A Definitive Guide to Writing: The Tone and the Do’s and Dont’s

Parts B & C: Shredding the First-Person and Respecting Gender Neutrality

Write without fear, edit without mercy.

Zyxware is publishing a multipart essay on how to write effectively. The preface and part A that dealt with Sentence & Paragraph Structure were published prior. Here is part B & C that deals with the tones and the do's and don'ts while constructing a story. 

B. The Tone

  1. A personal touch is always nice for a blog. However, it is better to stay in third-person narratives while writing stories unless it is a quote. Reported speech is permissible. 

  2. Omit personal pronouns such as 'I,' 'you', and 'your' from a news story, a paper, or a presentation. Use it sparingly in business writing. Personal pronouns such as 'we,' 'our,' 'they', and 'them' are collective by nature and accepted. 

  3. Instead of mentioning ‘we (did something)’, write the company name in case studies. E.g., Zyxware Technologies provided detailed manuals and extensive ‘Knowledge Transfer Training’ to empower the different stakeholders to operate the system. 

  4. Avoid using passive voice wherever possible. Try to rewrite the sentence in an active voice. Better to have an authority who takes ownership of the action described in the sentence. 

  5. There is no harm in reiterating a point, but not at the cost of redundancy. 

  6. Be polite. Use 'please,' or 'kindly' when you are asking to perform an actionable task. Avoid confrontational tone. Do not be too instructional. 

C. Do's and Don'ts

  1. Discourage the use of adjectives and superfluous words. A copy editor would actively shred adjectives such as horrendous or tragic from the sentence structure. 

  2. Replace ambiguity with a tinge of certainty. e.g., 'There is no harm' is better than 'there isn't any harm.' 'They know nothing' rather than 'they don't know anything.' 'Any' is not definitive. Use 'no' to say 'no'. 

  3. If—else clauses may be a thing while writing code. However, it reeks of a conditional scenario. In news stories, stating the damn thing rather than hiding behind a prerequisite is advisable. 

  4. Avoid clichés. Overused clichés can show a lack of original thought and make a writer appear unimaginative and lazy. Clichés are often specific to language and cultures and maybe a communication barrier to international readers. We have repeated some old idioms for so many years that the original reference is archaic and irrelevant.

  5. Use gender-neutral alternatives instead of gender specifying words as a thumb rule. e.g., See the table below:

    Acceptable  Discouraged 
    person-hours manhours
    human resources,
    workforce, staffing
    manpower
    their his, her
    in charge of, runs/running, 
    manages/managing
    mans,
    manning
    web admin webmaster
  6. Avoid repeating words in a section. Find easily recognisable synonyms instead. Do not be wordy when shorter phrasings are possible.

  7. Write complete sentences. Please do not leave it to the mercy of the reader to interpret. 

  8. Stop assuming that the readers know the meaning of every word we use. If we make them keep a dictionary and thesaurus by their side, they will merrily skip our article. 

Tomorrow: Salutation, Proper Nouns, and Numbers and Symbols