Get Out the Red Pen

Or, Utilizing Effectuated Methodologies (What?)

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Kyla Cromer

Guest post by: Kyla Cromer

If what I see surfing around every day is any indication, many people have a hard time writing in a clean, clear way, especially for the web. There aren’t any tricks to it, but here are some key concepts I try to use:

  1. First things first. Decide what to say and make the most important points first, in case your reader gets bored or distracted and wanders off mid-read. We all do it.
  2. Prepare for scanning. An oldie but goodie: use subheadings, bullets, and numbered lists when you can, in case the reader is skimming. We all do that, too. (More on why we scan.)
  3. Cut ruthlessly. When reviewing a draft, imagine you’re a cranky, very impatient person – your great aunt Edna, say – and ask, “So what?” after reading each bit. If there isn’t a good answer, cut it.
  4. Think small. Don’t use big words when small ones will do. They slow things down and increase the likelihood your reader will go find something better to do. “Gigantic” is more evocative than “big,” but “utilize” isn’t better than “use.”
  5. Write what you know. Avoid words like “evocative” if you don’t know what they mean. There are many free dictionaries on the web.
  6. Keep it basic. Skip the trendy terms and expressions, like “planful,” or “that said.” They can have more than one meaning, or be just plain wrong. Some readers will stop to ponder, be confused, or even go look it up. Keep them with you!

All of these points assume you will take time to write a draft or two. Or three. Do it! If possible, have someone else read your draft, too. If you can’t do that, take a long break – preferably overnight – and you’ll likely notice things that are unclear or unnecessary, and catch a mistake or two.

Last, notice I said, “key concepts I try to use.” Don’t drive yourself crazy – or someone writing for you – chasing perfection. One can’t effectuate that no matter what methodology is utilized.

Garbled Grammar Contest

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Contest time

[Update! Congratulations to Michael, who won the drawing for a free consultation from communications consultant Kyla Cromer. The contest may be over, but you’re still welcome to keep sending your favorite pet peeves. It just feels good to vent.]

Need help with your copy? You can win a free clear-writing or site-review consultation as part of Talance’s Customer Appreciation Month, courtesy of writing and online communications consultant Kyla Cromer. Just add your favorite grammar pet peeve (sentences that end in prepositions, anyone?) to the comments below, and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win.

Note: You can pick up more tips on terrible writing with our 10 Horrid Words contest, where you can win a signed copy of the excellent book Content Rules, written by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman.

Deadline for entries is January 2, 2012. We’ll pick one winner at random from all entries on January 3, 2012 and will notify the winner via e-mail. You must leave your name and a correct e-mail address to qualify.


Kyla Cromer is a writer and editor who works on projects on and off the web, uses various types of social media, blogging and web content management platforms, and offers website consulting. She also provides tech support house calls for little old ladies in her neighborhood. Reach Kyla through, Twitter @kylacromer, LinkedIn or by emailing [email protected].

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