How to write clearly

2. Focus on the reader

Be direct and interesting. Always consider the peopleyou’re really writing for: not just your boss, or the reviser of your transla­tions, but the end users. Like you, they’re in a hurry. Who are they, what do they already know, and what might you need to explain?

Try to see your subject from the point of view of your readers:
  • Involve them by addressing them directly (‘you’ is an under-used word in European Com­mission documents).
  • Imagine which questions they might ask, and make sure the document answers them. Maybe even use these questions as sub-headings. For example: ‘What changes will this new policy make?’ ‘Why is this policy needed?’ ‘Who will be affected?’ ‘What do we expect to achieve?’.
  • Interest them. Give them only the information they actually need. Leave out as many details of European Commission procedures and interinstitutional formalities as you can. These are mean­ingless to most readers and simply reinforce the Commission’s image as a bureaucratic and distant institution. If they are really essential, briefly say why.


© European Union, 2012

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