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Be considerate

Help people on their own terms. Use words they understand, and treat them with the same level of respect you’d give them in person.

Be polite

Most of the time, the easiest way to show your empathy is to write how you speak. How would you talk about this in person? Make it sound more like a conversation. Show your thoughtfulness. Make the reader smile. You can even give them a little encouragement. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and check your tone to make sure you’re being polite. If you need the reader to wait for a moment or fill in extra form fields, a simple “please” or “thank you” goes a long way.

Be inclusive

The words you choose affect how people relate to you and define your relationships. Keep the language open when you can. Watch out for words that turn people off or only make sense to a particular audience. Don’t assume that your readers are all from the same place, age group, or industry circle.

Be careful with idioms and slang

Jokes, metaphors, regional expressions, and cultural references don’t always translate well. Your readers may live in different countries, or English may not be their first language. The next time you’re explaining something with a metaphor or a reference, ask yourself if there’s a more universal way to make your point.

Avoid jargon and catchphrases

Don’t complicate your ideas with business or industry jargon. Not everyone will understand your lingo, even if you and your boss talk that way around the office. Whenever you’re reading over your work, remember to cut the bullshit (Table 4.2).

Table 4.2 Jargon

Blogs and magazines

Startups

bespoke

adaptive

curate

crushing it or killing it

gifted, gifting

disruptive

sustainable

ecosystem

tweeps

engagement

X is the new Y

game changer

the future of X

impact

viral

seamless

You probably have your own set of professional terms too. Make a list of overused words and phrases from your industry and add them to your style guide so that your team knows to avoid them.

Be respectful of personal names and genders

Use a person’s chosen name and preferred gender pronoun. If you’re unsure of what to call someone, use their name or consider using the singular they. Neutral pronouns like them and they are inclusive of all gender presentations, and considerate of the fact that not everyone identifies as male or female. Here’s an example:

  • Your gift card recipient can choose exactly what they want.

We use the singular they throughout this book for that reason and because it sounds less awkward than the alternatives. And while it may be a controversial topic for grammarians, the singular they has been in use since the 1300s.

Okay, those are all the rules for now. Still here? Great! To sum it up, good content presents the facts in a kind, honest, appropriate way.

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