Conclusion
      2. Formal Reports
        1. Title Page
        2. Letters
        3. Executive Summary
        4. Table of Contents
        5. List of Figures
        6. List of Tables
        7. List of Abbreviations and Symbols
        8. Acknowledgments, Preface, and Foreword
        9. Body
        10. Glossary
        11. References
        12. Bibliography
        13. Appendices
        14. Index
      3. Formats for Workplace Reports
        1. Research Reports
        2. White Papers
        3. Feasibility Reports
        4. Progress Reports
        5. Laboratory Reports
        6. Test Reports
        7. Trip Reports
        8. Trouble Reports
        9. Proposals
        10. Meeting Minutes
    4. Chapter 11 Achieving Skill in technical Writing
      1. The Audience for Technical Writing
      2. Technical Definitions
        1. Informal or Parenthetical Definitions
        2. Formal Definitions
        3. Extended Definitions
        4. Rules for Definitions
      3. Mechanical Descriptions
      4. Technical Instructions
      5. Forms of Technical Writing
        1. Technical Manuals
        2. Journal Articles
        3. Abstracts
        4. Specifications
        5. Online Help Systems
        6. Computer- and Web-Based Training
      6. Making Technical Material Accessible
        1. Creating Accessible Graphics and Designs
    5. Chapter 12 Other Forms of Workplace Writing
      1. Collaborative Writing
        1. Guidelines for Collaborative Writing
        2. How Groups Work
      2. Ghostwriting
        1. Delegating the Task
        2. Taking on the Task
      3. Budget Justifications
      4. Briefings and Presentations
        1. Steps in Preparing for a Briefing or a Presentation
        2. Make an Opening Statement
        3. Relate to Your Listeners Personally
        4. Give Examples
        5. Conclude
      5. Writing Policies
        1. Why Written Policies Are Important
        2. How Policies Develop
        3. Guidelines for Writing Policies
        4. Components of the Policy
      6. Drafting Regulations
      7. Interoffice Memos
        1. Steps in Writing a Memo
  12. APPENDIX: Exercise Answers
  13. Index