Jan’s Rules for Communicating Better

I follow many rules when I write and design because I enjoy communicating clearly with people. Some of these rules have taken years to perfect — like writing in the positive. Others I’ve been told to do since third-grade — like write in the active voice. The rules I posted here serve as my top rules that I follow. 7/3/2018 I forgot a BIG one…the 4-1-1 rule  and the Golden Rule (see items #3 and 4 below).

All will help your readers and audiences to better understand your message. Enjoy, Jan

Communicating for the better

  1. Adhere to the KISS principle – keep it simple stupid
  2. Use the BLUF principle – bottom line up front
  3. Remember the 4-1-1 rule when posting to social media; for every post about you/your company – share four posts of other people and one post from another source like a research firm’s blog on industry trends
  4. Follow the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated including in the digital world
  5. Use white space in your design
  6. Follow the rule of 3 in layout and design
  7. Design for eye movement because people scan before they decide to read
    1. F online
    2. Z offline
  8. Write in the active voice
  9. Write in the positive by eliminating negative words
  10. Use plain language by keeping to 6th-grade understanding
  11. Use real words – no acronyms
  12. Use words that describe versus industry lingo
  13. Keep sentence structure of articles to a minimum and use clues for the reader:
    1. Keep sentences short – less than 20 words; break into two if can 
    2. Use 1 to 3 sentences per paragraph; more if dependent
    3. Use subheads when topic changes or for emphasis
  14. Edit content multiple times before publishing. Even when you think you have completed your editing; edit one more time.
  15. Follow William Zinsser’s four principles for writers:
    1. Brevity
    2. Clarity
    3. Simplicity
    4. Humanity



CMS Wire How people read online by Marisa Peacock on June 20, 2013 | Retrieved from https://www.cmswire.com/cms/customer-experience/how-people-read-online-infographic-021421.php

Company Folder How to Use the Rule of Thirds Effortlessly   by Vladimir Mandela on Company Folders on July 21, 2015 | Retrieved from https://www.companyfolders.com/blog/rule-of-thirds-graphic-design  

Wikinut The Subconscious Mind Cannot understand Negatives by Mark Gordon Brown on August 8, 2010 | Retrieved from https://guides.wikinut.com/The-Subconscious-Mind-Cannot-understand-Negatives/q-qvv29w/

Science Daily True Or False? How Our Brain Processes Negative Statements by the Association for Psychological Science on February 13, 2009 |  Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090211122147.htm

Goop The Scary Power of Negative Words by Habib Sadeghi | Retrieved in June 2018 from https://goop.com/wellness/mindfulness/the-scary-power-of-negative-words/

Plain Language.gov Federal plain language guidelines | Retrieved from https://plainlanguage.gov/guidelines/

Touro College 15 Rules of Netiquette for Online Discussion Boards [INFOGRAPHIC] by Rachel with the Online Education Department at Touro College on May 12, 2014 | Retrieved from  http://blogs.onlineeducation.touro.edu/15-rules-netiquette-online-discussion-boards/