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Simply Said by Jay Sullivan

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CHAPTER 10Make It Easy Creating Reader-Friendly Documents

Beyond the structure of your document, there are other elements that will make your document reader-friendly.

Personal Pronouns

Your documents should sound like they are written by one human being to another, not generated by a computer to a nameless audience. For lawyers writing contracts, referring to the parties as “Buyer” and “Seller” (or “Tenant” and “Subtenant”) is necessary and efficient. But in a cover letter to a client, referring to yourself as “Smith & Jones, LLP” is unnecessarily formal. Some people believe using personal pronouns in business writing is somehow less dignified or official. Let’s revisit the Constitution. The very first word of the preamble is a personal pronoun—“We.” If personal pronouns are good enough for the Constitution, they are perfectly acceptable in your correspondence.

Because your writing should be focused less on yourself and more on the other person, there should be far more “you’s” than “I’s” in your writing, roughly two-to-one. Remember: It’s all about the other person. If you review your document and find a lot of sentences beginning with “I,” chances are you’re making the document more about yourself than about the audience.

Write Short Sentences

Aim for a maximum of 17 words per sentence. Once a sentence exceeds that length, it becomes hard for our brains to process the information. Your reader will likely need to read the sentence at least twice to understand the content. ...

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