Heather Bussing is an attorney who writes a lot, teaches advanced legal writing to law students and is the Editorial Advisory Board editor at HR Examiner. She has represented employers, unions and employees in every aspect of employment and labor law including contract negotiations, discrimination and wage hour issues. While the courtroom is a place she’s very familiar with, her preferred approach to employment law is to prevent problems through early intervention and good policies and agreements. Full bio…
Writing Online (and other places)
by Heather Bussing
Here are my suggestions for writing clearly. Writing clearly increases your chance of being understood. Being understood is a very fine thing, and the point of writing in the first place.
1. Have something to say. If you just want attention, but don’t have something to say, go play with your dog.
2. Make it Short. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. And lots of space between them. It’s easier to read and easier to look at. Fragments are okay, as long as the thought is clear.
3. Short is Harder. Being concise takes thought. It requires you to actually understand what you are writing about. Mark Twain once noticed “It would have been shorter if I’d had more time.”
4. Edit. Short also requires editing. Twitter has been a great tool for teaching people to write concisely. But, omit words, not letters.
5. Spell check. On your google toolbar, there is a spell check application that will spell check anything before you post it. Download it now and use it.
6. Organize. If you are writing something longer, break it into manageable bite-sized pieces by using headings or a numbered list.
7. Stay Cool. Do not post anything after 10 pm or after you’ve had more than one drink, whichever comes first. Give yourself at least a day before you post anything you wrote while scared or angry. Scared or angry always shows because it will be long and ramble. See 1-3 above.
8. Attribution. If you refer to another post or article, link to it and say who wrote it. This is required by copyright law and promotes traffic and exposure for both of you.
9. Context. Your tone and style should match the audience and the site where you are writing. If you are starting a discussion, it makes sense to ask provocative questions. If you are giving information, be straight forward and clear. If you are giving opinions, explain them. Briefly.
10. Avoid Jargon. Res ipsa loquitur.
11. Understand the Rules. The secret to great writing is just two words: Not Always So.
Heather Bussing is an attorney who writes a lot, teaches advanced legal writing to law students and is the Editorial Advisory Board editor at HR Examiner.