By Cheryl Stephens
Plain language projects, like any others, can be enhanced by clear documentation. Plain Language Academy program advisor and facilitator Cheryl Stephens shares four ways to track your project progress, for current and future needs. Thanks Cheryl.
For a freelance writer-editor, many jobs are short-run, although there may be repeat assignments with the same client. Early in your career, one tends to think of some jobs as quick and easy to do, so the engagement is not fully documented. In situations when you are working with a team member, you may not view it as your job because there is someone else who is supposed to do it.
Just remember, it is your career and your reputation at stake.
Create a case study
After a two-year project, I was asked to write an article about the project. It was then I wished I had made notes along the way and treated the writing project like a case study. In another instance, deemed an emergency by the client, I finished a short, written piece in one day. Later, there were many occasions when I wanted to use this piece as an example, but could not recall the details.
Many of us use checklists to make sure we cover off all the standard issues—in a written piece or an entire project. Checklists are good, but even better if you annotate them with some detail.
Write Interim report or memo to file
For project needs, an interim report is sent to the client or team, to bring everyone up to date on the status of the work-in-progress. A memo to file is used, but not circulated, to record some difficulty or reason to change the project's direction. Sometimes the memo to file is not kept in the project file, but in your own folder. A CMA (cover my ass) folder keeps information available, if you should ever need to CMA.
Track with originating documents
Of course you should always have a contract that sets out the expectations for each person involved, but sometimes an editing or writing project is started less formally. Then, the first memo should set out those parameters and it should be sent to the client. You can refer to it when things start to go sideways. Sometimes, veering sideways is unavoidable due to external developments, and you should record those changes and new decisions in a memo to file.
Learn more in Academy courses
You can get the full complement of skills needed for plain language project management by taking our six-course Foundation Program, or selecting Course 6: Plain Language Project, or its options (adding on coaching and consulting services). Registration is open. Visit Calendar for start dates.
One great aspect of online communication, whether email, social media or website content, is its immediacy. At least when sending. But, as we all have personal experience with information overload, how do we ensure our messages get noticed, get read, and get the reaction we want? Here's a guide for you to follow.
3-point benefit checklist
Benefits are primarily for your readers. With emails and online content you want to ensure your audience can:
Ask your readers, or a test group, if they 'understand' your message or content. Ask a question based on the content to see if they 'understand' it the same way you do. Listen to your group explain what it means to them. Watch how they move through your information. Measure the results. The rewards are worth it.
3 ways to stand out from the crowd
Or, should I say overcrowding. I haven't heard anyone complain lately that they didn't have enough emails, are just surfing for fun, or their to-do list is empty. Plain language, or clear content and design, can make you stand out from the crowd.
Real email subject line: Status of your website
Plain language revision: We can help you get more site traffic
3 things to do when signing off emails
Emails are still the biggest form of communication. How do you sign off your emails? It's an important part for you and your reader. It leads (hopefully) to the next action, purchase, meet-up. However, many of us stumble here. These are three recommended closings (and three not recommended) from Grammarly.com.
Best wishes, Cheers (my favourite) and Thanks in Advance (very positive results) all work very well, when matched to the situation.
Not recommended: Thx, Looking forward to hearing from you (passive aggressive), nothing or just your initials. Plain language is about conciseness, but not at the expense of connecting.
Being clear is what will make you stand out. Take the time to check that your online communication and content meets the three E guidelines, connects with your readers and gets the action you want. It's all about clarity and conciseness.
Check out four.sentenc.es. They offer a nice signature tag for your 'four-sentence email' as a reminder and to encourage others! I love it. Use it! And, I challenge you!
Don't forget good, old face-to-face, even if it's a Skype call, Google Hangout, or Face Time. According to this Harvard Business Review research, "you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email".
If plain language or clear communication is new to you or your job, or you want to enhance your skills, check out our Plain Language Academy courses. Plain Language Basics and Plain Language Writing and Editing start at the beginning of each month (except Aug and Dec—we are on holiday).
Link to PlainLanguageAcademy calendar.
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