TLIE3004 – Prepare workplace document Copy
Element 2: Prepare workplace document
2.1 – Document is drafted in accordance with workplace procedures and conventions for sentence construction, grammar, spelling, style, punctuation and vocabulary appropriate for reader/s
By the end of this chapter, the learner should be able to:
- Recognise the importance of following workplace procedures and general conventions when writing documents
- Demonstrate good practice in:
- sentence construction
- style and vocabulary.
Importance of Convention and Procedures
You may have workplace procedures in place which give guidance on preparing workplace documents. For example, there may be guidance notes, rules or templates for documents such as:
Meeting agendas and minutes
Even without any workplace procedures which relate to the preparation of documents, writers should always follow the accepted conventions for writing in a business context.
The reasons for this include:
It helps the reader to access and understand the information
It creates a positive professional impression for the reader
It aids clarity of the document
It avoids misunderstandings
The writer should role model good writing standards, etc.
Key Writing Guidelines
The key writing guidelines which we will explore in this section are:
Style and vocabulary.
A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. It starts with an initial capital letter and usually ends with a full stop. A sentence must contain a subject (generally a noun) and a verb.
Example: The transport manager (noun) assessed (verb) the fuel efficiency data (noun).
A simple sentence structure helps to make your writing clear and is based on the following formula:
Subject + verb + rest of the sentence
Sentence fragments are not complete sentences – they often do not contain a verb and cannot stand-alone.
Incorrect example: The fuel management data shows a decline in fuel efficiency this year. For the second year running.
Correct example: The fuel management data shows a decline in fuel efficiency this year for the second year running.
Although there are no rules about the ideal length of a sentence, writers should remember that long, complex sentences can be difficult to read and understand. Each sentence should focus on one idea and it should be concise and clear in presenting that idea. The more complex and sentence, the more scope there is for grammatical errors.
It is essential that your sentences make good grammatical sense. Poor choices of words can make the sentence clumsy and ambiguous. Here is an example of poor sentence construction from a newspaper article:
He has took it upon himself to feed the homeless.
This should be rewritten either as: He took it upon himself to feed the homeless, or He has taken it upon himself to feed the homeless. The problem in this sentence is that the tenses were mixed up and it just doesn’t sound correct. It is important to read back your text to yourself – aloud, if possible – and hear how it sounds in practice. If it sounds clumsy, it probably is.
Incorrect spelling creates a poor impression and can lead to confusion or misinterpretation of the information. An example in a guide for trainers asked them to ‘segway from one section to another’. The author actually meant that the trainer should ‘segue’ (i.e. make a link) and didn’t mean that they should use a motorised personal transport device. We tend to rely too heavily on computer spellcheckers to check spelling. This is fine for picking up nonsense words and those which are very obviously wrong.
For example, a spellchecker will pick up ‘obviousy’ as this isn’t a word but it won’t pick up the difference between: new and knew, affect and effect, their, there and they’re, flair and flare, meat and meet, etc. In other words, a computer spellchecker is great for spotting obvious errors but is can’t tell the difference between homonyms (i.e. words that sound the same but are spelled differently).
To make sure that your spelling is correct:
Use words that you know are correct
Look up any familiar words
Ask someone else to check your writing
Avoid using unfamiliar words and stick to those that you are sure about
Take note of any feedback you get from others if they correct your spelling.
Incorrect use of punctuation can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. Take a look at the following example which is intended to illustrate a point about punctuation:
A woman without her man is helpless.
As written above, this is a potentially inflammatory statement which makes a negative generalisation about women as a whole.
However, it could be rewritten it as follows:
A woman: without her, man is helpless.
Just with the addition of a colon (:) and a comma (,) it completely changes the meaning of the sentence (this time it becomes a potentially inflammatory statement which makes a negative generalisation about men as a whole).
The point is this: punctuation is important and it can completely change the meaning of a piece of text.
The aspects of punctuation which people get wrong most frequently are as follows:
|Comma ,||To organise words into sensible groups to make the writing clearer, it creates rhythm, direction and flow for the sentence.||Lists: the colours were red, green and orange
Joining two incomplete sentences: They were unhappy about the new procedure, but they agreed to trial them
|Apostrophe ‘||To indicate possession (or belonging to), time or quantity, and omissions.||Possession: singular: The boy’s hat (one boy)
Possession: plural: The boys’ hats (more than one boy)
Indicating time or quantity: In one week’s time… Two weeks’ notice
Omission of figures in dates: The summer of ’69 (19 is omitted)
Omission of letters: I’ve decided we’ll…., she’s always complaining, we’d better think about…
|Colon :||Nearly always preceded by a complete sentence and it announces the next point to be made.||The driver’s main concerns are: pay, working hours and healthcare.|
|Semicolon ,||A semicolon is used to link two ideas that are closely related or to separate groups of words in a complex list.
|Linking: There is only one thing more important than fuel efficiency in this team, always place driver safety as the top priority.
Listing: The driver’s top priorities are safety, fuel economy, meeting delivery times, customer service.
Style and vocabulary
As previously mentioned when we explored the needs of the reader, it is important that the document is written in a style and using vocabulary which is suitable to the reader. This will aid their understanding of the document.
General rules are as follows:
- Avoid unexplained jargon and terminology (unless you know for certain that your audience will understand them)
- Use a level of formality which is slightly above that which you use in your normal speech
- Avoid being overly formal unless this is a requirement of the reader/situation (e.g. “the data shows that hitherto and henceforth it is advisable to re-evaluate the current fiscal position….” Can be rewritten as “we need to relook at the budge…”)
- Avoid being over-familiar with the reader and maintain a professional distance
- Avoid colloquialisms and slang as these can create an unprofessional impression.
2.2 – Document is edited and presented in a final version appropriate to task
By the end of this chapter, the learner will be able to:
- Identify the key criteria for editing a document
- Identify the benefits of reading the document aloud as part of the editing process
- Use an editing checklist to highlight potential improvements to the document
- Make corrections and other improvements to the final draft
- Present the final version of the document according to procedures and/or requirements.
By this point in the document preparation process, you have:
Identified the purpose of the document
Identified the reader who will use the document
Decided which format is most appropriate for the document
Identified what information is required
Drafted the document
Ensured procedures are followed correctly
Ensured correct use of grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.
The next steps are to:
Edit the draft document
Present the final version of the document.
Editing the draft document
Editing is the last-but-one stage before the document is complete and ready for publication or distribution. It should be a final check of all aspects of the document to ensure that it meets a number of key criteria.
The key criteria are that it:
Achieves its purpose
Meets the audience’s needs
Uses an appropriate format
Includes the most relevant, accurate, complete and current information
Complies with company procedures and protocols
Uses correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.
The first step in editing your writing is to read your work thoroughly. One of the tests for your writing is to read your work aloud or have someone else read it to you.
This has a number of benefits:
- You’ll hear style faults and mistakes your eyes alone would miss (if you can’t read your work aloud, read through your writing slowly and deliberately, sounding out the words in your head)
- If you read your draft from the reader’s point of view, you can consider how they might react and you may see new ways of improving your writing
- It will show if you have repeated yourself unnecessarily
- It’ll highlight any overlong sentences or clumsy expressions
- It will show where you need to add or change punctuation marks
- It will highlight any unclear or ambiguous statements and weak arguments, etc.
Finding and correcting these errors will help you to improve the technicalities of your writing, it will also help you to achieve your objective with your reader.
Use the following checklist to edit your draft document:
- is the aim of the document clear?
- have I thought of my readers?
- have I given enough information?
- have I repeated myself or included unnecessary details?
- have I given examples or illustrations to explain difficult points?
- is the sequence logical and easy to follow?
- does my text flow, with smooth transitions between sections?
- is there a clear beginning and ending?
- Style and tone
- is my writing clear and simple to understand?
- have I kept my average sentence length short?
- have I avoided jargon, abbreviations and unfamiliar terms?
- have I avoided clichés and other stale expressions?
- have I confused or misused words?
- are my grammar, spelling and punctuation correct?
- have I used an appropriate tone (i.e. is it too informal, impersonal or formal)?
- Layout and presentation
- does the layout of the document make it easier to read?
- is there plenty of white space?
- have I complied with any procedures or regulations regarding the presentation of documents (e.g. using version numbers, page numbers, paragraph numbers, dates, etc.)?
- are my paragraphs too long?
- could I use headings and sub-headings to help my readers?
- could I use tables, lists and bullet points to help my readers?
- does my message get through?
- is it clear and unambiguous?
- does my writing reflect the readers’ needs?
- will it hold my readers’ attention?
- does my writing achieve my aim?
Presenting the Final Version
Having completed a final edit and revisions to the document, the final step is to prepare the final version prior to distributing it. The document may be distributed as a hard copy or electronically, but the same principles apply whichever method is being used as it is very possible that documents sent electronically will also be printed by the recipient.
Some points to consider when preparing the final version of a hard copy document include:
- Clarity of the printing: a printer or photocopier which is running out of ink can make documents look unprofessional and difficult to read
- Presentation of the document: is the document to be presented in a particular way, for example:
- comb or wire-bound
- in a folder
- pages loose leaf or stapled together
- printed single or double-sided
- with or without a card or plastic cover page, etc.
Guidance on presenting the final version
When seeking guidance on how to present the final document, you can:
- Ask whoever requested the document to be prepared for their requirements or suggestions
- Follow organisational procedures or protocols, if relevant
- Ask a colleague who has presented documents before
- Look at similar company documents and base your document on the style of those examples
- Give yourself permission, if appropriate, to do something new and different, be creative in the way that you present the final document (but only if it is appropriate to do so).