Learning about document structure

Last week, Radio National's Life Matters program featured an interview with Cyril Peupion, author of 'Work Smarter: Live Better' Cyril was talking about people's inefficiencies at work - particularly with tasks like email Cyril noted that most people start their working lives with little idea about how to work efficiently It's not something that's taught either at school or university Given the 1,131 email messages currently in my In Box, with 282 of them being unread, maybe I need to pay some...

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Communicating through distraction

This morning I attended a fascinating breakfast seminar about distraction It was called 'Neuroscience of Distraction: Managing Distraction and Maintaining Focus', and was presented by Geoff Grahl from Australian Aeorspace The organiser was NeuroLeadership Solutions Geoff made several comments about distraction that resonated strongly for me For example:The more information we receive, the more likely we are to be distracted (this reminds me of Richard Wurman's book 'Information...

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Grabbing the attention of disinterested audiences

I was talking last week to our local school Principal about the difficulties that the school faces in communicating with parents The Principal often receives complaints from parents that they don't know what is happening - whether it's a special activity at the school, some type of social function, or a request for a form to be completed Parents often say that they would have been involved in an activity, if they had known it was happeningThe Principal is at a loss about what to do She works...

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Success with email

This month in The Writing Circle, we've been talking about email - about our email successes and failures, and about our likes and dislikesOne theme that came through very strongly is the speed with which emails are read and acted upon, and the problems this can create for both writers and readers We talked about the way that readers often don't read an entire email message Instead, they read the first paragraph or two, jump to some conclusion about what they're meant to do, act upon that, and...

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Versus, verse, versing

I'm fascinated by the way that language changes And while it's often tempting to speak out against the 'incorrect' use of language, most often the force for change is so strong that we can do little more than take noteOver the past year or so, I've noticed that the words used by children to describe sporting competitions do not follow typical dictionary definitions They've taken the preposition 'versus' and turned it into a word with great flexibility During the sports report at our local...

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When (and how) to end

Ending a document (or a chapter or a section) can be troublesome How do you tie all the ideas together and come to some conclusion How do you give readers a sense that the document is coming to a closeAnd then there are questions about the placement of ideas Is this the best place for the main idea The final thought The real take-home messageIf you're writing a novel, maybe you want to build up to a dramatic conclusion My children love Enid Blyton novels, and she's a master of a...

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Sound structure = sound document core

As a writer and editor, I spend a lot of time thinking about the structure of documents A poorly structured document can create so many problems for readers  ideas that belong together may not be presented together, ideas may not be introduced in a logical order, and important concepts may be explained in the wrong placeWhen I edit the work of others, it's the structure that I focus on most As I read through a draft document, I put together a brief document map (a few-word...

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2 space or not 2 space

When you write, are you a double spacer or a single spacer That is, do you leave two spaces after a full stop, or just oneIf any question is guaranteed to start an argument in a writing discussion, it's this one People who learned to type on typewriters (remember them) tend to advocate strongly for two spaces People who have actually been taught wordprocessing (and they're few and far between) prefer to use one And then of course, there are people who don't know, don't care, and don't...

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When nouns become verbs

I've never been completely comfortable with nouns that transform into verbs I've learned to put up with 'impact' and 'action' The Telstra person I was speaking to today continually promised to 'action my request', and I barely grimaced I just hope that she really does follow through!But when did 'message' become a verb This morning I received this 'Sorry to message you so late 'Yes, I know, it's all part of the way that language develops And part of the beauty of English is our ability to do...

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